By Katie Kramon
The Stanford Outdoor Outreach Program (SOOP), responsible for leading high schoolers from East Palo Alto on outdoor trips since 2002, held their first meeting of the year on Oct. 9 at the Haas Center.
SOOP, which now has 61 student members, is at its largest membership since its founding 10 years ago, and has multiple exciting initiatives on the horizon. Hannah Black ’14, director of Outdoor Skills and Leadership for the group and former co-president, described its progression over the past four years.
“I’ve watched it grow from seven people sitting around the kitchen table in the Haas Center to the 40 new new leaders we rolled out this morning,” she said.
For the past 10 years, SOOP has worked with one high school – East Palo Alto Academy High School. With the growth of their leadership base, they will be able to expand to the Luis Valdez Leadership Academy in San Jose this year. This expansion is one of their three important goals for the year.
Their second is “getting more trips out into the field than ever before,” said Jimmy Jiang ’15, co-president. In the past, they’ve offered backpacking and camping trips. This year they hope to add more beach and car camping trips, an all-female trip, and trips for a single grade level to help students bond with their everyday classmates.
Finally, they hope to “get more face time with teachers at EPAA,” Jiang said, to better understand how to make their time with students as effective as possible.
The leadership team spent a lot of time constructing their mission statement for this year, several members said. Their question was whether to focus on experiential or educational learning.
“We decided that SOOP is less about teaching wilderness skills, and more about building personal confidence, community development and getting students into their stretch zone,” Black said.
The final version came out to the following: “To enhance interpersonal relationships, foster community, and instill personal confidence in San Francisco Bay Area youth through facilitated outdoor experiences.”
They introduced a new logo for this year, designed by their school outreach director, Bryan Quintanilla. They also plan to integrate social media this year, starting with an Instagram feed. Additionally, they have a staff advisor this year, Kelsey McCabe, who brings professional experience in outdoor education.
SOOP has developed close relationships with both the Haas Center for Public Service and Stanford Outdoor Education.
“We are unique in that we bridge the outdoor and service communities at Stanford – no other campus group does,” Black said.
SOOP requires less training than leading for Stanford Pre-Orientation Trips (SPOT) does, and it doesn’t require outdoor experience prior to joining. Several members of the leadership team mentioned in their introductions that they had never been camping before joining SOOP.
Contact Katie Kramon at ckramon ‘at’ stanford.edu.