How can we change the face of the outdoor industry if people of color aren’t trained to take the helm? That’s a question the Outdoor Educators Institute aims to tackle.
Recently, the Foundation for Youth Investment awarded Denver, Colo.-based Big City Mountaineers a $200,000 grant to manage the OEI and develop the next generation of outdoor educators. Heather Metivier, director of marketing and communications for BCM, said the news is exciting for the nonprofit, which has received grants from FYI in the past.
For Metivier, the goal behind the OEI is to train kids who have gone through BCM’s programs to become instructors themselves. That in turn will put future participants at ease and show them that the outdoor industry is ripe with career opportunities for people of their backgrounds.
“There is a need for instructors who reflect the background of the kids that we’re serving,” Metivier said. “There’s really a gap there, and if all they see is the same looking instructors — white — it doesn’t give our kids any hope for them that [the industry] is a feasible career path.”
While managing the OEI will add to her workload, it will be worth it, Metivier said. Plus the nonprofit just hired a new OEI program director to help with the day-to-day operations, the salary for whom was allotted in the grant.
“We want to take up this initiative and really fund a program that will create next generation of outdoor leaders that are culturally relevant,” Metivier said.
Training will be done through partner organizations like the National Outdoor Leadership School, Outward Bound and the Student Conservation Association. A future goal, Metivier said, would be to secure internship experience at outdoor manufacturers for participants.
“That also involves we started talking with a lot of our partners, who are all enthusiastic about this,” Metivier said. Internships are going to become a vital part of the program as “it’s not just necessarily about employing these kids as instructors in the field, but also about getting them in the door to with an internship that later could some kind of job within the outdoor company. This could be a big step for them that opens a lot of different doors.”
For more information on the grant and how to become a partner visit www.bigcitymountaineers.org.
“We’re really excited,” Metivier said. “The need is really present in the industry and I hope this is one of the first steps to changing the face of the people that we see making up the industry.”