• Social Innovation Fellowship


History and Environmental Studies

Award Year 

Kids in the Canyon

Central Falls, RI

Kids in the Canyon is a program at Central Falls High School that mentors, trains, and outfits 12-15 students each year to hike up to 50 miles in Grand Canyon National Park. Through a curriculum of bi-weekly meetings involving team-building activities, personal reflections, skill-development workshops, guest speakers, and community engagement projects, participants build a network of support, leadership skills, and wilderness preparedness. Kids in the Canyon transforms under-performing students into engaged leaders and stewards of the land capable of reaching their full potential.

Before my junior year of high school, I spent a summer in the American Southwest sleeping under the stars, hiking, rock climbing, and learning environmental science with ten peers on an outdoor education program. Prior to this trip, I had few intimate, sustained, and meaningful interactions with nature. Living outside for an extended period of time pushed me beyond my comfort zone, and allowed me to reevaluate how I saw the world, reassess what was important to me, and reconsider how friendships and communities could be created and sustained. Overcoming the challenges that these outdoor activities presented, I gained a newfound self-confidence and sense of accomplishment. The outdoors became somewhere that I felt important and empowered.

From this experience, I began to appreciate how fortunate I was to have access to the outdoors and that not everyone had this same opportunity. Recognizing the power and significance of outdoor experiences in shaping myself and my peers, I became excited with the possibilities of outdoor education for youth development in urban areas. At Brown, my passion for community building and leadership development through outdoor experiences has been fully realized through organizations such as the Swearer Center’s own Outdoor Leadership and Environmental Education Program (OLEEP). I’ve watched relationships solidify and students grow, in the classroom and in the woods. Kids in the Canyon engages Central Falls High School students with alternative methods of learning so that they too can reach their full potential and develop a deeper appreciation for the environment.