We are the proof that Outdoor School changes lives.

When it comes to Measure 99 and saving Outdoor School for Oregon kids statewide, most people say that it’s great for learning about science and reconnecting kids with nature, especially in this world of technology we live in.

But speaking on behalf of many students who have been fortunate enough to be able to attend, we know the lessons of Outdoor School go much deeper than that. 

Put yourselves in the shoes of today’s middle-schooler. There are plenty of kids who feel like outsiders. Others find it difficult to make friends, especially with kids who may be different from them. Some simply find it impossible to trust, based on a difficult home life and daily struggles in school. In a typical, highly structured day in the life of a student, it can be extremely hard to break free of that trap. Suddenly, you can find yourself stuck and feeling hopeless, just trying to get by while coping with the sense of isolation, loneliness and low self-confidence.

You might wonder how Outdoor School changes that. What’s so special about being away from home for an entire week? Or being surrounded by kids who are different from you and figuring out how to learn, live and play together? What’s to be discovered out in nature, away from phones and TVs? How could this type of experience help turn a young person’s life around, both at home and at school, for the better?

We are living proof that Outdoor School does change lives. It is the one middle school experience that, for many kids, teaches them to stand on their own and learn what it means to trust–not only in themselves, but in other kids, counselors and mentors. Outdoor School is a chance to discover that when we strip everything else away–the materialism, the social pressures, and all the technology–kids are kids, no matter where they are from, what community they grew up in and what they believe. All of us have concerns and challenges, dreams and hopes. But Outdoor School teaches us that when we work together, form close bonds and let down our guard, a new world of opportunity can open for us. 

Maybe it’s about getting back to nature and learning in new ways, but maybe it’s about something deeper. Outdoor School gives us a chance, often for the first time, to dig deep and discover who we are–together and as one.

Whatever it is, all we know is that Outdoor School is one of the best programs we have for middle-schoolers in Oregon and every kid should be able to experience it. Please vote Yes on Measure 99 this November to help Save Outdoor School for All. 

by Tana Barnett, Age 19
Mt Hood Community College Student & Outdoor School graduate