SNEWS Youth Reporter experiences magic of outdoors at Atlanta Outdoor Nation summit

SNEWS Youth Advisory & Reporting Team member Anthony Shaheen reports from the Outdoor Nation Southeast Regional Summit in Atlanta where youth discuss ways to spur their peers outdoors.
Author:
Updated:
Original:

Earlier this summer, Outdoor Nation, the youth-led movement spurring youngsters to reconnect, redefine and rediscover the outdoors, held its main event in New York City (June 22-23, 2011), with representatives from each state discussing key objectives and goals. The event launched the organization’s five regional summits, each continuing the dialouge, including a Summer Fun Day to get delegates active outdoors. SNEWS Youth Advisory & Reporting Team member Anthony Shaheen headed to Outdoor Nation’s Southeast Regional Summit (July 9-10, 2011) for a firsthand report on the action.

The raft guide shouted, “One stroke forward!” urging his paddlers to surf a rapid at the National Whitewater Center in Charlotte, N.C. Before the raft was kicked down river, a wall of water consumed a raft full of Outdoor Nation delegates looking for a fresh experience.

“It wasn’t until then that it hit me ­– this isn’t a dream,” said 17-year-old Waverly Garner, a delegate and state park ambassador from Virginia. Garner was one of 17 youth who traveled together through North Carolina to attend the Outdoor Nation Southeast Regional Summit in Atlanta, Ga.

Garner climbed aboard the bus starting his travels at 5 that morning in Richmond, Va. Half-asleep from a late night packing for the journey, he joined a fellow state park ambassador and a handful of state park employees all under the age of 26. The road trip moved south along Interstate 85, picking up delegates along the way. A combination of an early morning and nerves kept the people on the bus from opening up at first, but soon the delegates gravitated toward conversation, sharing where they’ve been in life and common interests.

Among the North Carolina delegates was Alshaé Logan, an outreach intern from the state’s Department of Natural Resources in Greensboro. Logan, 23, spends most of her time educating young children and combating the fearful stereotypes of the woods shared by not only the inner-city kids she teaches, but her family as well. She loves the outdoors, she said, but admitted she has limited experience with outdoor activities.

After a full day of travel the delegates arrived at the National Whitewater Center for an afternoon of rafting on class 4-plus rapids. “I was psyched seeing the building. I couldn’t believe I was getting to see where the Olympic athletes train! I immediately thought I want to work in a place like that!” exclaimed Garner. The rafting experience seemed to unite all the delegates before they tucked in for a stormy night of camping at Copperhead Island. 

The next morning it was on to Atlanta, where 91 delegates from all parts of the Southeast met up at Clark Atlanta University. Dialogue focused on how to get more youth outdoors. One solution presented was an afterschool program in Richmond, Va. sponsored by the “I Have a Dream” Foundation, which is seeking more partners. The program will – most importantly – get youth outdoors, but also provide free pedometers and healthy snacks.

With this generation, it was no surprise to hear plenty of solutions involving social media. Delegates put forth ideas on how to increase communication on Outdoor Nation’s social media website and start up video conference calls to help keep outdoor projects moving along throughout the year.

Ideas were voted on, and in some exciting cases, funded. Speakers, like the New Wilderness Project and North Face Athlete, Pete Athens, shared their moving experiences through words, art, images, and music.

The New Wilderness Project played a song that spoke about many rivers all leading to the same sea. “I was touched emotionally. I was crying,” Logan said. “A lot has changed,” she said, speaking to the difference in herself. As an African-American she said she felt tied down, that the outdoors wasn’t for her because of her race. “I don’t have to stick with one category. I can take my own path in life.”

Garner, who was initially expecting to merely get some ideas on how to start programs locally, spoke with much more intent afterward.

“I am looking at ways to realistically approach building an outdoor community,” Garner said. “I met people who have implemented programs and I’ve learned from them. … I want to start my own project. I’m inspired to change North Carolina. I’ve found a new path in life.” 

