Our Grants

2022-2023 Outdoor Grants

Atabey Outdoors

Atabey Outdoors

For years, there has been a disconnect between the BIPOC community and nature. Atabey Outdoors works to bridge the gap through fun and healing activities outdoors in the Metro Phoenix area. It engages BIPOC girls and non-binary youth by creating a safe space for them to explore the great outdoors. Atabey Outdoors combines outdoor adventure with enrichment activities that encourage social, emotional, physical, and mental growth to empower the next generation of mindful leaders.

Backyard Basecamp

Backyard Basecamp

Generational trauma, lack of access to green spaces in Black and low-income neighborhoods, and cost-prohibitive programs have led to the lack of diversity in nature-based programming. Many organizations focusing on environmental equity rely on getting youth to rural settings for ecological experiences. This haphazard removal from neighborhoods often lacks culturally responsive and trauma-informed practices that ensure a positive experience. Backyard Basecamp believes it is vital to counter the "escapism" narrative that somewhere else is better by creating opportunities in Baltimore City. The organization works to instill in its community a sense of confidence and curiosity to explore nature in backyards.

Bridge Chattanooga

Bridge Outdoors at The Beth

Chattanooga, Tennessee, has been named one of the best outdoor towns in the United States by several outdoor magazines. The nature gap, however, is wide, especially among BIPOC and high-poverty communities. This recognition was the reason behind the formation of Bridge Chattanooga (Bridge), whose mission is to connect students to nature, create opportunities for adventure, and build relationships that strengthen resilience and help students live healthy, productive, and joyful lives. Bridge’s free, trauma-informed afterschool adventure experience serves 11-18 year old youth who reside in Brainerd and East Chattanooga communities. Bridge has evolved its programming as students have gotten older in order to create outdoor leadership and job readiness opportunities. The organization is working to grow this program to serve more students in more zip codes through strategic partnerships in Chattanooga. Each outing includes transportation to and from the program, snacks after school, and dinner before the return trip home.

Brushwood Center

Brushwood Center at Ryerson Woods

Brushwood Center at Ryerson Woods’ Nature Explorer Backpack/Mochilas de Explorador program increases equitable access to the many health benefits of nature, strengthens environmental awareness and action through youth empowerment, and cultivates rich cultural connections to the natural world. Building on three years of success, Brushwood is expanding the program for families in Waukegan, North Chicago, Round Lake, and Highwood through partnerships with more than 20 community organizations. Brushwood Center’s work introduces youth from these communities to Lake County's natural resources, so that they can enjoy the benefits of nature, including improved physical and mental health and positive community experiences.

CatRock Ventures

BIPOC youth face physical, economic, cultural, and social barriers to experiencing the benefits of outdoor environmental education and becoming active participants in the environmental movement. By engaging BIPOC middle and high school students from the Bronx in experiential learning through outdoor adventure, environmental justice, community service, and social entrepreneurship, CatRock Ventures (CatRock) works to reach, inspire, and empower youth to become socially responsible changemakers.

CatRock’s core programs—CatRock Youth Leadership Academy, Young Women Who Crush and CatRock Outdoors—take place over the course of the school year and include access to outdoor recreational experiences; adventure-based learning; and mentoring. CatRock’s adventure-based challenges encourage students to get outside of their comfort zone and develop a sense of their own potential through the mastery of difficult outdoor experiences like hiking, camping, biking, rock climbing, rafting, and snowboarding. 

The Center Of Southwest Culture

The Center Of Southwest Culture

Youth with limited contact with nature often experience detrimental behavioral and physical attributes, such as increased anxiety and depression, higher rates of obesity, and lower grades. New Mexico's communities have always relied on the land to sustain them and to facilitate learning. Many of the communities, however, have lost their daily connection to their natural traditional environments due to environmental impact, increased reliance on technology, or economic barriers. The Center of Southwest Culture is addressing this through its Story Riders program, which was developed to safely reintroduce youth of color to the natural beauty and knowledge of New Mexico's lands.

Story Riders empowers children and youth of color to reconnect with their natural and cultural heritage (as participants explore local stories and spaces) and provides practical training in bicycle safety, maintenance, and guided cycling experiences. Through a place-based education approach, students develop critical thinking and self-awareness by learning about current issues affecting their natural environment and local history through interviews and activities with elders. Led by native New Mexicans who are also people of color, participants learn first-hand the inner workings of their bicycles and the rules of cycling on roads. In addition to the knowledge and skills gained, all participants receive a free bicycle and safety equipment at the end of the program.

