Outdoor Educators Institute: Pathfinders is a 5-month professional development engagement program specifically designed for Outdoor Educators Institute alumnx to further develop their own outdoor equity-oriented projects. This program will equip the alumnx with support, networks, and resources to take advantage of in order to create and sustainably implement culturally relevant initiatives, either within an existing organization or completely independently as a non-profit or personal business.
We are proud to introduce the inaugural members of OEI: Pathfinders! Below you will learn about them and their projects.
SONEMANI BITNA (they/them)
Project: spaces for Queer youth of color to have outdoor spiritual understanding and emotional growth. This can look like bike adventure rides, hikes, overnight camping, and groups that we can build community.
Audience: Queer and Trans People of Color
“I no longer want people in our communities to have to forego comfort and safety to be able to have experiences or access to skills. By attempting to co-create a space where QTPOC youth of color are able to be themselves and build skill sets and community, my intention is for there to be far less self-sacrifice when we want to engage with the outdoors by supporting the cultivation of the next generation of confident leaders who are proud to be themselves. ”
APRIL BLAIR (she/her)
Project: my goal is to create an outdoor recreational space for Fresno youth of Black, Indigenous, People of Color/LGBTQ+/legal system communities with a focus on both tactical skills and leadership development.
Audience: youth of Black, Indigenous, People of Color/LGBTQ+/legal system communities
“I grew up in foster care and was adopted by two beautiful people in their mid 50s when I was born. Because of the nature of our circumstance, our family did not have the same access to the outdoors as our white and wealthy counterparts. I believe it is my obligation to use my knowledge and compassion to be able to break barriers for those who come after me. The kids who already find it difficult to find their place deserve options.”
WYNN KWAN (she/her)
Project: I hope to help individuals answer what “outdoorsy” means to them personally so that they can create a long-lasting relationship to care for the land and understand why access and outdoor equity is so important.
Audience: this project is targeted to Black, Indigenous, People of Color adults that do not feel a connection to the natural world.
“I think that a connection to the outdoors and nature is one of the best ways to get people to care for the natural resources and the environment. The outdoors is a place of hurt and/or terrible history for many OR it’s been something ‘other people do,’ but I hope to support each person shift that narrative for themselves.”
RACHAEL MEYERS (she/her)
Project: a consistent community of support for foster youth, utilizing nature as the main connector, healer, and space of learning.
Audience: Children and youth who have been separated from one or both parents due to cycles of systemic oppression.
“The huge long term goal: Radical community based support for foster youth, including but not limited to: residence programs, alternatives to the traditional “foster parent,” summer and yearlong outdoor education programming based in healing in nature, alternative schooling, farming education programs that help feed the community and keep it autonomous and self reliant, youth mentorship, and re-entry support (including housing and employment) for parents”
SIERRA REECE (she/her)
Project: The Atlanta Adventure Academy – to help close the adventure gap by providing comprehensive exposure and job training in outdoor recreation to young people in the Metro Atlanta Area.
Audience: Young People of Color in the metro Atlanta area, based on Atlanta ethnic demographics the bulk of the program will be Black young adults
“This would be one of a kind job training program and experience nearly unseen in the region. This program would allow for those who may have never considered this career path to give it a try in a low stakes environment and expose them to new opportunities.”
STORMY SAINT-VAL (she/her)
Project: Eco-Expressive Arts focused after school mentorship program centering social-emotional skills building for youth.
Audience: Youth (predominantly Black, Indigenous, People of Color) needing support navigating identity formation and trauma.
“My history in creating intentional spaces for children navigating trauma, social development, and identity formation in my previous work as a therapist and outdoor educator inspired me to ensure that this type of space is accessible to youth from all backgrounds. As a black kid who was usually the only minority at camps or outdoor programs growing up, I craved having a mentor/teacher in the program that looked like me that understood how to expand lessons to be more relatable towards my culture and ancestral connections while including creative arts and poetics.”