INSPIRED IMPACT is an ongoing blog series that gives voice to purpose-driven organizations and passionate leaders and entrepreneurs who are making an impact in their communities and industries.
WHAT DO YOU DO?
The Foundation forges relationships with businesses, community, and non-profit organizations to fund the Outdoor Lab Schools. It is through relationships with all interest groups that the Outdoor Lab Foundation plans to sustain this program that will continue to inspire future youth as they become our scientists, teachers, engineers, business leaders and thinkers of tomorrow.
WHY DO YOU DO IT?
The Outdoor Lab Foundation focuses on inspiring the community and building partnerships to continue to provide ongoing support to the Jefferson County Outdoor Laboratory schools. The Mount Evans and Windy Peak Laboratory schools are committed to experiential learning, stewardship, and historical preservation.
WHAT IMPACT ARE YOU MAKING?
Outdoor Lab impacts 6,000 sixth grade students a year. EVERY student attends Outdoor Lab, whether they have the ability to pay or not, which is what sets this program a part from any other in the state. The hands-on experiential STEM education that is received on the week adventure spent in a mountain setting is unlike any other. Outdoor Lab alumni are now engineers, pilots, generals in the armed forces, among many other occupations that are changing the world we are living in.
WHAT (OR WHO) INSPIRES YOU TO MAKE THIS IMPACT?
The alumni and the stories that continue for years to come is the heart of the passion at the Foundation. We receive calls from Outdoor Lab alumni that went more than 30 years ago, and they talk about their experience with the program and how it changed their life. They go on to talk about their kids who went to Outdoor Lab who are now teachers or outdoor conversationalists, and how it changed not only their life, but their family’s life. We pride ourselves on making it possible for EVERY student to attend Outdoor Lab whether they have the ability to pay or not, or even the ability to go. Students who have severe allergies or medical problems also receive the opportunity to go because of the medical staff that is located at each site, another feature of our program that sets us apart from others.
WHAT’S YOUR BIG DREAM FOR THE ORGANIZATION AND THE IMPACT YOU WANT TO MAKE?
Our dream is that EVERY child in Jefferson County will continue to be able to attend Outdoor Lab for a week to grow their passion for science and the outdoors while becoming stewards of themselves, others and the world around them. We know that this life changing work will make them the next generation of stewards of these incredible, pristine, historical properties in the Colorado wilderness, like it did for us. Teaching about the environment while surrounded by wilderness is a rare opportunity. Raising greater statewide and nationwide awareness of these schools that are a rare example of 40-year learning that ALL CHILDREN can participate in would truly be a great success. Our vision is a program that is free for our students and high school leaders while continually improving teaching methods, experiential learning and team building.
WHAT RESOURCES DO YOU NEED TO MAKE THOSE DREAMS COME TRUE?
We are looking for opportunities to make the public more aware of this incredible program that more than 7,000 students experience each year. It’s such a small blueprint for an incredible impact on our future, and is not well known. Greater knowledge of what the program does and who it impacts will eventually lead to more funding, participation and enhancement for these and future students. We need a reliable source of income to cover student expenses for the year, especially to cover the cost of free and reduced students and the extremely high cost of accommodating special needs students each week. Finally, we need the ability to give our teachers on the sites and coming to the sites with their students the best possible preparation through training, awareness and innovation so they can maximize that student impact and carry it back into the classroom.
WHAT IS (OR HAS BEEN) YOUR BIGGEST CHALLENGE?
Our biggest challenge is education funding. Our teachers, parents, administrators and community members know the value that Outdoor Lab has had for more than 60 years. The fate of the program rests in education funding at a state and local level. However, this is also our work. This is the work of the Foundation. We connect people to their passion. If we can drive awareness to this vital program we have access to individuals and organizations whose passion and mission align with ours and who want to support something that will impact the entire community.
WHAT WORDS OF ADVICE DO YOU HAVE FOR OTHER LEADERS LOOKING TO MAKE AN IMPACT?
Always stay passionate and go back to the moments that make it worth it. Being a leader of change is hard, so hold onto moments that remind you of what you are doing. Smiles, phone calls, donations, and encouragement. They are all priceless.
HOW CAN OTHERS SUPPORT YOU OR YOUR CAUSE?
Others can support our cause by attending our After Dark event on September 30, 2017. This is our annual fundraiser that funds what we do for an ENTIRE year. More information and tickets are available on our website. Of course donations are what drive the foundation forward, especially in future projects that change students lives. Donate now!
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