Conservation Legacy

Conservation Legacy / Ancestral Lands Conservation Corps

Ancestral Lands Conservation Corps (ALCC), a Conservation Legacy program, meets community-identified needs by reconnecting Indigenous youth to ancestral lands in order to foster stewardship and healthy development. ALCC holistically supports youth by offering mentorship, peer support, and mental health resources during activities that are designed to foster learning and skill development. While outdoors spaces and experiences have the potential to provide powerful healing and connection to Indigenous youth and young adults, equipment and gear costs remain a significant prohibitive barrier for many. ALCC seeks to remove this barrier to participation by building a substantial gear cache of equipment, including backpacks, tents, and sleeping bags.

Coombs Outdoors

Coombs Outdoors

Participating in outdoor recreation is a significant part of the culture and community in Jackson, Wyoming, yet the outdoors is not accessible to everyone who lives there. Creating opportunities for participants to take part in the outdoors and to become the next generation of outdoor leaders addresses a real need in the local community and the larger outdoor industry. Coombs Outdoors was established to address the lack of representation and to promote inclusion of the whole community in outdoor recreation opportunities that define the culture of Jackson Hole. It specifically fills this gap for Latinx youth, who face more barriers to access to the outdoors, including not having readily available mentors in sports and activities. Coombs Outdoors’ Engage Programming connects middle school youth to build deeper interpersonal peer relationships and provide strong role models through outdoor recreation. This year-round programming (including summer backpacking camps, activity specific clubs like Bike Club and Climbing Club, and ski mentorship programs) provide participants opportunities to learn and challenge themselves in safe outdoor setting and grow and thrive through programs, mentorship, and community building.


Diamond Willow Ministries

A major need within the Crow Creek Sioux Reservation is for children to have a safe place to go with positive activities. As the community does not have the financial resources to meet its members’ extensive needs, Diamond Willow Ministries founded the Tokata Youth Center (TYC) to connect the needs of the community with resources off the Reservation. Since 2015, it has offered daily after-school and summer programming for youth. TYC assists youth in overcoming daily obstacles, so they can become the next generation of men and women who lead the community towards a better and brighter future. NRF funding supports the construction of an outdoor recreation and garden area. The garden beds allow youth to cultivate traditional plants, as well as grow fruit and vegetables that will be used to supplement daily meals. This gives youth the opportunity to plant, grow, harvest, prepare, cook, and eat fresh produce, providing the first step towards greater food security in the Crow Creek Sioux Reservation community.

Diné WE CAN 

Diné WE CAN’s SiiHasin Bike Program empowers participants through the sport of bicycling, while emphasizing the importance of goal setting, promoting healthy lifestyles, and recognizing the positive effect of K'e (kinship). It also provides educational services from the seat of a bicycle and cultural experiences that include livestock shearing, butchering, traditional meals, riding under the stars, learning about local landmarks, kindship through clan, and bike repair lessons (that teach participants to take care of their bicycles and ultimately take care of oneself). A vital part of the program is relationship building with elders in the community, which is important to the Navajo Nation’s culture.  Diné WE CAN is focused on serving the Navajo Nation in Indian Wells, but also reaches the surrounding communities and the Hopi Reservation, as every family deserves the opportunity to know the joy of riding a bike while enjoying the freedom to explore the natural world on two wheels.


Duamish River Community Coalition

  • Website: drcc.org
  • Grant amount: $30,000

Washington’s Duwamish Valley is geographically isolated, bounded by highways and the river, and is poorly served by public transportation. The Duwamish River Community Coalition (DRCC) elevates the voice of those impacted by the Duwamish River pollution and other environmental injustices for a clean, healthy, equitable environment for people and wildlife. It promotes place-keeping and prioritizes community capacity and resilience. DRCC collaborates with community groups, agencies, and organizations to implement effective, meaningful, and culturally sensitive outreach and educational programming about the Superfund cleanup and other community priorities.

DRCC’s Duwamish Valley Youth Corps (DVYC) is a youth engagement program that focuses on environmental justice and job skills for high school youth. Most of the youth have less access to green public space than their peers and are at higher risk of negative outcomes (childhood asthma, for example) due to living in an industrial community. DVYC programming includes building job skills (like stewardship of public land); working towards environmental justice goals (through activities such as testing moss samples for pollution levels); and opportunities to enjoy the Duwamish River from kayaks and boats and field trips that include hiking or camping. By providing new experiences and lessons, DVYC  enriches and builds upon the lived experience of its youth, providing them the arena needed to grow and achieve.


Field Institute of Taos

Post-pandemic, parents and teachers are more aware than ever that outdoor learning and play are key to a child’s health and well-being. By developing a “sense of place” and a connection with the natural world in their backyard, youth become stewards of the environment and engage in more active and proactive lifestyles, ultimately resulting in increased self-worth, confidence, resilience, future aspirations, capacity for learning and decreased obesity and community violence. Knowing they have the freedom to explore outdoors and the ability to find sanctuary in natural spaces has long-term impact on youth. Field Institute of Taos (FITaos) aims to inspire stewards of the environment who understand the multi-faceted value of the natural environment as sanctuary and as an opportunity for scientific research, physical challenge, exploration, experiencing beauty, and mental strength.

