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Venture Outdoors kicks off Leadership Academy for BIPOC Youth

  • Samone Riddle
  • Youth

Venture Outdoors Leadership Academy is open for applicants now through May 15, 2024

The Venture Outdoors Leadership Academy provides career exploration in the outdoor industry for high school BIPOC students, while making sure they get paid. In partnership with over 20 organizations, Venture Outdoors Leadership Academy students can spend their summer with competitive pay, fantastic local speakers, executives from across Pittsburgh, and weekly adventures outdoors.

Why start the Leadership Academy?

The outdoor industry is a space for joy, awe, creativity and adventure. Studies show that childhood experiences with green space can predict mental health later in life. Not only can it predict mental health in adulthood, it can be the very place we find employment. The Venture Outdoors Leadership Academy equips youth to both enjoy the outdoors and get ready for a career outdoors. The Leadership Academy reflects a central belief at Venture Outdoors; everybody belongs outdoors.

Everybody Belongs Outdoor$

According to the Bureau of Economic Analysis, outdoor recreation comprises 2.2% of the current gross domestic product, equating to $563.7 billion dollars as of 2022.  Pennsylvania, as of 2020, generated over 58 billion dollars in economic output in addition to 430,000 jobs.  Collectively, outdoor industry jobs provided around 20 billion dollars in salaries. Who will benefit from this economic growth? 

EveryBODY Belongs Outdoors

Outdoor recreation has historically excluded melanated bodies in the US. This exclusion persists from history to today. According to the Outdoor Industry Association’s 2021 Outdoor Participant Trends Report, three quarters of all outdoor recreation participants were white versus only making up 60% of the population.

EVERYbody Belongs Outdoors 

Given Outdoor Recreation’s contribution to the national GDP, booming employment opportunities in the outdoors as well as the popularity of outdoor recreation from coast to coast, why is racial and ethnic inclusion such an issue?  We at Venture Outdoors believe in inspiring, educating and equipping all bodies to explore new experiences in the outdoors. To do that, we must name and address barriers, then we must, collectively, remove them to foster greater access to all the things the outdoor industry has to offer. 

Everybody BELONGS Outdoors

At Venture Outdoors we offer a learn and earn calibrated to do exactly that.  This summer opportunity runs from July 1st to August 9th, where we employ high schoolers from throughout Pittsburgh to participate in 5 six-hour work days over the course of our time together. We provide complimentary bus passes to get to and from work, complimentary lunches every Friday, and a laundry list of speakers and adventures.  From local farms in Allegheny County to local foundations to expose the Outdoor Leadership Academy Fellowes to the outdoor industry’s business side.  As well as various adventures from rock climbing to kayaking to explore the adventures that await us all outdoors. We will explore the work of local politicians as well as what it means to work for the waterways and US Coast Guard to better understand safety-centric careers. This and many more experiences will teach our youth about; sustainability, marketing, grant funding, equipment maintenance, certifications and even outdoor programming. 

Samone Riddle

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