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Scrapbook: Inner City Outings Leader: From High School Club to the Sierra Club

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November 09, 2011

Inner City Outings Leader: From High School Club to the Sierra Club

Sitton peak 102Before joining her school's Wilderness Adventure Club as a high school freshman, Giao Tran had never experienced the outdoors. Little did she know then that after her first outing, she'd be more than just a club member –- she'd become an outdoors lifer.

"We went everywhere –- kayaking, backpacking, overnight camping," says Giao, who eventually became the club's president.

Now that she's in college, she returns the favor as a certified Inner City Outings leader who leads kids on the same trips she used to enjoy as a teenager.

"When I had the chance to become a Sierra Club leader, I was thinking, 'Wow, this is so awesome –- the opportunity to teach future generations these environmental values,'" she says.

Giao now attends Golden West College in Huntington Beach, California, where she's studying international relations. When she isn't hitting the books or backpacking, she's involved as an executive board member with Phan Boi Chau Youth for Democracy, which connects Vietnamese youth with the community.

All of these qualities make Giao an exceptional leader for ICO and the Angeles Chapter. The ICO program of Orange County is one of 50 volunteer-run groups nationwide that put together 800 outings each year for more than 11,000 kids. ICO in Orange County partners with Giao's high school Wilderness Adventure Club in connecting youth with nature. The high school club has now produced a remarkable four ICO leaders.

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"Through that group, and through my teachers, they taught me a lot about how important it is that we lead a life that upholds environmental values and sustainability," Giao says.

One early memory that sticks with Giao is the fact that kids change when they're together on an ICO trip.

"The group of high schoolers I was with –- we all worked together as a family unit," she says. "We looked out for each other. It made me see how the outdoors can be this common force that brings people together. That's what hooked me. I realized that the environment could be the one unifying force that everyone can stand behind."

She also realized that outings required some adjusting.DSC00467.2

"The initial challenge for these kids is being open to the outdoors as opposed to what they're used to in their daily lives. Not having a restroom was something I had to overcome with my first trip. Not having a shower made me say, ‘Whao.’ But I think once you get past that initial step, it's really rewarding."

This past summer as part of her Sierra Club leader training, Giao organized and led a ranger-supervised, week-long trip to Mt. San Jacinto. Her team cleared overgrown brush and improved nearby trails before climbing the 10,834-foot peak. Other memorable outings of hers include backpacking Yosemite's Tiltill Valley and the Channel Islands. She's looking forward to her next trip to Harwood Lodge.

"I always feel at peace when I go outdoors," she says. "I feel detached from the rest of society and I get to evaluate myself and how I live. With that it brings me peace. I can think about what I want to do in the future and how to be a better person."

Want to get involved with Inner City Outings? Learn more here.

Photos courtesy Giao Tran. 1st picture: Sitton Peak Summit; 2nd picture: At the peak of Mt. San Jacinto; 3rd picture: Channel Islands National Park.

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