To meet a very high community demand for its programming, FITaos continues to expand programming and to provide scholarship assistance to all who request it. NRF funding supports FITaos’ programs, including its Mountain Camps, after school mountain bike club sessions, and Letting Off STEAM.

Fish & Wildlife Foundation Of Florida

Fish & Wildlife Foundation of Florida

The Fish & Wildlife Foundation of Florida, working through the Florida Youth Conservation Centers Network (FYCCN), gets kids outdoors to create the next generation that cares. It does this via its four centers and a network of nearly 400 partners. Since FYCCN’s inception, more than two million youth have received experiences and education related to FYCCN’s four pillars—angling, boating, shooting sports, and wildlife exploration. FYCCN increases diversity outdoors by reaching more participants from diverse socioeconomic backgrounds and by engaging historically underserved schools and students in environmental education and outdoor activity pursuits.

To reach new partners, new schools, and new youth from diverse socioeconomic backgrounds, and to support current partners in various ways that lead to more inclusion of participants, FYCCN is taking its hands-on conservation training and Project WILD lessons on the road. With support from NRF, FYCCN refurbished and retrofitted a trailer stocked with items such as archery equipment, fishing poles, tackle, aquatic and terrestrial/flying materials and storage for stimulating conservation materials. By traveling to communities throughout the state, FYCCN can reach youth unable to come to its centers.

Flint River Watershed Coalition

Flint River Watershed Coalition

Michigan-based Flint River Watershed Coalition (FRWC) works to protect, promote, and improve the Flint River ecosystem and its watershed to benefit and promote ecosystem health, community health, economic health, and education and recreation. FRWC recognizes that it is essential to support families impacted by ongoing structural racism and inequities in environmental justice (including the Flint Water Crisis) and to break down barriers affiliated with the cost of outdoor recreation. FRWC BIPOC Youth Service Expansion is reimagining access to Kayak Flint programming by applying a lens of environmental and social justice to its work. Through collaborations with youth-serving organizations, churches and neighborhood groups, FRWC provides free kayak and paddle board opportunities, transportation support, expanded location offerings, and space for discussions related to safety and concerns.

Friends of Organ Mountain-Desert Peaks

Friends of Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks

The pandemic highlighted the importance of access to outdoor recreation, but the resources it takes to spend time outdoors are often out of reach for the Doña Ana County community, with a third of the population living at or below the federal poverty level. Friends of Organ Mountain-Desert Peaks works to connect community youth to outdoor spaces and to close the access gap that exists through its Moving Montañas program.

Moving Montañas utilizes Friends of Organ Mountain-Desert Peaks’ strong partnership network (after school providers, school districts and other non-profits) to provide outdoor recreation activities to areas of the county that lack resources. Activities include after school outdoor clubs, summer camps, 4th grade field trips, rock climbing, biking, family camping trips and hiking. 

Generations Indigenous Ways

A fiscally sponsored project of Seventh Generation Fund for Indigenous People.

Census statistics attributed to the Pine Ridge Hospital in South Dakota cite an average life expectancy for men at 47 years and women at 55 years. This is due to factors that include poor diet and exercise, as well as drug and alcohol abuse attributed to depression and loss of hope. In Lakota County, teen suicide is 150% higher than the rest of the United States. Diabetes and cancer are a reality for most families. At the Pine Ridge Reservation and its surrounding areas, Generations Indigenous Ways provides informal science education opportunities to Lakota youth in efforts to lower the current high school dropout rate and to develop more STEM-educated Lakota leaders.

Generations Indigenous Ways’ Lakota Summer Science Field Institute motivates youth to discover and explore science, technology, engineering, and math. Participants will learn how physics, mathematics, and the scientific method are required and used in designing a traditional bow, harvesting traditional plants and foods, water and air quality control, and creating traditional beadwork and quillwork. The Lakota Summer Science Field Institute connects youth with Lakota Cultural experts as well as experts in the fields of Earth Science, Botany, Paleontology, Geology, Astronomy, Entomology, Climate Change and Air Quality. The youth also develop leadership, coping and goal setting skills, and learn how to advocate for themselves.

