Why outdoors? Why ecology? Why hiking?

Mar. 19, 2023

It caught my attention.

Embedded in the daily bombardment of information—circumventing my spam filters—an email made me pause.

Announcement: An ‘open to the public’ Bird Watching tour through the city of Camden on Saturday morning.

The tour was being sponsored by the New Jersey Conservation Foundation. Squinting, I read the name of the tour guide.

Jalisa Hernandez….

Our Jalisa, I wondered? UrbanPromise Alumni? Graduate of our high school in 2017?

I quickly hit reply. Ping – confirmed! A delightful greeting from Jalisa appeared, along with an update on her new job: the Camden City Parks Coordinator. Curiosity got the best of me. I had to ask: How did her interest in birds and her love of nature and conservation evolve? Her comeback:

“I was never aware of the natural environment I grew up in. We aren’t aware of what we’re doing until we’re conscious of it. Like breathing. I developed an awareness of nature at UrbanPromise.”

Jalisa then recalled her first serious outdoor adventure—a climb and camping expedition up the 6,000 ft Mount Washington in Vermont. “I had never been hiking,” she explained. “This wasn’t just any mountain. It was snow-covered. We wore special gear on our feet and learned about hypothermia.”

When she got to the top, her life changed. Exhausted and cold, Jalisa experienced the unforgettable.

“I was in awe of the view,” she told me, as she called up the memory. “I felt accomplished and a sudden urge to explore more. I started going on more trips. That’s when the passion started.”

People often ask me: Why outdoors? Why ecology? Why hiking? Why canoeing? Why experiential learning? Why boat-building?

Jalisa is the why—and the hundreds of youth whose lives have been transformed by our experiential learning programs over the years.

What better way to prepare young people for successful lives! What better way to experience God’s wonder and creativity! What better way to learn how to love and care for our planet! Experiential programs change lives.

Spring has arrived again. This season opens the door for outdoor learning programs at UrbanPromise to begin. Our team is eager to get started.

This is why I need your help now. We’ve got some amazing, wonderful activities just needing resources. I hope you will take a look and support a local experience or overnight expedition.

Local experiences & learning

  • $50 per student
  • $125, Supplies & transportation

Overnight expeditions

  • $250, Sponsor one student
  • $475, Camping gear
  • $750, Food and fuel
  • $1,800, Sponsor a Trekker for 1 year ($150/month)
  • $3,000, Sponsor a trip

In advance, thanks for supporting one (or more) of these life-changing experiences. I promise more lives—like Jalisa—will be deeply changed.

Bruce Main
President & Founder

P.S. Take a look below at just some of the experiential learning and expeditions we have coming up this spring and summer.

Overnight expeditions

  • Rites of Passage – High school seniors travel to upstate New York’s Saranac Lake region for a 5-day challenging water and land expedition culminating in a 24-hour solo experience (12th grade)
  • Winter Outdoor Leadership Training, 2-day trip to Hopwood, PA (12th grade)
  • Spring Break trip, 5-day trip to Hopwood, PA (9-12th grade)
  • History expedition- 3-day trip to Harpers Ferry and Gettysburg PA (10th grade)
  • Haskin Shellfish Research Laboratory Expedition in Cape May includes aquaculture habitat research project, beach seining and field experience, oyster hatchery activity, and overnight camping (10th grade)
  • Maine Trek a 4-day expedition to mid-coast Maine, students explore through quarry jumping, hiking, sea kayaking, and lobstering (10-12th grade)

Local experiences & learning

  • Class Canoe Trip on Cooper River Lake (4th grade)
  • Boat building (6-9th grade)
  • SeaQuest, study of marine biology and local marine habitats including trip to the Adventure Aquarium (6-8th grade)
  • Camden County Municipal Utilities Authority Trip to observe combined sewers overflow (9th grade)
  • Butterfly Garden Restoration, Green Engineers’ elective (9-12th grade)