Justice Outside Celebrates First Outdoor Educators Institute: Pathfinders Cohort

On Sunday, July 31st, Justice Outside and our community celebrated the graduation of the first cohort of our Outdoor Educators Institute: Pathfinders program.

OEI: Pathfinders is a 5-month professional development engagement program specifically designed for Outdoor Educators Institute (OEI) alumnx to further develop their own outdoor equity-oriented projects. The Outdoor Educators Institute trains young adults looking to work in the outdoor sector with key skills to prepare them for jobs. The OEI: Pathfinders program goes beyond that and equips OEI alumnx with support, networks, and resources to create and sustainably implement culturally relevant initiatives, either within an existing organization or completely independently as a non-profit or personal business.

“OEI: Pathfinders was created because Black, Indigenous and People of Color face a lack of support, funding, and the industry insights needed to get their amazing ideas up and running,” Lau Hernandez, Program Coordinator for Outdoor Educators Institute who helped create and implement OEI: Pathfinders said at the graduation event.

This year, OEI: Pathfinders supported six professionals working in the outdoors and climate justice sector. In addition to the training, mentorship, and support, graduates were provided with $1,000 mini-grants to help their initiatives in any way they found necessary. Throughout the program, participants worked with industry leaders who provide mentorship and co-learning. They also receive support in moving their vision forward with business plans to support the successful launch of their initiatives. This cohort also participated in workshops on relevant topics taught by Black, Indigenous, and Industry Leaders of Color, such as Mission and Visioning with Emily Taylor of Brown Girls Climbing, Finance and Budgeting with Vincent Ontita of Laurel Conservation Group, Partnership and Mentorship with Christy Alisea of Tech Bridge Girls and Humaira Falkenberg, and more.

“We are so proud to celebrate an incredibly talented, creative, and powerful group of young people looking to make a difference in the outdoors sector and in our world,” said Dr. Mary Traylor, Director of Programs at Justice Outside.

Here are quotes from the participants about the OEI: Pathfinders program. 

“Participation in this program was helpful in providing me with concrete information about creating our programs, from legal steps to funding, but I think some of the most beautiful parts of the program is the space for us to talk about our dreams and also our fears,” said Wynn Kwan, who is designing a program to connect and reconnect women and nonbinary folks of color with the outdoors through adventure, joy, play, community care, racial solidarity, and social justice.

“Justice Outside and OEI: Pathfinders has given me the foresight to know that I’m capable of anything and everything I want and that all the time, energy, and resources necessary are available to me in our abundant universe,” said Sierra Reece whose Atlanta Adventure Academy will provide outdoor recreation and job training for Youth of Color.

“The incredible facilitators, mentors, and cohort of OEI: Pathfinders have allowed me to turn an idea into a plan by not only giving me the skills to do so, but the critical lens to do it in a way that’s healthy, radical, sustainable, and outside of conventional business and nonprofit structures,” said Rachael Myers, who has designed a program to nurture self-determination, joy, and love for Black and Brown Youth who have experienced the foster system or other forms of family separation due to systemic oppression by creating a consistent community of care in nature. 

“OEI: Pathfinders has not only provided an opportunity for me to create and manifest my wildest dreams but also to learn transferable skills, that regardless of what happens, will be impactful in my future,” said Sonemani Bitna who designed a project to bring together queer and trans People of Color into the outdoors to learn social and emotional skills and to foster intergenerational communication and community.

“The OEI: Pathfinders program has helped my vision become more vivid and palpable. I am beyond grateful for the wide range of facilitators who have empowered and supported us in this space,” said Stormy Saint-Val, whose plans include hosting a place of healing refuge for marginalized people to come together for creative expression and connecting with nature and one another.

Congratulations to this brilliant cohort of OEI: Pathfinders. Learn about each Pathfinder’s ideas and projects here