A letter from a kayaker,


A few years ago, I discovered Venture Outdoors and signed up for my first kayaking trip.  Since then I’ve been hooked. These trips mean a lot to me because they provide a great way to escape from the many stressors of work and everyday life.  I’m an ICU nurse who works long hours and I always look forward to trips with Venture Outdoors. Fred, who also has a busy life working as a policeman in a hospital, just recently started going on trips with Venture Outdoors and is already looking forward to more trips.  His first time kayaking on the river was with Venture Outdoors.  David, our guide, helped Fred to feel more comfortable and confident kayaking on the river.  Both of us agree that the kayaking and hiking trips that Venture Outdoors organizes are well planned and are always in areas that are very scenic and safe.  Everyone whom I’ve met on these trips (both guides and venture seekers) are very nice and often share their knowledge regarding the area we are hiking or kayaking through.  Venture Outdoors definitely offers an opportunity to destress, learn how to maneuver in the outdoors, and to meet great people!  Also, we are both looking forward to becoming members!

Thank you so much!!
Denise & Fred 

What do we do that benefits others?  We create access to outdoor experiences.  Why is that important?  It provides stress relief, exercise, overall wellness, an escape.  A chance to pursue moments that bring happiness and joy.  All of this enhances the quality of one’s life.  

Every year, we hear countless stories like the one that Denise and Fred have shared here.  Stories about how we help others feel more alive and enjoy the wellness that only nature can provide.  Maybe you have a story that is like this one.  Maybe you are chasing moments like these.   


Removing barriers to the outdoors

We try to make sure that everyone enjoys the outdoors.  Whether that is through fishing, biking, hiking, kayaking, and much more, we work every day to remove any barriers that may be preventing others from enjoying outdoor experiences.  If you are passionate about this cause and want to learn more about the work that we do or how that you can get involved, visit www.ventureoutdoors.org/yaksofkindness.   

We love to hear your stories.  If you would like to share your favorite Venture Outdoors story with us, please email Ebony@ventureoutdoors.org.   

Inspire. Educate. Equip.  We remove barriers and create access to outdoor experiences.  


Become a Venture Outdoors Member

Venture Outdoors Members support programs that help get others outdoors. Membership starts at 7/mo and goes a long way in removing barriers to the outdoors.

Inspire. Educate Equip.

The final post in this 3-part series of “Lessons from Youth Outdoor Leaders” – stories, reflections and memories shared by the most recent youth leadership graduates from Manchester Academic Charter Middle School on the Northside. 



My name is Amere. I go to Manchester Academic Charter School (MACS). I am in the Venture Outdoors program at MACS. The Venture Outdoors program is one of my electives. I think you have to be kind and respectful and help others to be in this program. My most memorable moment at Venture Outdoors was going fishing. When I went fishing, it was my first time going. I didn’t catch any fish but I didn’t get upset because I was having so much fun. As I get older, I want to get outside more. I will be in the NFL so I will be outside a lot and I will make a park for other kids so they can go outside and have fun.



My name is Bryant and I am 12 years old. I go to Manchester Academic Charter School and I’m in 7th grade. I’ve been going here since 2nd grade and I love sports – # D1Bound! Outdoor Leadership basically means to have more fun outdoors and experience new things outdoors. I am involved with Venture Outdoors because I’m in the elective class. My most memorable Venture Outdoors experience is the hiking trip from last year because when we went hiking it was a very fun experience. I knew all the basics but they taught me a lot more about hiking. As I get older, I want play in the NFL and make a park with the money.



My name is Christa and I am 12 years old. I attend Manchester Academic Charter School and I am in 7th grade. Building fires and making s’mores with the fires that we built was my favorite activity with Venture Outdoors. It was my favorite because we got to eat s’mores and I love to eat. I chose the Venture Outdoors leadership program because it was an elective choice at my school. Outdoor leadership is if everyone is not following the outdoor rules you may be the only person following them by showing leadership skills.

Christa enjoying her time (maybe?) learning about air quality in Pittsburgh by examining a real set of pig’s lungs with Group Against Smog & Pollution (GASP)


Hello! I’m John. I’m 12 and I love to be active outside. I attend MACS and it helps me get involved with Venture Outdoors leadership. I think that outdoor leadership is a leader who helps nature and outdoors. When I was younger, I went kayaking with my dad in a man-made pond. It was different from kayaking in the river because the water in the pond was cleaner. I didn’t think that I would like kayaking in the river, but when we went kayaking down the river it was comfortable and fun. As I get older, I will need to know how to keep the outdoors safe while doing what I want to do as a dream (building skyscrapers and houses).

