And so we come to the end of the first calendar year in Wilderness Kids Alexandria’s existence. Despite some obstacles - Covid, anyone? - we are delighted about, and thankful for, all the opportunities we’ve co-created with others in our community to get teenagers from under-resourced families in Alexandria out into nature.
Here is a year-end snapshot of what we’ve achieved, thanks to you, and what we plan to do next year, walking hand in hand with you—our students, our partners, our donors, our volunteers, and our educators.
2021 in Review
250+ Student-Hours of programming and 50+ students engaged. First and foremost and true to mission, we’ve gotten young people out into nature. Even with the challenges created by the Delta variant, we escorted 50+ young people who would have otherwise been inside, into the outdoors. We taught them basic outdoor skills, planted native species, collected garbage, played games, and had a whole lot of fun. More on our program achievements is here.
Created a truly accessible program. Alexandria is a diverse city and to reach young people and their parents, we have to be able to speak their language. The “For Parents” page on our website is written in English, Spanish, Dari, Amharic, and Arabic and offers sign-up forms in each of those languages. Thanks to the generosity of our donors and to our partnership with ACPS, we are also able to get other documents for parents translated into all these languages.
Developed new curriculum. From our foundational “Camera Eye” activity whose objective is to help students pay greater attention to nature to curriculum that draws on ecological interdependencies to highlight the interdependencies in our human community; and from skill-based classes that teach basic back-country skills to service-learning opportunities that create opportunities to express gratitude, Wilderness Kids’ staff have creatively risen to the challenge of designing programs that are fun and that invest students in the natural world and each other.
Received incredibly generous support from the community. On one Thursday afternoon, we put out a call to borrow a few shovels so our students could plant native species. In under 30 minutes, we had a dozen shovels offered up from generous Alexandrians. Incredibly, in just over two months, we’ve raised over $24,000 from 60+ supporters who gave anywhere from $15 to thousands of dollars. Your generous response to our call for financial support was remarkable and we are so thankful for it.
Looking Ahead to 2022
We are confident that with the support we received this year and with more support that we hope to identify, we will be able to achieve all we are setting out to do in 2022. Here are just three things that 2022 will include:
Even More Programming. We will of course continue our twice-weekly after-school program at Francis Hammond. To this, we plan to add bi-monthly weekend outings on Saturdays or Sundays beginning in late January. These outings will take our students to places like Prince William Forest, Shenandoah National Park, the Chesapeake Bay, Great Falls, and more. Early in the summer, we will offer a short camping trip. One or two nights long, we will give students a first chance to sleep in tents, carry their belongings on their back, and wake up to the morning light surrounded by nature. Finally, our hope is to create a mid-summer peak experience. In July, we plan to take up to 15 students away for up to 15 days to explore nature in the farther reaches of our state and into North Carolina and even Tennessee.
Building our organizational infrastructure. A major goal for 2022 is to build our Board of Directors with a diverse leadership team, representative of Alexandria. If you are interested in joining the board, or know someone who would be an excellent board member for Wilderness Kids, please reach out to Jerry@WildernessKidsAlexandria.org. Another infrastructure goal: to develop an inventory of gently used camping gear: tents, sleeping bags, rain gear, hiking boots, and more. If you have any of these items that you’d like to donate, please reach out.
Creating new partnerships. In just the two months that Wilderness Kids operated in 2021, we partnered with ACPS, Space of Her Own, the Running Brooke Foundation, and Communities in Schools of Northern Virginia. We look to grow our partnerships in 2022, working with other youth-serving organizations to get young people from under-resourced families in Alexandria into nature.
Without you, our work is not possible. Thank you for reading this far and for the support you’ve offered our young people and our organization this year. You’ve truly made a difference. All the best to you and yours in 2022.