Outdoor Nation was a unique and exciting experience. The 2011 summit I attended took place in St. Paul, Minn. at the University of Minnesota – St. Paul and included about 95 young people ages 16 – 28 from all across the Midwest. While the majority of participants were from the Twin Cities-area there was also a large group of high school students from Chicago and representatives from as far away as Texas!
Issues and Concerns
We began the summit discussing obstacles that prevent youth from spending time outside. The issues brought up ranged from safety concerns in inner cities, to lack of outdoor education in school curriculum, to the rising dependence on technology. We discussed our concerns in broad terms, and through a series of 6 person discussions, followed by large-group votes, narrowed down our broad topics to specific issues we, as a whole, wanted to address. From these specific issues we broke into several small groups to come up with program ideas that we could then implement, and the top four ideas received seed money provided from Outdoor Nation to put their plans into action!
Decisions and Developments
It was neat to be involved in the decision process that lead to implementable, outdoor, youth programs. The four ideas chosen were all excellent and spanned a broad range of topics including: helping start community gardens, mentoring elementary and high school aged youth and trying to influence political leaders. The majority of the participants were from Minneapolis area, so all the programs developed were for that area, although each has the potential to expand to include other regions in the Midwest.
In addition to seeing the existing programs grow, I hope the summits move to new cities each year so they will continue to get a diverse group of participants and expand the reach of their programs throughout the country. I am very glad to have had the chance to participate in this program and to be involved in the initiatives that resulted from the summit, I am excited to see it grow in years to come!
Outfitter – Alpine Shop Columbia