Gaby grew up in southeastern San Diego, less than 7 miles from the beach. Yet, as a teen, she had few ways to get to local beaches, parks, and trails, and no one to show her what waited for her outside.
That was until Gaby joined Outdoor Outreach’s after-school program at Keiller Leadership Academy. With supportive instructors and peers, she got her first-ever chance to snorkel and kayak, and fell in love with rock climbing.
Unfortunately, Gaby’s transition to high school did not go well.
Her new school’s culture was one of violence, fear, and intimidation. Students of different ethnicities had no interaction. Gang affiliation was strong, and fights were an everyday occurrence.
“One day a group of kids at school jumped me. Another group stepped in and I was very thankful… but then I learned that I owed their gang a debt for protecting me. It was a very dark time and I was always afraid.”
Survival became her biggest challenge, and Gaby felt more alone than ever. To protect herself, she began cutting classes. She was soon failing, and at risk of dropping out of school.
When her mom found out what Gaby was going through, she made many sacrifices to move her family to Spring Valley. It was at Monte Vista High School that Gaby reconnected with Outdoor Outreach, finding the supportive role models and culture of positivity she so desperately needed.
“I couldn’t believe it when my teacher told me that OO was at Monte Vista. I signed up immediately and tried to go on as many outings as possible. I am really thankful that I was able to find OO again. It helped bring me out of the darkness.”
Today, Gaby balances freshman classes at Cuyamaca College with Outdoor Outreach’s Leadership Program. She is training to become an Outdoor Outreach instructor, and an advocate for youth in the outdoors.
“I really want to help others connect to possibility in their lives. To show them that they can do the things that other people told them they couldn’t. I also want to ensure that more schools have OO programs. I was lucky that I could switch schools — but the fact is many kids can’t. For them, an OO program could be the lifeline that helps them survive high school and graduate.”
Gaby’s is just one story that shows you the transformational impact Outdoor Outreach programming can have on the life of a young person right here in San Diego. But without programs in more schools, Outdoor Outreach can’t reach many of the young people who need our support the most.
As we look forward to 2016, Outdoor Outreach has set an ambitious goal to serve 1,400 individual youth through our Adventure Club, Partner, Military, and Leadership Programs. However, we can’t continue to grow those programs without your help. Please consider helping Outdoor Outreach expand our programming and connect more youth to the possibilities in their lives. Now through December 31, 2015, an anonymous donor will match all donations to Outdoor Outreach. Your gift will have twice the life changing impact. Click here to make your tax deductible donation today!