Hands and Hearts for Horses

Hands and Hearts for Horses

Hands and Hearts for Horses provides therapeutic horseback riding services to people with challenges including autism spectrum disorder, Down syndrome, cerebral palsy, traumatic brain injuries and behavioral, emotional, and cognitive difficulties. It brings together horses and certified instructors who collaborate with professionals in the medical, psychological, and educational fields to enrich lives and promote independence. The center serves children and adults with disabilities from south Georgia and north Florida, including self-contained school groups. One of the many challenges people living with disabilities face is safe access to nature. Hands and Hearts for Horses has a sensory trail on its property which is being expanded and renovated so that it is usable year-round. Renovations will include bridges over the streams; an above ground plank walkway; and weather resistant items, like metal chimes. The natural and man-made sensory experiences encourage integration of the senses, motor planning, problem solving and multifaceted sensory stimulation that comes from being immersed in nature.

Heritage Trails Partnership of the MS Gulf Coast

Heritage Trails Partnership of the Mississippi Gulf Coast

Heritage Trails Partnership of the Mississippi Gulf Coast believes a healthy physical and mental lifestyle is achievable for all individuals through access to natural, safe outdoor spaces. The partnership advocates for and supports the vision of a safe, coast-wide network of diverse trails that connect neighborhoods to businesses, schools, green spaces, and blue spaces so that everyone can enjoy scenic, historic, educational, and natural areas. Heritage Trails’ Youth Trails Stewardship Program encourages children and young adults to explore and appreciate nature as well as the many workforce opportunities available in the outdoor recreation industry. Through this program, Heritage Trails Partnership of the Mississippi Gulf Coast hosts monthly bike rides from local neighborhoods to the Clower-Thornton Nature Area where youth participate in outdoor activities that support and promote their interest in nature. Rides also encourage continued discussion around areas in the city and region where protected rides are possible and places where changes are needed to improve bike and pedestrian safety.

Camp Rio

Idea Public Schools / Camp RIO

Hispanics living in Rio Grande Valley (RGV) are less likely to engage in physical activity (which increases health risks), have high levels of social support, or complete a high school education. For many youth, attending a high-quality outdoor recreation and camp experience is neither accessible nor affordable. Idea Public Schools’ Camp RIO is a year-round outdoor education camp that sits on 85-acres of predominantly untouched wildlife preserve in Brownsville, Texas. It seeks to address these inequities by providing all youth and families in South Texas access to affordable, high-quality outdoor education and recreational programming.

Camp RIO’s outdoor education programming exposes more than 33,000 South Texas students from low-income backgrounds to recreational and educational activities that reinforce the chemistry, biology and aquatic concepts learned in the formal classroom. Camp RIO utilizes the benefits of outdoor education for addressing the personal and educational needs of each participant. The outdoor education platform also engages participants in outdoor activities that support healthy living; encourage social networking that increases confidence and provide long-lasting friendships; and introduce participants to STEM in nature.


Khmer Community of Seattle King County

The Khmer Community of Seattle King County empowers the Khmer community and bridges the intergenerational gap between elders and youth through cultural preservation and promoting well-being. Khmer refugees have come from a predominantly agrarian society, with extensive knowledge of how to live on the land. These practices may have been lost, suppressed, or unable to be exercised upon resettlement into the United States. The Khmer Youth Environmental Leadership project helps bridge invaluable intergenerational connections, connect youth to outdoor recreation and natural resources in the region, and further contribute to the preservation of Khmer culture and environmental knowledge. Khmer youth will learn from Khmer elders, a passing on of the community’s environmental and cultural values. Program activities include intergenerational camping weekends; learning the importance of cultural plants, herbs, vegetables, and growing practices; hands-on Native American, indigenous plants and cooking experiences; Youth Environmental Learning Cultural Exchanges; and intergenerational snowboard/ski trips.

La Semilla Food Center

La Semilla Food Center

Urban agriculture projects are vital to a sustainable and just food system in the Paso del Norte/Chihuahuan Desert region of New Mexico. The need for desert-adapted, sustainable approaches to food production in this urban setting to address food insecurity is urgent and clear, as is the need for culturally relevant education and training for poverty-affected youth. With increased generational disconnection from the terrain community members call “home,” equally important are opportunities for deeper connection with the ecosystem. The Le Semilla Food Center’s Food and Farm Youth Apprenticeship Program addresses these issues and provides opportunities to connect youth with the Chihuahuan Desert ecosystem and hands-on, land-based educational training.

The apprenticeship program, led by Le Semilla Food Center’s Community Farm and Community Education teams, addresses these needs by providing training grounded in agroecology, experiential on-site outdoor learning, and leadership opportunities for underserved youth. The program provides interested youth and young adults with intensive training in foraging, farm production, community gardening, and agroecological practices. Deepening their understanding of what the desert ecosystem can teach us, apprentices play an active role in infrastructure, production, and maintenance.