John geocaching in Allegheny Commons in search of hidden treasure


Hi! My name is Robert and I’m 12 years. My favorite memory of Venture Outdoors is when I went on a field trip to a camp to do a high ropes course and it was fun. It was my first time doing that and I wanted to complete every part of the course. Outdoor leadership is helping others if they get hurt or lost.

Robert geocaching with his team leader and classmates


Hi! My name is Matthew and I am in a leader ship class in my school at MACS. The best thing I did as part of this leadership course was go snowtubing because it was fun and I had never done that before.

Matthew completing the high ropes course at Camp Guyasuta

Makiyah and Kashmere

Our names are Makiyah and Kashmere and we are 12 year old girls who are sisters. We attend Manchester Academic Charter School and the school is good fit for us both. When we first got to middle school it was a different change from when we were in elementary school. We also thought the electives were fun – it was awesome meeting our new teachers and also some new friends. But when got to Venture Outdoor Leadership elective, we thought it was fun because we got to go outside and get some fresh air and do outdoor activities with our friends. We went kayaking, we went on hikes and more! Two memories that were our favorite: making s’mores and making fire buildings. The reason why we like making s’mores so much is because we both live s’mores a lot! And the reason why we both liked building fire houses is because we were allowed to make it anything we wanted.




My name is Darryl and I am 12 years old. I play a lot of sports and like trying new things. We go on field trips and do fun and special activities. We would always go on the trail every week. I think outdoor leadership is making the right choice and sticking up for the community. I want to play football when I get older. When my mom first heard about venture outdoors, she asked me if I wanted to participate and I said I didn’t want to do it. But, when I tried it, it was fun!

Welcome to our second post featuring insights and lessons learned, written by the middle school outdoor leadership students at Manchester Academic Charter School! The middle school is located in the newly renovated Museum Lab located in Allegheny Commons – an excellent location to get kids outside during the school day to bike, hike, kayak, fish, and more! Participating students reflected on their leadership course at the end of the semester and their responses are shared below.



My name is Julian. I am 14 years old. I like biking, swimming, drawing, and hanging out with my friends. Venture Outdoors is a class that I like because it makes it easier to go outside and show people what you know when it comes to outdoor activities. Usually I get involved in Venture Outdoors by showing some of the other kids how and what to do if they’re confused. One of my most memorable moments in Venture Outdoors is when I first had my Venture Outdoors class in 4th grade I had a bunch of friends who I went kayaking with and we always raced against each other. We always went through this tunnel at the lake and it was really cool. Hopefully, when I get older, I can do something that will get me outside more than usual, like biking or going to the pool to swim and socialize with others.

Fun fact about Julian: He is currently one of the longest-tenured regular participants of Venture Outdoors youth programs, beginning with his after-school site at Providence Connections in 4th  grade – now he is in 8th grade at MACS and still participating!

Julian, an 8th grader at MACS, has participated on Venture Outdoors youth programs since 4th grade!


My name is Romele. I go to Manchester Academic Charter and I’m 13 years old. I have been with Venture Outdoors for  2 years in a row. Venture Outdoors Leadership looks like you telling and showing everybody on task and showing them how to do an activity. I mostly have fun in every class. My favorite activity is biking because that’s just what I like to do when I go outside. I feel great whenever I’m riding a bike. As I get older I would like to bike around the city to get outside.

My most memorable moments in Venture Outdoors were when we went bike riding and one of the students got attacked by a goose. There are many things about me that are great. For starters, I am friendly to many other people, my friends are very funny, and they like me. I think that a leader for Venture Outdoors is a person who takes care of their group members.

Romele fishing along the North Shore during weekly leadership class


Hello! My name is Jordyn and I am thirteen years old. I go to Manchester Academic Charter school, and I am now an 8th grade student. I love math and I do other things to keep me entertained outside of school. This is my second year of MACS so I been in Venture Outdoors for 2 years. In previous years, when I went to camp during the summer, there were activities that Venture Outdoors did with us. Now at my last year at MACS, I am taking a leadership class with Venture Outdoors. We do things like biking, kayaking, fishing, and hiking. The most memorable moment I had with Venture Outdoors would have to be kayaking because it was my first experience with the kayaking, it’s really fun to do, and I love water. This can improve my leadership skills because they teach us how to fix things. I can use these skills to help others in the future. I appreciate that Venture Outdoors is doing this different activities with me but I don’t know how I am going to stay doing outdoors things in the future. I wish I can attend it again next year.

“The most memorable moment I had with Venture Outdoors was kayaking.”



