Outdoor Outreach Connects Youth to Nature

By Natasha Stenbock

Outdoor Outreach SAN DIEGO (CBS 8) – Imagine living in San Diego and never going to the beach or visiting our natural preserves. That was reality for some inner city high school students until Outdoor Outreach, an environmental nonprofit, came along. The organization is transforming lives, and our environment, by connecting youth with nature.

Digging and cleaning up trash is not a popular weekend activity for your typical teenager. But 60 students are doing it by choice because they’re concerned about what’s happening in their own backyard.

“I’m really surprised how much dirt and stuff there is, especially how it’s infused in the dirt. you have to get in to get most of it,” Lincoln High School student Landi Santos said.

“I was really surprised. I found rats, spiders, carpets and even action figures,” Lincoln High School student Nayeli Mota said.

The students are cleaning up the Tijuana River Valley, one of the many activities their Adventure Club will participate in this year. Outdoor Outreach leads three high schools in monthly outdoor trips.

“Big part of our program is getting out and serving,” program manager Matt Smith said.

Education is a big part of the adventure too. Wild Coast gave Lincoln High School students a hands-on experience in the Tijuana Estuary.

Environmental stewardship projects like this make students aware of their fragile surroundings, and help grow strong bonds within the group, with the goal of giving these students a skill set they can use after graduating high school, just like assistant leadership instructor Vincent Culiver.

“It’s kind of empowering and self fulfilling, brings a different kind of happiness, different kind of pleasure to see kids like myself cleaning up the environment, taking their Saturday, their free time to make the waters better,” Vincent said.

“See the estuary, see the beauty, then take them to the classroom, show the watershed, you know, it/s three-fourths in Mexico and one-fourth in the U.S. It’s going from TJ to San Diego, impacting some of our most beautiful areas,” Outdoor Outreach Executive Director Ben McCue said.