Outdoors & Unplugged
Statement of Need
New Mexico is indeed the Land of Enchantment! With it’s vast unpopulated or sparsely populated areas ranging from Alpine peaks, forests and meadows to towering red bluffs rising out of juniper and pinon dotted high desert terrain to sparkling white sand dunes stretching as far as the eye can see, New Mexico offers unparalleled outdoor experiences to her residents, people from all over our nation and the world. However, New Mexico has another distinction that also, sadly, helps define her image and even more sadly, the reality for many of her youth. According to data from the Annie E. Casey Kids Count project, New Mexico youth rate extremely high in many areas of threat to success, well-being and even survival (more on those indicators to follow). However, as sad and frightening as those statistics are, the lives of the youth to whom they apply are more sad and frightening. By age 16 many of them have officially “dropped out” of any educational facility. And, if they are still enrolled, truancy and failing performance are often the primary characteristics of their school experience. Large parts of their days are often spent alone in front of the TV, in the virtual worlds of video games and on-line “friendships”, or simply plugged into music player ear phones. When they do interact with people they know, it is often through text messaging and doesn’t even achieve the personal emotional connection of hearing a familiar voice.
Needs of the Service Area
The purpose of Outdoors and Unplugged is to provide New Mexico’s at-risk youth with the opportunity and means to develop their “naturalist, interpersonal and intrapersonal intelligences”. The program will integrate outdoor experiences/challenges with the hands-on learning of positive decision making and problem solving strategies developed by the national Why Try program. We aim to help them “plug” back in to their true selves, experience nature as a source of strength and well-being and become motivated and able to replace their at-risk status with academic and personal success.
Data from the national Annie E. Casey Kids Count Project (2005) clearly substantiates New Mexico’s need for positive intervention for at-risk youth:
- New Mexico is in the highest quartile for high school dropout rates at 8%.
- New Mexico is in the highest quartile for teenage deaths by all causes at 87 per 100,000.
- New Mexico ranks 8th in teen deaths by accident, homicide or suicide.
- New Mexico is in the upper half of states for teenagers not attending school and not working at 8%.
- New Mexico had the fifth highest rate of teen births to women who were already mothers at 21.4%.
- New Mexico had the highest rate of teen mothers between than ages of 15 – 19 at 117 per 1000.
- New Mexico had the second worst rate of 8th graders scoring at or above proficient math level at 17%.
- New Mexico had the worst rate of 8th graders scoring at or above proficient reading level at 17%
The following data is particularly pertinent to the need for an outdoor program. Research in by TEMPO in 2006 revealed that 54% of US teenagers own MP3 players. The PEW study in 2008 showed that 97% of US teenagers play video games with 82% of them playing alone. The Tween & Teen Lifestyle Report in March 2008 surveyed 1,182 teens (ages 13 to 17) and found that this group of teenagers spend 12.5 hrs. a week online and 11.9 hrs. a week watching TV. 73% of them own cell phones ad 75% of them own their own video game player.
We agree that most youth’s advanced skills in using technology is generally a positive thing. However, one possible consequence discussed in the national bestseller LAST CHILD IN THE WOODS by Richard Louv, increases the risk for academic and social failure of all our youth. This consequence, colloquially called “nature-deficit disorder”, is the result of society (particularly youth) distancing itself from nature and is characterized by the loss of our ability to fully use all our senses. Limiting the use of all our senses leads to feelings of isolation and an absence of community, or “cultural autism”.
Facilitating the development of “naturalist intelligence” in youth has been shown to significantly enhance their social and personal life skills (“interpersonal” and “intrapersonal intelligence”) as well. On January 31, 2005, the American Institute for Research published it’s findings after conducting research on the “Effects of Outdoor Education Programs for Children in California”. The study focused on 255 sixth-grade students who attended week-long residential outdoor science programs. It was reported that those students demonstrated “significantly positive gains” in all of eight constructs: self-esteem, cooperation, conflict resolution, leadership, relationship with peers, problem solving, motivation to learn and behavior in class.
