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Future leaders: ON Summits seek to train leaders of tomorrow

Outdoor Nation, launched by the Outdoor Foundation, is nearly done hosting its 15 summits across the nation. Last week, the crew stopped in Denver to train 75 future outdoor leaders in its Outdoor Nation Intensive Training. SNEWS stopped by the University of Denver Campus to see what they were up to on Sunday.

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The room at a building on the University of Denver’s campus was abuzz with excitement on Sunday. Youngsters from across the country came together and relished in the recent news that a few of their projects to get more millennials interested in the outdoors had been funded by Outdoor Nation.

The Denver Outdoor Nation Intensive Training Summit, or ON-IT, was about to wrap up and the delegates and ON staff alike, still reeking of campfire smoke from their camp out the night before, were hard at work still.

Stasia Raines of the Outdoor Foundation said the Denver Summit is no introduction to Outdoor Nation, rather it’s a training for alumni and people who are very familiar with the mission of Outdoor Nation, which is an outdoor movement led by members of the millennial generation. The ON-IT Summit had 75 attendees, Raines said.

“We provide them with more tools for leadership,” Raines said. In addition to brainstorming ideas on projects to get more youth outdoors, the delegates got some career advice from people in the industry and got advice on how to get their projects space in local newspapers and magazines.

Eric Weiss of Boa told the delegates his story of how the industry called to him, even after getting his degree to become a pharmacist. Dan Jiron of the Forest Service talked about his career and how he’s seen some species completely disappear during his years. Blair Witte of The North Face explained her journey of graduating from college during a dismal time in the economy and turning her part-time gig into a full-time job. Jessica Prescott of Confluence Sports told the delegates they should educate themselves in the sports they want to promote and communicate about if they go into the marketing field. Evan Escamilla of the Student Conservation Association encouraged the delegates to sign up for his program the way he did when he was recruited out of college.

Raines said Outdoor Nation is a vital movement to the Outdoor Industry. The North Face, the REI Foundation and the Conservation Fund presented the 2012 summits. But Raines said the organization could always use more partners.

“If we don’t start getting people outside health and obesity at risk but our brands and our industry are at risk,” Raines said.

Some of the projects that received some “seed money,” Raines said, include the following:

  • Greenfitti – Tagging the World With Plants: Project seeks to connect both urban and rural settings to nature through gardening.
  • Grade Ranger: Project seeks to improve the assessment and evaluation of outdoor trails in order to ensure that they are safe and accessible for all people.
  • Peddle Project: Project seeks to make both mountains and math more accessible to inner-city youth by providing tutoring on the weekends followed by a bike ride up to local mountains.
  • Rock ‘N’ Water: Project seeks to empower minority youth through experiential education during a weekend of adventure on rock and in water.

Raines said the ON-IT Summit also trains the delegates to write grants and find additional funding for their projects.

Denver is one of 15 Summits held in 2012. The group still has to hit Atlanta, Minneapolis and San Francisco before it wraps up the year. For more information on how to help Outdoor Nation visit

–Ana Trujillo