Sierra Club’s Inspiring Connections Outdoors (ICO) provides opportunities for people with limited access to the outdoors – especially youth – to safely explore, enjoy and protect the natural world. There are 52 ICO groups nationwide, run entirely by volunteers, who actively engage young people who might not otherwise have access to the outdoors. These experiences not only teach environmental awareness and an appreciation for the outdoors, but they also give children the confidence to take chances and to develop their own leadership skills.
The Sierra Club Foundation provides resources to the Sierra Club programs, to support charitable scientific, educational, literary, organizing, advocacy, and legal programs that further The Sierra Club Foundation's mission.
Your generous contribution will help support NYCICO programs and focus on two of our partner agencies The Discover Outdoors Foundation & CatRock Adventures. The Discover Outdoors Foundation (DOF) began in 2012 founded by Kirk Reynolds with a singular focus: increasing graduation rates in our urban schools through education experiences in the outdoors. Since then, the path for hundreds of students has taken a different course; one that leads to a diploma and a brighter future. The DOF mission is to provide life-changing, educational, and fun outdoor experiences to kids who need it most.
DOF envisions a world where every child has the opportunity to learn and to grow from outdoor experiences. It’s a world in which all students can see classroom lessons brought to life and can thrive academically because they are passionate and curious. In this world, kids from all economic backgrounds are empowered to explore beyond their neighborhoods and, in doing so, discover more about themselves.
The CatRock Adventures Program (CatRock) was pioneered by child psychologist Dr. Mike Harris when he founded The Cat Rock Gang in 1985 as a Sierra Club New York City ICO program working with kids and young adults who had been adversely impacted by gang violence. Cat Rock was established as an alternative to a clinical setting for Bronx boys and young men (aged 11-21) in high-risk situations. It provided participants with an alternative to gang life through structured group hikes, overnights, and discussion sessions. It was very powerful in its reach and helped numerous young men have a safe support system to promote their growth and their vision for the future. After Mike Harris’s death, the program became a combined Sierra Club’s New York City's ICO Program run by Craig Meisner, a Sierra Club ICO Leader and volunteer for over 20 years. Craig’s extensive background in youth development has allowed him to fully develop the leadership model based on the original CatRock program.
CatRock's focus has evolved into working with undeserved boys and girls who show an interest in personal development and leadership. The program develops leadership skills by exploring individual character in terms of self-awareness, self-control, motivation, and empathy. A core principle of the program is “experience, learn & teach.” Successful students become certified ICO youth leaders who develop into mentors for younger students. These training's also helps students become leaders in their high schools, colleges, future careers, and in their own communities.
The Cat Rock Program is the foundation and spark that has started a mission to form similar programs across the country for the Sierra Club.
Thank you for supporting these life changing outdoor experiences for undeserved youth.