Timberland puts boots on feet of Crenshaw High School Eco Club students

Timberland donated 100 pairs of boots to the dean of Crenshaw High School for giving his students a chance to leave the at-times stressful confines of South Los Angeles to go on weekly hikes, community service outings and backpacking trips. Could this be a model for diversification in the outdoors?

In mid-September, Timberland donated 100 pairs of men's and women's outdoor performance boots to the students of Crenshaw High School's Crenshaw Eco Club, for their continued contributions to the community and the environment. 

In May, the CBS Early Show honored Bill Vanderberg, dean of Crenshaw High School, as an Early's Angel for giving his students a chance to leave the at-times stressful confines of South Los Angeles, and go on weekly hikes, community service outings and annual backpacking trips to Yosemite -- click here to read that story and view the news clip.

Left to right: John Rhodes, student at Crenshaw, Bill Vanderberg

"The Timberland Company heard about this story, and wanted to honor Bill and his students for their contributions to the community, and their interest in the outdoors," John Rhodes, Timberland account executive for the West Coast, told SNEWS®. "We wanted to make sure that these students had appropriate footwear for hiking, so that they could continue to both experience the outdoors and give back to the community."

Though not an alum himself, Rhodes had a connection to Crenshaw High since his stepfather was the school's basketball coach many years ago.

Sponsored by the Sierra Club's Building Bridges to the Outdoors program, the Eco Club has been led by Vanderberg, a longtime Scout leader and dean of students for Crenshaw High, since 2003 when, he told us, he inherited the program since the teacher who had been advising the club left for another school.

"Students become involved largely by word-of-mouth hearing about the good times our members have on various outings, and by looking at pictures of our past events displayed in a hallway bulletin board," said Vanderberg. "Having been an active club on-campus for the past six years, we have grown to become the largest and most active extracurricular organization at school with over active 150 members. We draw members from all social and racial groups on-campus."

--Michael Hodgson

SNEWS® View: For many of Vanderberg's student members, the Eco Club is their first opportunity to experience camping, backpacking, the ocean, even going on a simple walk in the woods -- activities most of us in the outdoor industry take for granted. From all the stories we have read about the school recently, quite a few of these students go on to college, with a keen interest in the outdoors as a result. The last time we checked, the outdoor industry appears to be worried about attracting youth and increasing diversity -- and for good reason. It seems to us, though, that if one predominantly black high school in inner-city Los Angeles can form one of the most popular clubs in the school, led by a passionate teacher and mentor, that helps underserved youth get outdoors, then perhaps there is a model to be tapped into here? And, just perhaps, if the Outdoor Foundation begins to partner with programs like the Eco Club, and helps other high schools around the country with similar programs, then maybe we're that much closer to getting youth and a more diverse population keen to go outdoors.

--SNEWS® Editors