The Disparities of Covid-19 in Communities of Color and How We Can Help Youth Heal Through Nature

By Charles Thomas, Executive Director at Outward Bound Adventures

Pasadena, California - These are trying times, particularly for communities of color faced with outdoor access barriers resulting from historic and systemic racism during the Covid-19 crisis. Please consider a gift to Outward Bound Adventures (OBA) to get our inner-city youth and young adults connected to nature-based experiences including trips and outdoor conservation work experiences that will provide an alternative to hanging out on the streets. This is a wake up call for justice, equity, and action to help marginalized people in the greater Los Angeles region work and heal through these chaotic times.

The lasting impact of Covid-19 on low-income, urban youth and communities of color

As stay at home orders are removed, our communities will slowly begin to return to some sort of normalcy—but the return will not be the same for everyone. Covid-19 ripped through low-income communities of color, leaving those who started out with minimal support systems jobless and no support system at all. Recent studies measuring the effects of Covid-19 indicate profound disparities among racial and ethnic lines. Younger black and brown lives are disproportionately claimed, belieing the commonly accepted notion that old age is the highest risk factor.

Historical Inequities

Young people from these communities historically attend schools that lack the resources to make them as competitive as their white counterparts better resourced areas. The stay at home order associated with Covid-19 has further exacerbated the education gap by not recognizing the digital divide created by the lack of income.

Let Our Values Bear The Mark of our Intelligence

Los Angeles and its surrounding cities have proven that our youth are of value by providing thousands of jobs for low-income youth, especially during the summer months. Unfortunately, local government agencies, which have already furloughed large percentages of their workforce, will not be able to provide those same opportunities to youth and young adults once restrictions are lifted. The Los Angeles County Economic Development Corporation (LACEDC) reported the potential for the unemployment rate to reach 31.7% in Los Angeles Basin. (Los Angeles-Orange counties) and 31.9% in the Ontario-San Bernardino-Riverside area in May 2020.

The Need For Nature — Especially Now

Young people from low-income, urban, communities of color are the most highly under-represented demographic in outdoor careers, so it stands to reason that this demographic also faces the highest number of barriers to connecting with nature and the outdoors. Multiple studies and research have determined that time spent outdoors has a profound effect on mental health, academic achievement and pro-social normalization. If there was ever a time when nature was needed, it is now.

A Paid Conservation & Outdoor Recreation Workforce Training Program

Outward Bound Adventures is uniquely poised to provide a Post Covid-19 Economic Recovery Outdoor Education and Jobs Program. This is what we do, and what we have been doing longer than any other nonprofit in the nation. For 60 years OBA has promoted social and environmental justice by developing conservation and natural resource leaders of color, strengthening communities of color, and advancing collaborations between diverse communities in Los Angeles, San Bernardino, and Riverside counties. OBA has a broad range of experience working with over 300 schools, CBOs, and Native American tribes to develop and implement positive youth development, paid workforce training, and youth diversion programs that keep participants in nature and away from the juvenile justice system.

What will this program look like?

A portion of the time is spent engaged in nature-based, hands-on environmental education activities, and group functioning initiatives while the vast majority is spent working on a conservation project. The programs are as short as one day and as long as 20 days. Most youth will start out on a one-day course and sequence onto progressively longer courses.

OBA’s outcome-driven, trauma-informed curriculum affords opportunities for young people to learn resilience and responsibility, to accept challenges and achieve goals. Our workforce training programs are designed to teach youth the hard skills to do the jobs, and the soft skills to keep the job. OBA is known for successfully integrating a diversion model for small cohorts with a job track that ultimately leads to paid work-learning experiences in outdoor leadership, offers nationally recognized certifications, and provides real access to career pathways in the growing conservation field—an area that National Park Service, US Forest Service, and many other conservation agencies point out is severely lacking in diversity.

The outdoors is our venue but the real work takes place inside the person. Time spent on an OBA course typically changes two things: 1) the way the young person views herself and 2) the relationship she has with nature. If we do nothing, we are participating in creating yet another curve, only this one could be a spike in juvenile delinquency and arrests.

How You Can Help

Please consider a gift to Outward Bound Adventures. Your donation will help us bridge the gap between youth, nature, and healing.

  • $10 - Will help pay for 2-3 meals for a youth

  • $25 - Will help pay for all meals for a youth on a trip

  • $50 - Will support a youth receive a full day of hands-on environmental work experience

  • $100 - Will support a youth receive 2-3 days of hands-on environmental work experience

Please visit to donate and learn more about our work!