Our Programs

Program overview

Outdoor Outreach operates four impactful programs: Adventure Club, Partner, Military, and Leadership.

These programs support youth in San Diego County who may not otherwise have the opportunities to experience outdoor recreation, environmental education, and stewardship activities.





Outdoor Outreach Leadership youth will receive 500 hours of training.





Leadership participants will facilitate 120 recreational outings as paid instructors.





Leadership youth will attend 25 advocacy training and speaking events.

Adventure Club program

Outdoor Outreach facilitates after- school local Adventure Clubs at three Title I high schools.

Each club has approximately 50 members, and members have the opportunity to attend over 40 outdoor outings throughout the year.

The majority of participants in these clubs have little or no prior exposure to the outdoors; for many, these outings represent opportunities to try and accomplish things they never thought possible, like surfing their first wave in Coronado, or reaching new heights while rock climbing at Dixon Lake.

In 2015, 115 Adventure Club students were connected to the transformative power of the outdoors through our impactful outings.



Partner Program

Outdoor Outreach is a resource to more than 30 schools and community-based organizations working with youth and their families.

We tailor our partnerships for maximum impact, customizing fee-for-service outings and programs to fit the needs of each group. With our partner programs, we invest in each participant’s development and growth. If your organization is interested in partnering, please contact Matt Smith at matt.smith@outdooroutreach.org

Partner Highlight

In July 2015, Outdoor Outreach partnered with El Cajon Valley High School’s PRIDE Program to facilitate a day of aquatic adventure. Over 40 students, all recent immigrants to San Diego, participated in teambuilding games, kayaking, and stand up paddling.

The PRIDE summer program offers youth who are new to San Diego the opportunity to learn more about the community. Students spend three weeks learning new vocabulary and practicing their verbal and written English. This program helps them meet their graduation requirement for the district in geography, while continuing their study of culture and practicing English.

"Outdoor Outreach is family, support, and a glimpse of what you can accomplish when you break the negative mold. I have learned so many things about myself and have been able to break the stereotypes put on me by society. I continue to learn from every participant and staff member, each and every day I’m at OO."
First-ever Leadership Program Graduate,
Former Field Instructor
"I’m able to see potential in myself. Outdoor Outreach helped me get back into school and gave me new motivation to grow so that I can succeed both here in my role at OO and out there in the world. I finally feel connected to something that I love to do and that I’m actually really passionate about."
Field Instructor
2017 Leadership Program Graduate
"I have a lot to be thankful for: people with kind hearts and positive minds who are always reaching out to help and guide me to where I need to be. I have achieved the confidence to express myself and to share my beliefs and values, and this has brought me closer to my peers. Sharing our stories contributes to the support we have for one another."
Eh Ler
Field Instructor
2017 Leadership Program Graduate
"I remember my very first trip with Outdoor Outreach, to Mount San Jacinto. I was shy, and didn’t know anyone on the trip. On the ride up, I told myself I wasn’t going to talk to anyone. That plan changed when we arrived and I saw snow for the first time. I was in shock. It was an unbelievable experience that required stepping out of my comfort zone. Returning to the van, I realized I had talked to almost everyone. That felt good."
2018 Leadership Program Graduate
"Even at my lowest point I knew Outdoor Outreach was there for me and that I had friends that I could rely on when I really needed it. In this way, I was able to connect to a sense of purpose that helped me to see my own struggles as less than the mountains I made them out to be."
Field Instructor
Leadership Program Graduate
Military Program

The Military Program provides San Diego youth from active-duty military families with the opportunity to engage in safe, positive, and fun outdoor activities.

One youth shared his experience about his favorite part of their trip, “The fact that the instructors and volunteers got involved and actually participated with us. I loved making new friends and doing new things.”

Outdoor Outreach has provided 107 outdoor recreation, education and environmental stewardship activities for more than 330 individual military youth since 2012.

Outdoor Outreach's 2016 Military Initiative is supported by generous grants from The Rose Foundation and Cushman Foundation.

Leadership Program

The Leadership Program is the cornerstone of our organization.

Through an application and interview process, we select promising teens from our other two programs to participate in an 8-week intensive summer program training that provides them with the skills necessary to instruct and mentor program participants. The program promotes each individual’s natural leadership strengths while providing tangible academic, emotional and social support. After completing their training, candidates teach and mentor their peers through a paid internship. We continue to monitor these young leaders as they balance their part-time jobs at Outdoor Outreach, college classes, financial independence and the challenges of moving into the world as working adults.

Youth Development

Outdoor experiences form the foundation of our youth development programs.

Outdoor Outreach provides comprehensive, year-round outdoor programming for youth in San Diego. By introducing participants to the outdoors through exciting and joy-filled activities, OO inspires under-resourced youth to see possibility and opportunity in their lives, and realize various positive attitude and behavioral changes that help them become successful adults.

Environmental Stewardship

We believe that with each chance to surf, bike, hike or kayak, we're also giving youtha reason and opportunity to care about nature.

Leave No Trace helps reinforce our mission, reminding us to respect the places where we play so future generations can enjoy those places, too. We lead by example, teaching youth to respect themselves, others, and the environment by demonstrating that same respect in our words and actions. We embrace the core principles of Leave No Trace on every program we provide, allowing each young person to discover how those principles can be applied to the world around them.

Building on those stepping stones of engagement, we provide opportunities for hundreds of youth every year to participate in hands-on environmental education and stewardship during out-of-school time. Through projects like trail maintenance and native species planting, we’re providing opportunities for urban youth to find, appreciate and care for nature, and to make a difference in their communities and beyond.


  • 91% of participants increased their environmental stewardship
  • 97% of participants increased their participation in positive activities outside of outdoor outreach

Civic engagement

Outdoor Voices Youth Leadership Initiative is a component of the Leadership Program that seeks to educate, train, and mobilize San Diego youth as advocates for improving park and outdoor access for all Californians.

With support from our youth advocates, Outdoor Outreach strives to inform local and state decision makers on the barriers some communities face to accessing outdoor spaces, and encourage them to make policy decisions that support opportunities for all communities to get outside.

Outdoor Outreach Outdoor Voices participants have the opportunity to partake in 25 advocacy trainings and events each year to inform decision makers about the importance of connecting all communities with the outdoors. For many, it is their first opportunity to speak with elected and agency officials and advocate for their communities.


Job Training

Through Outdoor Outreach’s Leadership Program, 8 participants each year have the opportunity to develop leadership skills through professional outdoor education that can position them for new career possibilities.

The program is highly individualized and promotes each participant’s natural leadership strengths. Upon acceptance to the program, each participant works with OO staff to create a personal Leadership Development Plan to track their progress in developing their life and technical skill goals.

Participants develop leadership skills by participating in and shadowing staff on monthly recreational and civic engagement outings, attending quarterly trainings and meeting one-on-one with program staff. Through active participation in programs, students have the opportunity to see a variety of different leadership styles and practice a variety of roles and responsibilities within outings. They are expected to participate as a member of the staff team and take responsibility over aspects of the activities and lessons.


In addition to working at OO, Leadership Program graduates have used their training to secure jobs at REI, the National Outdoor Leadership School (NOLS), The North Face, YMCAs and summer camps.

OO fact:

In 2016, 52% of Outdoor Outreach’s paid instructors were Leadership Program participants and graduates. We are on track to meet our goal of increasing this number to 90% in the next four years.