Story Riders and SheJumps Foster Confidence in Kids

A group of youth ski together in snowy woods
Photo courtesy of SheJumps

Kids are navigating a lot. They are working hard in school, figuring out social dynamics, balancing family responsibilities, and discovering what they care about and who they want to be. That’s a lot for a young person to manage. It’s hard to find a sense of confidence and self-awareness amidst all that. Guidance and mentorship from trusted adults goes a long way in grounding kids throughout the process of growing up and becoming confident in who they are. That’s where youth programming comes in. Two NRF grantees that are making big contributions towards supporting a generation of happy, confident kids are Story Riders and SheJumps.

Two young people cross a creek while holding bikes
Photo courtesy of Story Riders

Story Riders is a cycling program for youth of color in New Mexico. Story Riders takes a place-based approach, centering nearby natural spaces and local cultural teachers in Albuquerque. Cycling serves as a form of recreation, a mode of transportation, a means of connecting with nature, and a vehicle for self-exploration. Youth in the program learn to safely ride bicycles on the road and practice bike repair skills. But more than that, Story Riders helps kids feel at home in their own bodies and connected to their communities and the natural world. In many cases, the history of colonization in the U.S. has damaged that sense of connection and peace with oneself for kids of color. Story Riders helps repair those bonds by creating space for young people to be themselves and have fun outside. That in itself is a form of resistance to colonial frameworks and a means of empowerment for a new generation.

Several young people stand with bikes in front of a brightly painted building, arms in the air
Photo courtesy of Story Riders

For one participant in the Story Riders program all these aspects came together to create a greater sense of confidence and self-awareness. They reflected on the experience saying, "Story Riders taught me a lot about New Mexico and gave me a great sense of community. It made me patient and taught me to persevere through my challenges. I've changed as a person because I've also learned to trust myself." This kind of outcome requires an incredible amount of hard work on the part of program staff, as well as expertise in teaching, risk management, bicycle mechanics, and youth development. Ultimately, all this effort and knowledge creates a space for kids to be free to explore and find a greater sense of self.

A group skis towards the camera through snowy trees
Photo courtesy of SheJumps

SheJumps is an outdoors program designed to create spaces for girls and non-binary youth to push themselves and try new things. Like Story Riders, SheJumps grounds individual growth in a community experience. Young people work together to overcome challenge and are mentored by leaders who share their gender identities. This approach allows participants to create a sense of belonging and connectedness with peers, while also coming in contact with role models that allow themselves to envision a future in which they could be outdoor professionals. Kids in SheJumps programs can learn about skiing, rock climbing, fishing, wildland firefighting, and so much more. Regardless of the activity, SheJumps focuses on opportunities for growth. By working together to learn new skills, youth are able to overcome a fear of failure or rejection and break through stereotypes that they don’t belong in the outdoors.

A child works on a bike while holding tools in their hand
Photo courtesy of Story Riders

Both Story Riders and SheJumps help kids connect with the strengths they already have inside them. Young people in their programs are able to develop a better sense of themselves as individuals and leave more confident and self-aware. These organizations achieve that goal through a commitment to community, collaboration, and an inclusive sense of belonging. No one, no matter their age, can grow without the support and care of others.