A D.C. nonprofit that believes children do some of their best learning outside surrounded by nature says kids growing up in the city shouldn’t miss out on environmental education.
Since 1996, City Kids has been showing D.C. kids there’s an entire world outside the city limits, using nature to help students grow, build skills and set goals they’d have never thought were possible before.
“They give you a great opportunity, basically,” Anthony Bullock said. “Being a black young male, you don’t really get many opportunities from just the way you look, so being part of City Kids, they open a lot of doors for you.”
Activities like zip lining at Go Ape in Rockville, Maryland, teach students how to plan, prepare and succeed.
“When I first went rock climbing when I was younger, I was like, ‘I don’t want to do this,’ but then I joined City Kids and now I’m like, ‘I want to do this; I want to do that,’” Osaro Nelson said.
N’Dea Stewart, a 14-year veteran of the program, knows how important something like it has on D.C. kids.
“Growing up in D.C., there’s not too many visible options,” she said. “We know what we see and we don’t really see people who look like us doing things in the outdoors.”
Students can start enrolling in the sixth grade and can stay with the program through high school. Mother Clarice Ulu said that’s a critical time for kids.
“It’s real and it’s low cost,” she said. “My mother used to say, ‘Time and money is everything.’ Just give them the time, and your kid will blossom.”
During the summer, the students will travel to Jackson Hole, Wyoming, and spend a month in Grand Teton National Park. For some students, that will be the first time they’ll ever be on a plane.
“It’s just so surreal, so beautiful,” Stewart said. “I’d never seen mountains in person, only in like textbooks or on computer screens.”
“We went white-water rafting,” Nelson said. “I had so much fun because the rapids, they’re amazing.”
City Kids also provides tutoring, support and a job-training program for the older students.
“Going out doing this every day, it brings a lot to you mentally and physically,” Bullock said.
Ninety-five percent of City Kids participants graduate from high school and go on to college and careers.
Reported by Leon Harris, produced by Michelle Montgomery and edited by Scott Eisenhuth.