When Randy Luskey, Founder of City Kids, was growing up just outside of Washington, DC, he faced academic challenges in the traditional classroom environment. He found life in the classroom tedious and he had difficulty absorbing the information. “I didn’t learn the same way that other kids did, so I felt different,” said Luskey.
While struggling in school, Luskey and his father would volunteer at a variety of DC-based nonprofits. These experiences exposed Luskey to a variety of needs in the city and made an impact on him for life.
Eventually Luskey transitioned out of the transitional classroom and into a school that offered an experiential learning curriculum in the outdoors. At this school he was exposed to group discussions, hiking, self-discovery and leadership programs. It was here that he discovered himself and began to truly learn and build skills that would carry him into adulthood.
After college, Randy knew that he wanted to combine his love of the outdoors and his desire to give back to the community in his hometown of D.C. And thus the idea of City Kids was born– an organization founded to spark inspiration, provide practical life skills, instill self confidence and build character in DC youth. “City Kids is all about equipping kids with the necessary tools and knowledge to achieve personal, educational and career success in life,” said Luskey.
After gaining support from a few key partners, Luskey began looking for a special place to launch City Kids. Within a short period of time, he found himself in Jackson Hole, Wyoming looking for the perfect location for camp. “Just landing at the airport and getting off the plane was a breathless experience. I literally was at the foot of the snow-capped, awe inspiring Grand Teton Mountain Range. Not a cloud in the sky, I was hit by the cool, crisp mountain air that was devoid of Washington D.C.’s congestion, honking horns and tall buildings,” reflected Luskey.
On this trip, Luskey discovered Broken Arrow Ranch, nestled between the Hoback River and the Grand Teton National Forest. “Soaring through the deep blue sky, I saw large hawks whose screeches echoed off the mountains; I smelled the scent of fresh pine trees; and I heard the swooshing of the river against the jagged rocks that sliced through the water’s strong current. I was among the otters, ospreys, bald eagles, muskrats and elk that grazed in the plains. I felt one with nature. It was a transformative experience,” said Luskey.
And for the last 25 years Broken Arrow has been the home away from home for City Kids Wilderness Project. “At Broken Arrow Ranch they are immersed in the tranquility of the great outdoors,” said Luskey. While in Jackson, kids are exposed to everything from kayaking, camping and rock climbing to spotting wildlife, swimming or just relaxing in a hammock. This serene and private setting allows the kids to take personal risks and engage in self-exploration – all in a safe, protected wilderness surrounding that is dramatically different from their familiar urban environment of DC.
In D.C. and in Jackson, youth are challenged to get outside of their comfort zone, push themselves and get immersed in a life changing, hands-on experience. “Planning, preparing, performing… our formula applies not only to the wilderness, but to the journey of life.” said Luskey. City Kids is now a year round program that enables youth to take their knowledge learned in the Wyoming wilderness and apply it to their daily lives in Washington, DC, paddling the Potomac River, hiking in Rock Creek or climbing in the Shenandoah National Park.
Luskey achieved his goal of creating an organization that facilitates a unique and challenging learning environment outside of the classroom, and to date, the City Kids program has touched the lives of over 500 youth.