LOOP NOLA is focused on making the outdoors more equitably accessible for youth so that everyone can experience the physical and mental health benefits of outdoor recreation along with the joy and awe generated in natural spaces. By providing equitable access to the mental and health benefits of the outdoors, the overall well-being of youth increases, no matter socioeconomic background. This positively impacts youth’s ability to be engaged at school, work, and in their community. LOOP NOLA’s Partner Programs offers age-appropriate school day programming in local parks. Most first-time participants have little experience with structured outdoor recreation activities and have little understanding of the ecology of southeast Louisiana. The activities offered include canoeing, low and high ropes, and environmental education experiences. 

Movement Education Outdoors

Movement Education Outdoors

A fiscally sponsored project of New Urban Arts

Though Rhode Island is called the “Ocean State,” redlining, gentrification, and environmental racism exclude communities of color from waterways suitable for fishing, swimming, and recreation. In these communities, waterways are often seen as hazards rather than safe recreational resources. Movement Education Outdoors inspires youth to connect to the land they live on and the communities they live in. Its MOBILE Fellowship program empowers BIPOC high school students as environmental justice changemakers through shared reclamation of ancestral knowledge and practices. The fellows experience Rhode Island’s coast by land and water and explore the intersections between marine science, Black and Indigenous history, and food and environmental justice in their communities. The fellows participate in hands-on projects to monitor water quality and to promote oyster restoration. After the completion of their projects, the fellows develop materials to educate others about these practices and share what they’ve learned in a culminating intergenerational hike and oyster cookout.

Native Like Water

Native Like Water

There is a need to amplify and uplift the voices of Indigenous youth for them to feel confident in leadership positions and to continue their development of water safety and ocean culture. In today's world, with climate crisis, environmental justice, and social justice being hot topics, it is crucial for these youth to have strength and confidence in their voice and the capability to make a difference. California-based Native Like Water (NLW) assists in raising the next generation of holistic Indigenous leaders—individuals that are equally connected to the water and their community—by offering the knowledge and resources for them to care for themselves, their community, and the earth.

NLW addresses the need for Indigenous youth leaders by providing educational programming and nutritional healthy lifestyles along the coastal seascapes of California and beyond. Its Indigenous Youth Leadership Program serves youth and young adults, from ages 13-24. It provides in-depth service to young leaders in culture, ocean, and water safety. These leaders co-lead ocean clinics that NLW hosts through its programming. Many Indigenous tribes have been displaced and disconnected from the ocean and the source of culture, recreation, and healing it has to offer. Being able to develop the natural knowledge and perspectives of these young leaders will create a bountiful impact on the community.


Outdoor Inclusion Coalition

A fiscally sponsored project of New Sun Rising

The Outdoor Inclusion Coalition (OIC), based out of Millvale, Pennsylvania, addresses representation in the outdoors and works to break down barriers associated with winter sports (including the costs of a quality experience at a resort, transportation, gear, and lessons). Its Ski & Snowboard Program introduces first-time skiers and snowboard students, aged 7-23, to the winter sports industry through a seven-week, on-snow education curriculum led by instructors that facilitate skill progression through mentorship and confidence building. The no-cost program covers all expenses related to a quality experience including gear, rentals, transportation, and education. OIC’s program supports sport and individual growth through a cultivated space that celebrates underrepresented expression. Participants experience life skills development through social-emotional learning; gain a greater understanding of self; and experience a greater connection to community and mentors through positive interactions. 

Park Pride

Park Pride

The neighborhoods around Columbia Elementary School, a Title 1 School in Decatur, Georgia, are considered a park desert with no easily accessible parks or greenspaces in the area. Understanding the links between race and environmental injustice, and the connection between access to nature and health, a neighborhood resident spearheaded a movement to address the community’s greenspace needs. The resident organized a team of leaders from the school, local government, and non-profit organizations, and worked with Park Pride to engage students and neighbors to design a conceptual masterplan to guide development of the greenspace.

The build out is occurring in stages, with the cleaning and building of a trail along the streambank already complete. NRF funding supports the increase of outdoor learning and play opportunities, so that more students can gain experiences with nature, time outdoors, and the physical and mental benefits that access to nature provides. Recreation and learning activities (including playing on the open field, walking on the trail, environmental science lessons at the streambank, and working on the educational garden and compost pile) will bring students outdoors more often and for longer periods of time and will foster a connection to nature for students and surrounding community members.

Red Cloud Renewable

Indian reservations often were placed on land that nobody else wanted, because it was extremely hot, cold, windy and/or dry. The Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota is all of those things. Additionally, the governing agencies did not make the management of natural resources and activities like planting trees a funding priority. As a result, the tree cover at the Pine Ridge Reservation has steadily declined after many decades of neglect. In 2015, Red Could Renewable started a place-based conservation initiative which is executed by a generation of young Native men and women who want to increase biodiversity and see their lands protected and restored for the next seven generations.

