Today’s blog post was written by Grace, a GirlVentures program instructor, community builder and outdoor enthusiast
I emerged from my tent into the desert dawn. It was 2011, my first time in a national park and my first time camping. I was hooked. Little did I know that spring break trip seven years ago would shape the course of my life.
Today, I am program instructor for GirlVentures and several other outdoor organizations. I serve as the Community Partnership Manager for PGM ONE, an annual summit focusing on racial equity and inclusion in the outdoor and environmental sectors, and lead an Emerging Leader Program to illuminate people working at the intersections of cultural relevancy, outdoor recreation and conservation.
As an educator, organizer and activist, my goal is to help people become more self-sufficient in the outdoors. I have the opportunity to share my skills and knowledge with other women and people of color - and others from marginalized identities. I also get to do what I love.
Last month, I co-led a trip for girls of color through GirlVentures. It was a long-time dream come true. We hiked, climbed and explored the caves of Pinnacles National Park. We chased (and caught) lizards around our campsite. We wrote letters to ourselves beside the reservoir. One of the most important goals of the trip was for the girls to see themselves reflected, validated and celebrated in the outdoors. We wanted the outdoors feel like a place of their own.
People of color, especially girls and gender expansive youth, face a unique set of barriers when it comes to participating in outdoor activities. The cost of equipment and accessibility of recreation spaces are well-documented. But the belief that we don’t possess the necessary skills and abilities? Or the feeling that we don’t have people to participate with? Those may take generations to rectify. We don’t leave our identities at the trailhead. We carry the weight of institutionalized racism into our outdoor experiences.
That is exactly why - among all our adventure and exploration - my co-leader Victoria and I prioritized giving the girls time to just be. Folks of color don’t have many opportunities to let our guard down and simply exist. It was our aim that the spring break trip allowed the girls to experience that feeling.
To be honest, I don’t think I ever made a conscious decision to become an instructor. It kind of just happened. I liked spending time outside. I wanted to share that time and space with other people. It seemed like a natural next step. I hope someday it can be that simple for all girls, all folks of color, and for all people who want to pursue what they love.
Meet Grace at one of these upcoming events: