Outdoor Outreach Alumni: From participant to instructor, to a Master’s in Urban Education

Cody Marshall is a 4th grade teacher in Oakland, CA. He holds a Master’s degree in Urban Education from Loyola Marymount University, has served in Teach for America and was the recipient of the prestigious Gates Millennium Scholarship, which supported him through his studies. He turned 26 a few weeks ago, and is about to get married to his longtime boyfriend whom he met in college.


His story is one of resilience and determination. When Cody was a young teenager, his family moved to California from Baja, Mexico, “under emergency circumstances”. Homeless for a few months, they eventually found an apartment in South East San Diego, in a neighborhood known for its high crime rate.


“Since our neighborhood wasn’t safe, my parents encouraged me to not be home too much -it was safer to be away”


“I was introduced to Outdoor Outreach’s programs while I was a student at Toussaint Academy. I spent most of my time there. Since our neighborhood wasn’t safe, my parents encouraged me to not be home too much -overall, it was safer to be away. I knew Outdoor Outreach had a Leadership Program, and I was very eager to join. I was really excited when my application got accepted. For a year, we were learning and training. Eventually, we became field staff. I was working for Outdoor Outreach from the age of 16 onward. The staff members were incredibly supportive, aware, in tune with who I was, not only as an instructor, but as a person.”


“They knew I was motivated, but didn’t necessarily have a plan”


“It was Outdoor Outreach that encouraged me to apply to college. I didn’t know anything about the application process. They signed me up for SAT classes. They helped me fill out the applications. Without that capital and knowledge, I wouldn’t have known. I won the Gates Millennium Scholarship through the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. They award the scholarship to students who have demonstrated leadership and have high need. The scholarship gave me a full ride. I was able to go to college, serve with Teach for America and then go to grad school. It wouldn’t have been possible without OO.”


“ The autonomy that they gave me was incredible. I had a set of keys, I knew the alarm codes, I could check out equipment. To have that kind of trust as a kid, as a 16 year-old, really does something to you.
Working with OO at 16 wasn’t just any high school job. It built long-lasting skills. I learned logistics, schedules, group dynamics, attended board meetings… Between the staff and the participants, it certainly was an advanced job for a 16 year-old to be involved in. I had to be organized, adaptable, empathetic…


“What I learned in college overlapped with the skills I had learned as an instructor”


“A lot of what I learned with OO resonated in college. I already had extensive experience working with kids from different backgrounds. As a field instructor, I had managed groups of children that could sometimes be unpredictable.  I was aware of certain social tics that you have to know when teaching underserved communities. A lot of my classmates were shocked when seeing that stuff for the first time. But I had thicker skin than most of my peers. A lot overlapped with the skills I had learned at OO as an instructor.”

OO helped me fulfill my calling: being a teacher. Eventually, I want to start my own school. One that caters to urban or at-risk youth. I would like to have a school that has a social justice approach. A Keep-it-Real Academy. I’d love for it to be in San Diego. “

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