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June 04, 2013

Inner City Outings: Nashville Youth Enjoy the Outdoors

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For Craig Jervis, people's love of the outdoors starts at a young age.

"When I was young, I was told to go outside and play. So I made the neighborhood mine. I knew every nook and cranny. I knew which ponds had bass in them and which had catfish. I knew where to find snakes. I went out and stayed out until dark. So it just got in my blood," he said.

ICOpiclandNow he serves as chair of Inner City Outings in Nashville, where he helps today's kids experience those same adventures.

"I guess I thought that there'd always be backyards and places to play. But living in the city, I guess I didn't know that wouldn't always be the case. A lot of kids don't have that."

That's where Inner City Outings steps in. ICO comprises 50 volunteer-run groups across the country that reach 14,000 youth and lead more than 800 outings each year. In many cases, ICO kids have no outdoor experience and instead live in urban areas with high crime and gangs.

"They’re disadvantaged in many ways," Craig says. "A lot of kids are in single-family homes or being raised by an older sibling. So they're not getting the adult attention they need. That's what really sucked me into ICO. It's not so much that they need outdoor experiences as much as they need adult presence. They are worth the time we invest in them."

The Nashville group went on 12 outings last year, including three canoe trips, with a total of 240 kids participating. Craig said he's interested in doing more trips that involve water. Last summer, the kids produced this video of their adventure on Duck River.

Craig hopes to incorporate education into outings. He recalls asking ICO kids where they thought their water came from, and their answer was "the tap. So we’re going to try to educate more around that," he says.

"We're going to work on map reading skills, safety, basic things. We want to make today's participants tomorrow's leaders and give them the skills to enjoy the outdoors. That way at a later time they’ll know how to take their family or friends with them."

These are experiences that stay with kids for a lifetime.

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"What was on my mind was, where is the advocacy for the outdoors going to come from? Most conservationists have signature experiences from their youth, whether it's fishing with their dads or camping with family. Many of these kids don't have that opportunity and this is a way to really open that door."

Want to get involved? Visit Inner City Outings.


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