Congratulations to Youth Outside’s Inaugural Cohort of Liberated Paths Grantees!

In August 2020, Youth Outside announced a bold vision for our new Liberated Paths Grantmaking Program: to build a more racially just and sustainable outdoor and environmental movement. We sought to support programs and organizations that cultivate and celebrate the contributions of Black, Indigenous, and Communities of Color, and affirm the many experiences and identities our communities hold. 

Since last week’s violent attack on Capitol Hill, the country has yet again come face-to-face with how deeply white supremacy and racial inequity is embedded in our institutions and body politic. While the actions of those who rioted in Washington D.C. may represent an extreme end of the spectrum, we know that policies, practices, and individual perspectives that perpetuate racial injustice are also at play in, and have for decades dominated, the largely white-led environmental field. At Youth Outside, we believe it’s imperative to shift resources to, build power with, and center the voices and leadership of Black, Indigenous, and People of Color, in order to truly develop a racially just movement. Today, in that spirit, we’re thrilled to share with you our inaugural cohort of Liberated Paths grantees.

Through recreation and connection to land and ocean, policy and advocacy, and environmental education, our inaugural grantees are galvanizing the outdoor movement towards a more racially just and equitable future. Our grantees are already changing lives and leading the way in their communities every day. As their partner on the journey ahead, we look forward to listening to and learning from this group of visionary leaders to ensure that our support meets their unique needs and brings them closer to realizing their visions. 

Our ability to implement the bold vision of Liberated Paths was made possible by three seed funders who are partnering with us to advance racial justice in the outdoor and environmental movement. Many thanks to the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, the David and Lucile Packard Foundation, and The North Face for their investment and support.

Meet the inaugural Liberated Paths grantee cohort below, and click here to learn even more about their work.

Recreation in Arizona and New Mexico

Atabey Outdoors: In serving Black and Brown girls between the ages of 9 and 12, Atabey Outdoors provides a safe place for girls of color to explore the outdoors through experiences that help enhance emotional, mental, physical, and social growth like urban farming, astronomy, camping, and much more.

La Vida Project (Families & Youth, Inc.): La Vida Project connects youth and their families to the outdoors as a form of healing and as an introduction to advocating for self, family, and the environment. The program utilizes the outdoors as a tool to connect previously incarcerated youth with their families, strengthening their bond and bringing healing through outdoor-based programming. 

Undocu Healing (New Mexico Dream Team): Undocu Healing works with New Mexico undocumented youth/young adults to foster participation in outdoor activities they’ve largely been excluded from due to systemic/structual barriers. Participants connect with one another through outdoor activities such as hiking, camping, backpacking, wilderness training, and more.

Conservation in Arizona and New Mexico

Ambassadors for Land Conservation (Center for Native American Youth): This cohort program serves as an opportunity for Native youth and young adults to protect and preserve their ancestral homelands while developing personal leadership skills and fostering community with other Native youth. By helping Native youth become cultural knowledge keepers of land, waterways, and sacred sites, the program allows them to advocate for better policies that protect these spaces.

First Mesa Annual Clean-Up: Rooted in an agreement that the Hopi people made to the creator to take care of the planet, the First Mesa Annual Clean-Up brings together local tribal communities to slow environmental degradation from trash dumping. Future work will include the reestablishment of plants that are vital to the community for health and healing.

Indigenous Cultural Concepts: Indigenous Cultural Concepts promotes healthier and safer water through a filtration project that aims to offset the destructive impacts of nearby coal/uranium mining and oil/gas extraction in northeastern Arizona. Indigenous Cultural Concepts works to store, preserve, and make available plants, seeds, and traditional medicines for the broader Black Mesa community of the Navajo Nation.

Navajo Earthship Initiative: Navajo Earthship Initiative’s sustainable housing project is slowing environmental degradation in the Navajo Nation by repurposing materials often found polluting natural environments, including tires, glass, cans, and plastics, and making them useful for sustainable long-term housing.

Nuestra Tierra Conservation Project: Nuestra Tierra is creating the next generation of the Southwest’s land and water caretakers by providing more access to the outdoors of New Mexico and the Southwest border through education and recreation. Nuestra Terra works towards creating more equitable outdoor access, and land policies that benefit communities of color.

Pueblo Action Alliance: Pueblo Action Alliance is an environmental advocacy organization focused on protecting the sacred ancestral sites in the Greater Chaco Region of northwestern New Mexico by building relationships between Pueblo and Dine people and investing in educational opportunities to prevent exploitation of land and water by resource extraction.

Taos Pueblo Conservation Crew (Rocky Mountain Youth Corps): Taos Pueblo Conservation Crew works with tribal youth and young adults to run conservation and restoration programs on tribal and public lands to protect natural resources, preserve historic sites or buildings, and restore natural functions to the forest.

Uplift Climate: Uplift Climate is dedicated to grassroots organizing and deep relationship building. Uplift Climate hosts an annual climate justice convening of community leaders and experts to exchange knowledge, stories, and strategies. Their project focuses on preserving the zones of the Southwest which have been used for fracking, coal mining, etc, to develop a regenerative organizing and climate resiliency plan. 

Water is Life: Ṣu:dagī ‘O Wud Doakag (Water is Life) is a collaborative program of Borderlands Restoration Network and Baboquivari High School in which Tohono O’odham Indigenous high school students receive a paid internship experience where they learn conservation skills and design and install a rainwater-harvesting system along the Arizona-Mexico border. The program improves their campus, builds habitat for native pollinators, and harvests precious rainwater.

Marine and Coastal Conservation in Oregon and Washington

Camp ELSO: Camp ELSO engages Black and Brown youth, teens, and young adults in STEAMED (Science-Technology-Engineering-Art-Environment-Design) education and internships. ELSO programs are experiential, relevant, outdoor, and nature-based. Located in Portland, Oregon, their programming explores marine and water health, and environmental issues most pressing for communities of color.

Exploring Our Coast: Marine Science and Native Cultures Program: Exploring Our Coast examines the intersection of traditional ecological knowledge and contemporary marine science practices with tribal youth of the Coquille Indian Tribe and of the Confederated Tribes of Coos, Lower Umpqua, and Siuslaw Indians in their traditional homelands along the bountiful coasts of Southern Oregon.

Outdoor Asian Washington: Outdoor Asian Washington provides opportunities for Asian Pacific Islander and other communities of color to connect with the natural world by celebrating land, oceans, coasts, and culture. In 2021, the program plans to engage in coastal and marine ecosystem support through beach cleanups and razor clamming.

Puyallup Tribe Culture Department: Led by Elder Connie McCloud, the S’Puyalupubsh Culture Department will directly engage the community in culturally authentic ecological activities centered on the west coast “Canoe Journey” to continue ancestral practices, including developing a plan to mitigate pollution along the Hylebos.

Sea Potential: By providing interactive and educational opportunities, Sea Potential will illuminate pathways in the field of marine science for BIPOC youth. They hope to inspire the next generation of culturally competent scientists and citizens, who will address marine conservation and environmental issues disproportionately affecting communities of color.