NRF funding supports Red Cloud Renewable’s reforestation efforts. The tree-planting initiative is led by Lakota youth and is an example of local tribal members managing neglected land for improved resilience, habitat quality, watershed protection, and as a means to contribute in a practical way towards climate change solutions. The organization’s latest conservation campaign, “Planting the Hills of Pine Ridge,” is aimed at restoring the long neglected, fragmented native habitat and returning wildlife and a more diverse plant ecosystem to Pine Ridge. Planting trees is both community service and physical activity for the Lakota youth. In addition, it has educational qualities and a deep cultural meaning for the Lakota, who believe they have a responsibility to protect the natural world for generations to come.

Rios to Rivers

Ríos to Rivers

Large hydroelectric dams have destroyed the health of rivers and Indigenous communities that depend on them. Through decades of land dispossession and federal termination, efforts to remove Indigenous people from the landscape have taken their toll on traditions and health. Indigenous youth from damaged river basins have grown up hearing stories of once-healthy rivers and traditions of paddling on them as a means of transportation and livelihood. Yet, their lived experience is primarily of degraded watersheds as large dams have displaced Indigenous communities, submerged ancestral territory, and threatened First Foods such as salmon. Long fought for by Tribes and others, four dams along the Klamath River are slated to be removed in 2024, completing the largest dam removal in history. Colorado-based Ríos to Rivers’ (R2R) mission is to inspire the protection of rivers worldwide by investing in underserved and Indigenous youth who are intimately connected to their local waters and support them as the next generation of river stewards.

Paddle Tribal Waters (PTW) is a kayaking and youth leadership program led by R2R and Maqlaqs Paddle. PTW will prepare Indigenous youth from the Klamath Basin to paddle the undammed free-flowing river as the rightful people to make its “first descent” and camp with tribal communities along the way. An inter-generational celebration will take place at the end where the Klamath meets the Pacific Ocean. In addition to white water skills, PTW provides leadership training and engages tribal members through inter-generational events and traditional knowledge exchange. To spread the vision of what Indigenous youth can achieve as the next generation of kayakers and river stewards, a professional documentary will be made about PTW. The PTW program launched its first cohort of youth kayakers in 2022, and will expand to another cohort of youth paddlers in 2023, in preparation for Indigenous youth to make the “first descent” of the free-flowing Klamath in 2024.

Saved By Nature

Saved By Nature

California-based Saved By Nature’s programming intentionally is designed to address barriers to accessing nature and public lands and to connect underrepresented communities to nearby natural surroundings. Its Alive Outside Adventure Series provides Hispanic youth (ages 13-18) free access to professional guided hikes and backpacking trips and outdoor leadership opportunities through hands-on activities. The adventure series includes an orientation hike among the redwoods at Mt. Madonna County Park; a preparation hike at Coyote Valley Open Space Preserve; and a two-day/one-night backpacking adventure at Henry Coe State Park. Saved By Nature calls Spanish speaking parents individually to invite, encourage, and increase participation, provides transportation, and opens access to its REI Gear Library. This library has all the camping gear necessary for these hiking and camping outings. The Alive Outside Adventure Series fosters an understanding of nature as a vehicle to healing and provides a guide to manage stress and anxiety. 

See You at the Top

See You At The Top (Syatt) works to normalize the use of nature/outside as a source of recreation; the presence of Black and brown youth recreating in both informal and formal outdoor spaces; and the presence of Black and brown facilitators of outdoor recreation activities. NRF funding supports three Syatt programs: Urban Campouts, Syatt Dives, and U-Matter Institute. Urban camping experiences help connect kids to nature. While many families cannot readily access formal green spaces, Syatt wants youth to understand that they are surrounded by nature. Syatt also offers Black and brown youth an opportunity to become certified scuba divers. Partnering with Youth Diving With a Purpose (YDWP), Syatt Dives’ cohort of youth engage in an underwater archaeology training program to survey and document shipwrecks of slave-carrying vessels. Syatt Dives also teaches youth how to protect and rebuild delicate corals. The youth then complete service hours at coral farms to help actively rebuild coral to promote growth. Syatt’s U-Matter Institute is modeled after a typical academic trimester where participants engage in a youth-led research project focused on social, civic, and environmental issues. Throughout this experience, youth recreate, complete service projects, and see themselves as environmental stewards. Traditionally, Black, and brown voices have been omitted from the ecological movement. Syatt is restoring that connection through the U-Matter Institute.

