VIDEO | City Kids Offers DC Students an Environmental Education

January 4, 2019
Leon Harris, Michelle Montgomery, and Scott Eisenhuth | NBC Washington Channel 4

“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.'”


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A Journey to Alaska Inspires Gratitude and Feelings of Self-Accomplishment

“…It brought about this inner feeling of peace and self-accomplishment that I had never experienced.”
It can be hard to measure the transformative impacts the outdoors has on a person. Yet, many of us have, at some point, experienced profound, life-changing moments that took place outdoors, in nature. Whether it was backpacking for the first time through Shenandoah National Park in the Fall as the leaves changed from shades of green to dark reds and oranges, or taking your first family trip to see the magnificent Old Faithful erupt in Yellowstone National Park, these moments leave a lasting imprint on us and help us all learn a bit more about ourselves and what we are truly capable of.

In an effort to share just how transformative the outdoors is for City Kids youth, we sat down with Josh, a current City Kid participant and junior at Benjamin Banneker High School, to hear more about his recent adventure to Alaska, where he backpacked through Denali State Park, paddled down the Lion’s Head section of the Matanuska River, and kayaked through glaciers in Prince William Sound. This trip was made possible through an amazing partnership thanks to Wilderness Adventures!  Here’s what Josh had to say:

You recently went on a 2-week hiking, sea-kayaking and whitewater rafting trip to Alaska, what was the most challenging part of your Alaska experience?  How did you approach this?

Josh: The two most challenging portions of the trip were traveling on my own for the first time across the country to a destination I had never been to, and spending two weeks with people I had never met. The switchbacks were pretty challenging too and constantly going uphill and downhill was not easy, but I pushed through to get the most out of the experience. Instead of focusing on how hard it was, I would look up and focus on the amazing views and realize, “Oh my gosh, I’m in Alaska!” It brought about this inner feeling of peace and self-accomplishment that I had never experienced.

How do you think that your experience in Alaska will help you later on in life?

Josh: I believe that those amazing moments in Alaska will help me to appreciate situations in the moment and not take them for granted. I’ve learned to make the most out of everything I experience. 

What keeps you coming back to City Kids?

Josh: I’ve been a part of City Kids for 6 years now, and I keep coming back because I love and appreciate the environment they provide. The countless trips and activities we do in the program are things I would have never imagined seeing myself doing. Kayaking, for example, is something I would have never been exposed to, but it’s my favorite activity to do! I definitely would have never pictured myself traveling to Alaska as well. City Kids has also pushed me to take on leadership roles, which is not something I’ve always been comfortable taking on.  With City Kids supporting me, I feel comfortable being a leader. Continuing in the program has also allowed me to become more open minded and has enabled me to be able to broaden my horizons.

City Kids is incredibly grateful for the generous support that each and every one of you provide to ensure that youth like Josh can go safely out into the world and explore a new area, grow as a leader, and continue to challenge what’s possible.

KHOL Interviews City Kids Student Daysiana Godbee

“City Kids student Daysiana describes her experience coming from Washington DC and discovering the great outdoors in Wyoming.”

Listen to the Interview >

Programs Innovatively Investing in Campers’ Futures: 2018 Eleanor Eells Award Winners

“Each year, ACA’s Eleanor P. Eells Award for Program Excellence recognizes camps that embody the award’s namesake by developing superior programming that effectively and creatively addresses the needs of people and society through the camp experience. We commend the 2018 winners. They are all definitive proof of the might of camp programs to equip campers of all abilities with the resiliency and belief to build better futures for themselves and their communities.

City Kids Wilderness Project


City Kids Wilderness Project, created in 1996, is a nonprofit organization founded on the conviction that providing transformative experiences to Washington, DC, youth builds resiliency, broadens horizons, and teaches skills that enrich their lives as well as the lives of their families and their greater communities. City Kids is a seven-year program that begins when youth enter the program in their sixth-grade year. Participant development is supported through local after-school programming and weekend outdoor adventures in the wilderness areas of the Mid Atlantic during the school year, as well as job training and college preparation help. In the summer, City Kids runs three camp sessions at Broken Arrow Ranch in Jackson Hole, Wyoming, in addition to career exploration and internship programming for older youth.

“Each year brings new challenges, opportunities, and excitement, and the program is carefully structured to provide age- and stage-appropriate support as youth mature,” said Eloise Russo, executive director of City Kids Wilderness Project. “Our goal is for all of our youth to pursue their dreams and to have the knowledge and confidence to think big and not get stuck or quit when things get hard.”

While the DC graduation rate is less than 69 percent, in the past five years, 97 percent of City Kids program participants have graduated from high school, and 90 percent have gone on to enroll in college, the military, or vocational training.

