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It's Just Another Day at Inner City Outings - Explore

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Sierra Daily

06/16/2011

It's Just Another Day at Inner City Outings

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What's the best way to get to your fishing hole? Try whitewater rafting.

Thanks in part to the Sierra Club Water Sentinels program and Zebco that donated six fishing poles and reels, the Sierra Club's Inner City Outings (ICO) program and YMCA's Earth Service Corp brought 14 San Francisco middle school girls late last month to Cache Creek, a raucous tributary that feeds into the Sacramento River. None of these girls had ever gone rafting before, so you could imagine the sensation they felt during the nine-mile adventure.

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"It is thrilling to take people out to the river for the first time, to see the wonder in their eyes, to watch them go from fear to exuberance and thoughtful appreciation of the river," says trip leader Bill Weinberg, who first rafted in 1979 as part of a Sierra Club Service trip.

The ICO program in total consists of 50 groups, leads 800 outings a year, and touches the lives of 14,000 youth. For many of these kids, rough, urban surroundings are all they know. Many of their peers end up in gangs and struggle in school. During outings, ICO leaders regularly witness kids immediately connect with nature and, as a result, become inspired to get back on the right track.

Inner City Outings

"I treasure knowing that I've been a small part of changing someone's life, re-directing them from gangs and despair to personal growth and empowerment. It's pretty cool that we can do that while experiencing the joy of being a river guide," Bill says.

On this particular day, after the rafting ride the girls and ICO leaders disembarked and held a discussion on the area's geologic history, mining, and the "human history -- from the Native Americans to present, as well as who currently controls the creek's flow and why." They then talked about angling before casting their lines.

Inner City Outings

Needless to say, they did pretty good.

Inner City Outings

Inner City Outings

So, did the girls enjoy the day? The thank-you notes give an emphatic thumbs up.

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Learn more about Sierra Club's Inner City Outings program.

(Photos by Lisa Katzman. Thank-you images courtesy of Bill Weinberg.)

-- Brian Foley

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