Sherwood Forest

Sherwood Forest

Research shows that outdoor learning profoundly impacts academic and developmental growth. Academic success is the lynchpin on which a child’s future success depends. To succeed academically and become financially self-sufficient as adults, however, children need a foundation of critical developmental milestones. Specifically, they must be able to engage in self-directed productivity; connect with others; and independently make good decisions and life-choices. St. Louis-based Sherwood Forest provides youth from under-resourced communities dynamic programs and immersive outdoor experiences that inspire and empower them to discover their resilience, prepare for their future, and embrace their civic responsibility.

Sherwood Forest’s Quest Program consists of monthly programming during the school year that culminates in a two-to-four week residential camp experience over the summer. The camp offers youth opportunities to choose areas of interest and build skills. All camp activities fall into one of five departments: Outdoor Living Skills; Library, Literacy, and STEM; Creative and Performing Arts; Aquatics; and Adventure Sports. Activities are aligned with the overall outcomes for each grade level. Each year, activities build on the lessons learned and skills developed the previous year. Children choose their activities daily and build skills at their own pace. Because the program begins after 1st grade and continues through 9th grade, participating youth grow up with Sherwood Forest and have their learning and development continuously reinforced.

Sicangu Community Development Corporation

Sicangu Community Development Corporation

Intergenerational trauma and colonization have led to some of the worst health outcomes in the United States for Lakota people. Per capita, Lakota people suffer from high rates of endemic, preventable diseases such as diabetes, cancer, and heart disease. Disconnection from their Lakota identity has led to high rates of drug use, alcoholism, and suicide attempts, particularly among youth. The Sicangu Community Development Corporation’s Wotakuye Youth Camp addresses both the physical and spiritual health disparities the community faces. The camp provide fun, social, enriching and culturally empowering outdoor activities that promote wicozani (“the good way of life” and wotakuye (kinship) for Sicangu youth living on the Rosebud Reservation. Each of the day camps feature a variety of outdoor activities (such as tipi building, lacrosse, harvesting and utilizing wild foods and traditional crafts like leather working) that support physical activity, healthy eating and social-emotional health. The youth, ranging from 6 to 17 years of age, attend the camps to reconnect with nature, themselves, and their community.

Urban Adventure Squad

The demand for free and low-cost outdoor programming is high in Washington, D.C., particularly as schools and communities deal with a youth mental health crisis, the effects of trauma on students, and the long-term effects of virtual learning on academic achievement. Urban Adventure Squad supports schools and school communities in every D.C. ward with equitable outdoor education programs. At C.W. Harris Elementary School, Urban Adventure Squad works to develop, build, and sustain an outdoor learning culture that supports students (grades 1-5) and teachers by leveraging the school's existing resources (garden, greenspaces, and bioretention areas) to dramatically increase the school population's outdoor time; support teachers in aligning outdoor time to classroom lessons; and engage the broader community in supporting outdoor learning. Hands-on activities take place during recess, as part of classes, after school, and through school-wide community events. The project purposefully blurs the lines the public education system has created which messages to students, educators, and families that indoors is for learning and outdoors is for play. C.W. Harris is a demonstration model for building an outdoor learning culture that connects students to nature and the neighborhood in a historically under resourced, urban public school district.


Western National Parks Association / Parks in Focus

  • Website: wnpa.org
  • Grant amount: $30,000

All youth should have access and opportunities to visit, explore, and learn in nature and in our nation’s public lands. Despite boasting a vibrant public lands scene, recreational sites and opportunities in and around Tucson, Arizona, have not always been accessible or welcoming to everyone. Parks in Focus® (PIF) believes that all youth should have access and opportunities to visit, explore, and learn in nature and in our nation’s public lands. Since 1999, PIF has been partnering with schools and youth organizations to put cameras in the hands of Tucson youth and provide them with educational and recreational experiences in nearby public land sites. Photography serves as a relevant and engaging tool for youth to observe, document, and learn about the natural and cultural resources of the sites they visit and explore. It also provides a powerful outlet for youth to express their creativity, connect with each other, and to share stories about their recreational experiences.

In recent years, Parks in Focus® has provided approximately 400 hours of on-the-ground programming each year, reaching about 400 Tucson youth. There are, however, more schools and youth serving organizations interested in partnering with PIF than can be accommodated. NRF funding allows PIF to expand and serve new youth-serving partners, providing an additional hours of programming and reaching more Tucson youth.

Wild Diversity

Wild Diversity

Happy childhood memories in the outdoors must be experienced by a wider and more diverse population. Creating a sense of belonging in the outdoors for youth of color is the first step to creating comfort in outdoor activities and to building up future stewards. Portland, Oregon-based Wild Diversity provides youth of color (particularly those whose families identify as low-income) safe and equitable access to nature through educational outdoor activities and adventures. It offers a variety of programs that help youth find their love language in the outdoors and build their knowledge, skills, and confidence by exploring and experiencing the healing nature can provide.