My name is Xavier and I’m 13 years old. I attend Manchester Academic Charter School. I enjoy Venture Outdoors because I like being outside and I like the people who work with us. I love to participate in the activities even if I think I won’t like it. I think that being a leader is that you are calm and confident, you are a listener and a loudspeaker. My favorite activity was when we built fires. I liked building fires because they reminded me of survival games and shows and when I build fires I feel like I’m in the game or show. In the future, I will get myself outside by going camping and running 5K and 10Ks.

By: Manchester Academic Charter Middle School students

Twice a week this past Fall, aspiring outdoor leaders put their skills to the test during their elective leadership course with Venture Outdoors. Middle school students at Manchester Academic Charter Middle School, housed in the newly renovated Museum Lab in Allegheny Commons, learned about group dynamics, incident scene management, and how to properly give a paddle talk, among other skills. The students also had the chance to enjoy the outdoors for themselves by kayaking, biking, geocaching, hiking and indoor BMX biking at the Wheel Mill. Here’s what they had to say in their reflections of the course:

My favorite outdoor activity:
• I do activities anywhere.
• Playing football.
• Snowball fighting.
• Walking around and playing outside with friends.

Things I learned about the outdoors:
• First Aid is important because it can be useful in emergency situations, you must be prepared.
• I learned how to make a fire, and fire need to have oxygen, wood, and air.
• I learned how to kayak.
• You can use worms for bait (Jordan).
• Safely cast by putting the rod in water and turn it.

Things I learned about myself:
• I am a physical person.
• I am a visual learner.
• I learn best from someone explaining and demonstrating it to me.
• I never caught a fish.
• I like burning and eating the s’mores.


“I learned leadership by stepping up

when everyone is doing the wrong thing.”


What I learned about being a leader:

• I show leadership by stepping up when everyone is doing the wrong thing.
• I show leadership by helping and motivate others.
• I show leadership by showing kindness to people and helping people (Makiyah).
• I helped people by give them things if needed.

Things I learned about life:
• Be respectful to the community and make sure you leave it the way you found it.
• Don’t interrupt when others speaking.
• Have fun but don’t play too much.
• Be kind and respectful.
• Treat others how you want to be treated (Makiyah).
• Never quit when you start something (Makiyah).

Other neat facts I learned:
• A great white shark can weigh up to 2000 pounds!


Maybe one day you’ll learn new outdoor skills from these up-and-coming outdoor leaders, who are now equipped with the knowledge to share with their family, friends and community. Congratulations to the students who successfully completed the Fall course – we look forward to seeing you grow!

By: Ryan Prescott, Trip Leader Specialist / PULSE Fellow

Working with youth can be stressful. It can also be very rewarding.

Working with youth after-school programs every day has its ups and downs. What you take away each day depends on how much you put in. There are truly some amazing people out there and I would like to share two of the many stories that make working with kids truly incredible.


On October 16 of last year I was at the Allentown Learning and Engagement Center. It is just one of many after-school programs that Venture Outdoors partners with. The outside activity for that day was a bike rodeo. For those of you who do not know what that is, it is essentially an obstacle course for people riding a bike. Some of the kids did and did not know how to ride bicycles. One of the kids, Sienna, said she had never ridden a bike without training wheels. So initially I held the bike and we moved around the obstacle course. The next time around she said that she wanted to try it without any help. I simply held the bike steady in the beginning and when she started pedaling, I let go. I was amazed! She did the entire course without even leaning too far to a side. You could see the excitement on her face that she did it all by herself without any help. She did not want to give up the bike after because she was so excited!


On November 8 of last year I was at the Phillips Recreation Center. It is also one of the many after-school programs that Venture Outdoors partners with. The activity for the day was a stewardship hike. The goal of the hike was to split up into teams and see which group could collect the most trash from Phillips Park. The winning team of course would receive a mystery prize. So, you think how can I engage youth into having fun while picking up trash? Easy. Tell them the impact of picking up trash, make it a competition, and make a prize for the winners. Xavier was part of my team during the stewardship hike. Xavier also has been with Venture Outdoors for over four years. He actually led the charge when it came to getting everybody involved and excited about the hike. The second we got outside he started talking about a strategy to pick up the most trash. You could say he was my co-leader. If the kids got too far away from me, he would yell and they would all listen. He was constantly running around trying to make sure our team was victorious. To see him step up as a leader and take charge was awesome! I did not even have to say anything; he just assumed that role. This is what we do here at Venture Outdoors, create youth leaders that inspire others to enjoy the outdoors.