Outdoor Educators Institute


The Outdoor Educators Institute develops the next generation of culturally relevant outdoor leaders by building competencies and leadership skills in young adults who have encountered hurdles or lacked the resources to enjoy the outdoors. The Outdoor Educators Institute (at its core) is advocacy for the inclusion and representation of diverse populations, especially those that have had historical and systemic barriers to accessing the outdoors.

For youth it provides a clear path to a profession through representation and culturally relevant trainings. Through training passionate young adults, we begin shifting the narrative of the outdoors from one traditionally held by people with power and privilege to that of one that includes and embraces people from all walks of life, and reflects the realities of the youth that will become the future stewards of the earth.

For the field, OEI establishes the method by which the next generation of racially and socio-economically diverse outdoor educators are prepared for service, creating the opportunity for underrepresented youth to see and identify with people in outdoor education programs who look like them and come from similar backgrounds.

The OEI Program

OEI is a 4-month long professional and workforce development program that started its 2016 season on August 13th. OEI trainees learn and practice a variety of outdoor skills necessary to becoming a culturally competent outdoor leader. OEI components include leadership training in wilderness backpacking, sea kayaking, ropes course facilitation, environmental education, group management, professional skills, conservation skills, and equity, diversity, and inclusion trainings. OEI participants also receive training and national certification in Wilderness First Aid. OEI supports participants to develop their skills as they become culturally competent outdoor leaders. OEI also provides opportunities for outdoor employment and volunteering, as well as supports participants in building outdoor programming for their communities.

Primary Training Components

  • Backpacking Expedition: Expedition planning, navigation, and backpacking and camping and skill
  • Sea Kayaking: Kayaking skills, water safety, and group management in water sports
  • Outdoor Education: Teaching youth of all ages in a natural setting and curriculum building for diverse populations
  • Conservation Skills: Trail maintenance, safe tool use, and conservation and stewardship philosophy
  • Rock Climbing: Climbing technique, anchor building, and safe belay trainings
  • Professional Skills: Block planning, job site skills, and program budgeting
  • Equity, Diversity and Inclusion: Workshops, discussion and practical skills to address social injustice

Beyond OEI

Outdoor Program Creation & Support: Participants and their community partner agencies will be given access to resources to create, implement, and strengthen outdoor programming. Resources include mentorship from industry professionals, discounted and free activities from delivery partners, and information and opportunities to apply for outdoor program funding. 

Access to Outdoor Expedition Partners: Participants will be better situated to connect their communities to the outdoors utilizing industry leaders and best practices through networking and relationship building with local and national outdoor programs.

Internships, Volunteer Opportunities and Employment: Accepted participants will be connected to local and national outdoor non-profits and encouraged to continue to grow professionally, by participating as a volunteer, intern, or employee for an outdoor organization.

Applying for OEI

Qualifications: 18 – 27 years old, Bay Area resident with demonstrated need for financial assistance to pursue skills for a career in youth development and/or the outdoors. Applicants from diverse ethnic/racial backgrounds and women are strongly encouraged to apply.


Commitment to attend and complete this 4-month program is mandatory, including evening workshops and weekend trainings; a strong desire to bring outdoor programs to under-represented communities; preferred previous experience in the outdoors, preferably as a participant in an urban-based outdoor program.


Contact the OEI Program Manager Rena Payan at rena@youthoutside.org