When more than 100 young people get together for a conference on the outdoors, good things can happen. Simple ideas turn into projects. Those projects are rewarded with grant funding. The young people involved get the chance to witness change and see an idea transform into action.
San Francisco was the final stop of a five-city Outdoor Nation tour. It's a movement that encourages young people to brainstorm new ideas and take action on the issues and barriers of the outdoors. The event was sponsored by big-time companies like The North Face, The REI Foundation and The Conservation Fund. Collectively, these companies and a few others, donate to four youth-driven projects. At the Outdoor Nation Summit 2011 this weekend, I met other like-minded youth and got involved with a movement that is challenging our tech-savvy generation to get outside and explore.
Here are the top projects. By democratic vote, four ideas were chosen from four different categories raising awareness on the outdoors. The winners each received $2,500, they included:
1) Outdoor education category: Nature Big Brothers/Sisters. The grant will support five outdoor trips for the mentorship program involving high school students with their elementary school "little" students.
2) Community garden category: Abuelitos Project. The project started in a Latino small town in Central California. It's a program that encourages youth to clean up yards for the elderly in their community every two weeks.
3) Gear sharing/co-op category: G.O.R.P. Gear Outlet Resource People is a new idea, proposing to work directly with a San Francisco-based high school. A gear bank would be run by the youth community that would give back to the local youth community.
4) Encouraging more outdoor activities: Yaakw Yees. The grant will support carving two traditional canoes at the University of Southeast Alaska. The project will immerse the community in Tlingit culture, an indigenous tribe of the Pacific Northwest coast.
130 people represented different age groups, cultural backgrounds and areas across the West Coast. High school participants got the opportunity to brainstorm with recent college grads on outdoor issues. Youth from urban areas shared tents with others from rural communities. People from Mexico to Alaska represented West Coast cultures. The Summit exposed the diversity of young outdoor enthusiasts, giving hope for a generation dependent on smartphones and Facebook.
This wasn't your average conference — instead, it was a three-day event incorporating the outdoors with young people. It was fun, interactive and a good opportunity to discover the story behind outdoor-inspired companies. The summit was sponsored by groups including Camelbak, Coleman, Merrell, Mountain Hard Wear, The North Face, the National Park Service, The REI Foundation, Osprey, Smartwool, The Sierra Club and the U.S. Forest Service. Summit participants slept under the stars in the Golden Gate National Recreation Area, played an afternoon of games near the Pacific Ocean, and had a campfire conversation with professional athletes sponsored by The North Face. I witnessed city kids enjoying nature — without computers, TVs and gaming systems. It's proof that technology doesn’t keep all young people from enjoying the outside nation.