By Melissa Hemken, NOLS Foundation Relations Officer
More young people, especially from typically underserved communities,are spending time out-of-doors, and we love that. But with more youth outside, their group leaders also need the appropriate skills to make their outings safe and fun—including knowledge of how to handle a medical emergency far from definitive care.
In the past three years, NOLS has provided Wilderness First Aid (WFA) course scholarships to three of its Gateway Partners in order to promote robust risk management across the country and to make wilderness outings more accessible across more diverse communities. These partners include the Golden Gate National Park Conservancy in San Francisco, California, the YMCA Outdoor Leadership Development Program in Seattle, Washington, and, most recently, Latino Outdoors in Santa Rosa, California.
In 2014, Latino Outdoors, an organization that focuses on building community and providing leadership opportunities for Latinos within the conservation movement, became the recipient of a WFA course scholarship for its leaders and mentors. The organization’s founder, José González, reflects on the value of the course:
“The WFA was a great introduction to a foundation skill set for the outdoors. Our folks wanted to do this to improve. We had fun! The WFA course is a gateway opportunity during which our leaders grew professionally. Also, I think sometimes there is a fear of medical injury in an outdoor setting. However, wilderness medicine is not a weird mysterious secret. It makes sense...and people learn that there is a systematic process to follow. You can be anywhere—not just in the wilderness—and you can be helpful, such as with your family at a city park. This is empowering. The materials that are available to you differ the farther you are away from the roadhead, but the skills are useful everywhere.”
Providing these organizations’ leaders and students with wilderness medicine training expands the skills they need to learn and recreate in the outdoors safely and responsibly, forwarding our shared mission of making the wilderness a gift to which all people have access.
The NOLS Gateway Partnership works with over 60 organizations nationwide that serve socioeconomically and ethnically diverse communities. It provides full-tuition scholarships to selected students to attend NOLS wilderness expeditions as well as various other opportunities for education and leadership development. Learn more about our Gateway Partners here.