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How the Outdoors Opens Opportunity for At-Risk Youth

In just one year, Outdoor Outreach facilitated 391 outings, which opened the outdoors to 1,244 underserved and at-risk youth in the San Diego region.

And that’s just one nonprofit success story attributed in part to The San Diego Foundation 2015 Opening the Outdoors Program.

As we announce the 2016 grant projects, we take time to look back at the impact The San Diego Foundation Opening the Outdoors Program has had across the county.

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Opening The Outdoors in Southeast San Diego

Last year, The Foundation granted $460,000 to connect, protect and access the outdoors, particularly in South County communities.

Among the 12 grantees was Outdoor Outreach, which combines recreational activities with civic engagement and environmental stewardship to build stronger community members and leaders.

Since 2000, the organization has served more than 9,000 local youth and data shows 96 percent of participants develop better interpersonal skills, a stronger ability to set and achieve goals, and a greater sense of teamwork.

“The outdoors can provide a physical and mental refuge that helps us process and deal with the stress of daily life,” explained Ben McCue, Executive Director of Outdoor Outreach. “This can be especially transformative for youth who, growing up in underserved communities, are disproportionately affected by violence, unemployment, and school drop-outs.

“A strong connection to the outdoors and positive role models can enable these youth to safely challenge themselves, explore new possibilities and inspire them to pursue their full potential.”

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Outdoor Outreach’s 2015 program focused on youth in southeast San Diego, City Heights and El Cajon to provide opportunity and access to the outdoors for more San Diego children.

Ben continued, “Through The San Diego Foundation’s support, Outdoor Outreach has helped youth realize significant increases in their physical and mental health, social skill development, academic achievement, civic engagement and employment potential.

“Program graduates are in turn serving as role models and paid instructors for the next generation of participants, and are helping to inform key policy decisions at the local, state and federal levels to ensure that the outdoors is a resource for all.”

Landmark Year

This year, to increase collaboration and maximize impact, 27 organizations will join forces across 10 unique grant projects that will serve thousands of local youth.

Totaling $400,300, the 2016 Opening the Outdoor Program grants mark one of the most successful grantmaking years of the program to date. Just take a look at the expected outcomes of nonprofit grantees:

The impact figures are largely attributed to collaboration among local organizations. Now, by combining the resources, expertise and reach of similar groups, the Opening the Outdoors Program can maximize the number of individuals helped every year.

Learn more about our 2016 nonprofit grantees and their projects.

Support the Program

The Opening the Outdoors Program evolved from Our Greater San Diego Vision, in which more than 30,000 San Diegans engaged and identified enjoyment of San Diego’s spectacular outdoors as one of their top values.

And while San Diego County has more than 45 percent green space, not all San Diegans have equal access to nature. As highlighted in The San Diego Foundation 2010 Parks for Everyone report, the most park-poor communities in our region are also low-income.

The Opening the Outdoors Program works to close this gap.

Connecting, projecting and accessing the outdoors, with trails and safe places to bike, walk and play, will offer many benefits so all San Diegans can enjoy our natural environment.

Join the movement by supporting the program today.

Learn More

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