“In the next five years, over 100 new youth will enroll in our multiyear program, and we will have served over 500 youth,” said Russo. The aim is to continue to strengthen City Kids’ organizational capacity to provide increased access to after-school and weekend programs. “We also plan to increase our support for our young alumni as they transition from high school to college, employment, and other training opportunities. We hope to bring on a new staff member to support our 18- to 24-year-old alumni, as this will allow us to more deeply support their development into young adults and bolster the level of impact we are able to have”

Russo added, “Whether they go on to be mountain climbers, college graduates, business owners, teachers, or fire fighters, we are excited to be a part of their journey on their pathway to success.””




City Kids Named ‘One of the Best’ Nonprofits in 2018-19 by the Catalogue for Philanthropy

After a careful vetting process, the Catalogue for Philanthropy: Greater Washington has selected City Kids Wilderness Project to be part of the Class of 2018-19. City Kids has undergone a rigorous review process conducted by a team of 120+ experts in the local philanthropic field, and has met the Catalogue’s high standards. Potential donors can be confident that the nonprofits in the Catalogue are worthy of their support.

City Kids was founded on the belief that providing enriching life experiences for urban DC youth can enhance their lives, the lives of their families, and benefit the greater community. The program’s goals are to build youth resiliency, broaden horizons, and ensure skills for success, through intensive, long-term programming using wilderness settings to encourage growth.

This year the Catalogue celebrates its 16th anniversary: since its inception it has raised $40 million for nonprofits in the region. It also offers trainings, neighborhood-based opportunities for collaboration, and a speakers series for individuals who want to learn about and engage with the needs, challenges, and accomplishments of our shared community.

This year, reviewers helped select 77 charities to feature in the print edition, 38 of which are new to the Catalogue this year. It also selected an additional 49 nonprofits to be re-featured on its website. The network now includes 400+ vetted nonprofits working in the arts, education, environment, and human services sectors throughout Greater Washington.

“People want to know where to give and they need trusted information. Based on our in-depth review, we believe that City Kids Wilderness Project is one of the best community-based nonprofits in the region,” says Bob Wittig, Executive Director of the Catalogue for Philanthropy.

The Catalogue believes in the power of small nonprofits to spark big change. As the only locally-focused guide to giving, its goal is to create visibility for the best community-based charities, fuel their growth with philanthropic dollars, and create a movement for social good in the greater Washington region. The Catalogue charges no fees; it raises funds separately to support its work.

City Kids Receives Award of Excellence

“In the sixth episode of CampWire, meet the five winners of the Eleanor P. Eells Award for Program Excellence. These award winners will be honored at ACA’s National Conference next month in Orlando.

City Kids is honored to have received the Award for Program Excellence from the American Camp Association.

Get Out: Nurturing A Bond Between Black People and Nature

“Is nature a white thing?

It can certainly seem so. A 2011 National Park Service survey found that just 7 percent of all park system visitors were black. But there is a growing effort to nurture the relationship between African-Americans and the outdoors. Online clubs and social media groups geared at getting African-Americans into the wilderness are having real impact.

Part of that is about spreading awareness of the myriad cultural reasons black people have felt unwelcome in natural spaces throughout history. We explore the roots of this relationship and speak with some of the leaders of the movement to get African-Americans to get out.”

Featuring Tyrhee Moore, Program Coordinator and City Kids Alumnus on NPR.

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Program Connects At-Risk Kids with Nature

Thomas Jones, 17, is an inner-city kid who, statistically, had a greater chance of dropping out of high school or getting shipped off to prison than he had of summiting a 13,000-foot peak in Grand Teton National Park in Wyoming. Yet despite the odds, Jones found himself climbing the Grand Teton peak this summer as a participant in City Kids, a program aimed at getting inner-city youth off the streets and into the great outdoors.

“I can’t even describe it,” Jones (pictured below, left) said when recalling memories of his trip. “It’s the highlight of my life.”

For the full feature, please visit Children & Nature Network.


Official Selections for the 2016 SHIFT Awards

What do a Washington DC nonprofit, a hunting and angling organization and an outdoor adventure app have in common? They, and thirty other initiatives, are all official selections for The 2016 SHIFT Awards.

The SHIFT Awards, which will be announced at The 2016 SHIFT Festival, October 13-15 in Jackson, WY, recognize individuals, initiatives, or organizations that make innovative, impactful and replicable contributions to conservation through human-powered outdoor recreation.

For the full feature, please visit SHIFT.


GET OUT: Mountain Medicine

JACKSON HOLE, WY – As I sat there with tears in my eyes I couldn’t find anything to say to my teammates, people who were now my family. We had made it so far but I was ready to retrace every grueling step back down. I didn’t know how to look them in the eye and tell them I was giving up; how could I tell Robert who twisted his ankle that I was giving up? Danielle who fainted twice that I was giving up? Chauncey who has been waiting to do this for two years, that I was giving up? When I finally managed to look up, one of them broke the silence: “Lily come on you can do this, we all believe in you, but you gotta walk.”

And that was all it took, an affirmation of support, to get me going up the Grand Teton.

For the full feature, please visit Planet Jackson Hole.