Everyone should strive to find their passion. The passion that causes my adrenaline to rush and heart to pound is introducing the great outdoors to a child or youth.
The pathway I use to feed this passion is through the Outdoors Tomorrow Foundation’s “Outdoor Adventures” program. Outdoor Adventures is an in-school physical education course that promotes wildlife conservation, instructs hunter education, and teaches outdoor skills to youth across America. I started teaching Outdoor Adventures in 2000 at Coppell High School in Coppell, TX. I witnessed hundreds of students catch their first fish and listened to hundreds of first-time hunting stories. A common theme ran through all of these stories: exhilaration. Even if the “first fish caught” story revealed that the catch was only 2” long or if the story included “the one that got away,” I heard most about the adventure. From the thrill of the hunt or gentle tug of the line, these experiences infused all their senses.
Outdoor Adventures changes young people’s lives. I will never forget the senior student I had in class that was removed from his regular PE class due to discipline issues. He walked into my Outdoor Adventures class and explicitly announced how he felt about the principal, the school, and about me. I smiled and said, “Well I’m glad you’re here today.” He was an at-risk student and needed a PE credit in order to graduate. Not surprisingly, once he discovered this new world, his attitude quickly changed. This at-risk student had never been shown how to enjoy or interact with the outdoors. One Monday morning during our fishing unit he bounded into class and challenged me to guess what he had done all weekend. Knowing this young man’s extracurricular past, I was a little hesitant to guess. He proudly described how he had purchased a rod and reel and went fishing in all the local ponds and stock tanks. He was so excited to tell me all about the large bass he caught—then proceeded to reveal that he trespassed on every one of these ponds. I could not support the trespassing, but I was proud of him because of his new-found love…the outdoors. This was a much better alternative to other extracurricular activities he was involved in. I remember thinking that Outdoor Adventures has truly changed this young man’s life.
“How would you feel if you could impact tens of thousands of youth through the Outdoor Adventures program?”
Several years ago I was asked, “How would you feel if you could impact tens of thousands of youth through the Outdoor Adventures program?” To use my passion and Outdoor Adventures to accomplish such a feat was mind blowing. After a lot of prayer, I felt ready to take on the challenge and promote the program nationwide. Today, there are over 43,000 students across 30 states enrolled in Outdoor Adventures. To date, there have been 230,000 students impacted by Outdoor Adventures. In 2017 alone, the state of Texas issued 11,000 Hunter Education certifications—a statistic that I’m very proud of.
These days, it’s the Outdoor Adventures teachers who tell me the stories. We check in each week, and they tell me about the newest hunter, angler or wildlife conservationist in their classes. I miss the day-to-day interactions with my students. I miss seeing students catch their first fish. I miss hearing first-hand about their incredible dove, turkey or deer hunts. Oddly enough, missing these students warms my heart even more. Find your passion and share it with a youth today.
Outdoor Adventures Coordinator
To learn more about Outdoor Adventures and how you join the effort or to donate to the cause, visit www.gootf.com