NRF funding supports Wild Diversity’s efforts to evolve and expand its suite of youth programming, including increasing the number of days a week Summer Camp is offered and the number of youth served; actively partnering with other youth of color serving organizations; developing multigenerational youth and family workshops; and engaging youth in the use of videos and multi-media to share stories and experiences in the outdoors.

Wildseed Gear Library

Wildseed Gear Library

A fiscally sponsored project of The Fly Girl Network

Through its Natural Families Learning Community, Wildseed Gear Library works to encourage and increase the ability of all families (especially urban families of color) to go camping and hiking together and to develop a closer relationship away from the distractions of city life in Baltimore. The pilot program supports a cohort of families who encourage each other by creating opportunities for their children to learn and explore natural settings. The organization’s gear library removes the barriers associated with acquiring camping and hiking gear and creates a safe space for families to try on and ask questions about the equipment that they are borrowing. Wildseed Gear Library helps reframe cultural norms about relationships to nature, exercise, and family recreation, in hopes that many families begin to see themselves reflected in both the history and the future of these landscapes. 

Yellow Bird Life Ways

Nearly 60% of the Northern Cheyenne population in Montana is under the age of 18. Poverty, compounded with historical trauma, lack of access to resources like healthcare, and severance from culture, language, identity, and spirituality, causes a myriad of problems. Northern Cheyenne Nations faces disproportionately high rates of suicide, drug and alcohol abuse, school dropouts, sexual assaults and domestic violence. Yellow Bird Life Ways addresses these generational impacts by reconnecting its community of 6,000 to Indigenous Life Ways (language, culture, ceremony, holistic living and wellness, and spiritual family) and by empowering them to take collective action.

NRF funding supports Yellow Bird Life Ways’ Fort Robinson Outbreak Spiritual Run. Each year, youth run 400 miles from Crawford, Nebraska to their homelands in Busby, Montana, marking the journey their ancestors made 143 years ago. The run is about reconnecting the youth to the strength and resilience of their ancestors and remembering their history so they can connect to self. Over five days, the participants learn the importance of running as a pathway to connecting to breath and, through breath, connecting to ancestors. The physical act of running is wellness in itself, but to also carry story and prayer opens their hearts to long-term spiritual wellness. This program creates multi-dimensional change, resonating from the spirit outward to the physical body, external relationships, and the greater community.



Youth in the United States are experiencing unprecedented upheaval and anxiety. Instability due to the COVID-19 pandemic has compounded the myriad of existential crises youth face, including climate change, digitization of everyday life, lack of physical exercise, and societal inequities. Now more than ever, these young people need experiences that offer ways to build resilience, develop tools to deal with anxiety, release stress, and learn to trust others. YMCA of Greater Seattle is the home base for the BOLD & GOLD National Team. The BOLD & GOLD program offers young people a place of respite and a connection to nature—where they can build resilience and positive identity in a wilderness setting. Systemic racism, fear of the unknown, and limited access to the outdoors often prevent youth from BIPOC communities from reaping the proven physical and mental health benefits of nature. BOLD & GOLD provides that access to young people while offering mental wellness tools, exposure to new activities, and an opportunity to thrive. BOLD & GOLD’s wilderness-based program provides the space and support for participants to develop their individual leadership style, increase self-confidence, and build a strong community across a wide variety of differences.

Zuni Youth Enrichment Project

Zuni Youth Enrichment Project

  • Website: zyep.org
  • Grant amount: $10,000

Of its 10,000 tribal members, nearly half the Zuni population is under the age of 25. Zuni Youth Enrichment Project (ZYEP) is the only non-school organization that is focused on serving these youth. Its programs are designed to help Zuni youth grow into strong and healthy adults. ZYEP conducted a survey of 4th and 5th graders in 2021 to help assess community needs. The students demonstrated concerning rates of disengagement and depression. Nearly half of the students reported not having a safe space available to play. Serving Zuni youth, the ZYEP Summer Camp harnesses the energy the kids have for their culture. For five weeks, summer camp provides a safe space for Zuni youth, ages 6-12, to participate in activities based in Zuni values, language and culture and to participate in fun activities that promote health and wellness. Summer camp programming engages youth in a wide variety of physical activities (such as hiking and biking), art, dance, gardening, nutrition, cultural and environmental education. Youth are nurtured by caring mentors and staff, building a long-lasting network of support. ZYEP’s Camp Counselor Program provides opportunities for young adults , ages 15-24, to serve in important mentor roles for campers and develop into leaders. This combination of fun and educational activities, outdoor engagement, rootedness in Zuni culture, and the building of supportive relationships builds resilience for Zuni youth and supports them to celebrate the incredible talents they possess.