The bus ride back was bittersweet with hugs all around. Delegates hopped off the bus with an excitement that left even this writer without sleep.

“Outdoor Nation really shows you what’s out there,” Garner said, “what you can do, and ramps up your passion.”

Outdoor Nation’s lead sponsors are The Outdoor Foundation and America’s State Parks.

--Anthony Shaheen, SNEWS Youth Advisory & Reporting Team

To find out more about the SNEWS Youth Team and download an application, go to www.snewnset.com/youthteam. To find out more about sponsorships or other participation, email youthteam@snewsnet.com.

The SNEWS® Youth Team has been made possible in part by the generous support of Vibram, with additional support from Confluence Watersports:

Related

ON.jpg

SNEWS Youth Team reporter: Denver Outdoor Nation summit has passion

Outdoor Nation’s Denver Youth Summit faced 100-degree heat and was behind schedule, but not a delegate minded. Sweat rolled off tired faces from the weekend conference, yet the intensity of the discussions didn't falter. Attendees had been assigned to come up with a regional ...read more

Outdoor Nation Youth Summit 2010: Youth ‘reporters’ tell us what they saw and what they want

The voices of more than 500 youth of America shouted “yes’” to parks, trails, rock faces and slopes and “no more” to the growing disconnect between the young people of America and the outdoors. Young leaders from the country’s urban, suburban and rural areas came together June ...read more

Outdoor Nation Youth Summit 2010: The voices of America’s youth get louder

Preparing the 200-foot tent where he and the other delegates to the first Outdoor Nation Youth Summit would spend the next two days meeting, Jon Parham said he had a few gripes with the America where he grew up: “I went all the way through high school graduation and never ...read more

OutdoorSummit_Thumb-062310.GIF

Outdoor Nation Youth Summit 2010: The seeds, the results, the future

A movement began June 19-20 in New York City’s Central Park when 500 enthusiastic youth from across the country gathered to talk about how to get their peers outdoors and more active. Spawned by ongoing industry discussions and pushed into action by the board of the Outdoor ...read more

DiscussingTopic.jpg

Outdoor Nation Youth Summit 2010: On-the-scene sights, sounds offer a peek at youth ready to champion the outdoors

More than 500 youth from around the country sat together at the first Outdoor Nation Youth Summit in New York’s Central Park June 19-20 to hammer out ideas about how to get more people outside, active and healthier. SNEWS® was there to find out first-hand about the enthusiastic ...read more

OutdoorNation_ON.jpg

Youth SNEWS View: Invest in getting youth into the local outdoors

We staked our tents in a grassy meadow not far from a cool ocean breeze. Over the crackle of the campfire, we admired the sheer number of fireflies lighting up the surrounding woods. Two days later, my hands crammed into a granite crack as I completed a challenging bouldering ...read more

Outdoor Nation Youth Summit and Festival is Announced

For Immediate Release Syieda Penn 202.674.2507spenn@outdoorfoundation.org Nation's Largest Urban Outdoor Festival Aims to Empower America's Youth to Lead Outdoor Revolution National Search for 500 Leaders to Attend First Youth Summit on the Outdoors Begins Washington, D.C., Apr ...read more

TonyPost_LorinPaleySNEWSTV.gif

SNEWS Youth Team: Three CEOs weigh in with youth reporters

SNEWS Youth Reporting Team members interviewed top executives of three large companies -- Prana, adidas and Vibram -- at Outdoor Retailer Summer Market 2010 about issues that are most important to youth: sustainability, price, quality, the effect of tough times, health and, of ...read more

Regional summits, family ‘fun days’ to highlight 2011 Outdoor Nation agenda

A passionate, energetic 2010 gathering of 500 youth from across the country in New York’s Central Park has spurred Outdoor Nation to higher peaks in 2011. Not only will Outdoor Nation again gather a large group of youthful outdoor enthusiasts in Central Park in June, it will take ...read more