Capacity-building Needs of Your Organization
Outdoors and Unplugged is in the beginning stages of existence, therefore, most of our needs are in the area of organizational development. We plan to use grant funds to pay for the insurance coverage’s we need: Workers Compensation, General Liability, Auto including hires and non-owned, Directors and Officers and Employment Practices Liability. We are in the process of becoming incorporated and obtaining 501 ( c) 3 status with the IRS so we will use grant funds to pay the required filing fees. Implementing an accounting system and installing an IT infrastructure are needs for which we plan to use grant funds. We plan to purchase computers for information management, communication and creating marketing materials. We will also purchase two multiple function printers, business software including Quick Books and necessary office supplies.
Another area of capacity building in which we will use grant funds is Program Development. We will send staff to training in the Why Try program and purchase their teacher/leader materials. We will also travel to our SW Colorado site to continue the development of our outdoor program.
The third area of capacity building we will use grant funds to accomplish is Community Engagement. We will purchase the services of a graphic designer to assist us with creating a brochure, letterhead and business cards.
By the end of September, 2009 we intend to be incorporated as a legally recognized organization and hopefully have our 501 ( c) 3 status so that we can begin fundraising that allows donors to claim tax exemption for their contributions.
We will have computers, software and appropriate office supplies in place and have a bookkeeping/accounting system operating by the end of September, 2009.
We will have the specified minimal insurance coverage in place by March 31, 2009.
With the technical assistance of Help New Mexico we have the objective to create a strategic plan for Outdoors and Unplugged before the end of this budget cycle in order to proceed in as efficient and timely a manner as possible to provide services to the At-Risk youth of New Mexico.
By the end of September 2009 at least 2 of our staff will have received certified training in Why Try and we will have purchased teacher manuals for the Why Try Program.
All our current staff will have made at least one trip to our SW Colorado site for site development and outdoor activities planning by September 30, 2009.
It is our objective to have a brochure, letterhead and business cards ready for use by September 30, 2009.
With the assistance of Help New Mexico we also intend to create an action plan for coordinating /collaborating with other community agencies within this budget year.
While we have not requested financial support in this area at this time, we have several Leadership Development objectives we are requesting Help New Mexico assistance with during this budget year in order to develop a highly efficient and effective organization.
Board member recruitment
Board policy development
Executive succession plan creation
Outdoors and Unplugged “understands that the activities for training and technical assistance will be agreed upon between the organization and the technical advisor and carried out as delineated in the memorandum of agreement. Collaboration and assessment are, we understand, central to this program. Proposed use of funds is described in the budget justification narrative.”
Outdoors and Unplugged “will work with its technical assistant over the program year to develop a clear organizational profile.”
The concept of an outdoor based program for at-risk youth had been developing in the mind and heart of myself, Marsha Bankston for several years. The combination of my experience as a school social worker/mental health professional and being 6th generation on a ranch in South West Colorado led me to a natural conclusion that getting at-risk youth in touch with their strengths and abilities in an outdoor setting and helping them use that experience in addressing and solving the challenges in their lives could be an effective means of facilitating their academic and personal success. My son, Ryan Louchard, who is an EMT and firefighter and is the 7th generation to experience the strengthening and satisfying effects of our ranching background, and I agreed that we would like to develop such a project.
Last summer I had the chance opportunity to mention my idea to a young physician who is an avid outdoorsman and had become concerned about the negative effects that loss of contact with nature is having on the social and emotional development of our youth. He stated that he was interested in doing something to help remedy that situation and Outdoors and Unplugged began its formation.
As a fledgling organization, our greatest strength is our commitment to bringing the program from idea to reality. Since we first met last summer we have begun the process of becoming incorporated and attaining our 501 ( c ) 3 status with the IRS, connected with Help New Mexico and attended your grant application and board development workshops, begun to explore Board member recruitment and begun plans for specific programming and development of the site in Colorado.
At this time we all function as Board and volunteer staff. We meet to plan what steps to take next and distribute those tasks among us. We keep updated and get input from one another on those tasks by phone and e-mail. Computer notes made during out meetings and then e-mailed to all of us Those meeting records are all saved. As we get more developed as an organization we will need a formal record keeping system.
Also, because of our fledgling status, we have no formal financial accounting system. Currently we all just contribute our time, resources (such as our own computers) and travel costs. A system of financial record keeping and responsibility will also need to be developed in the near future. Dr Kuang has made space available in his office for our meetings and has decided to make an office available exclusively for Outdoors and Unplugged so we can have a central location available at all times. It is clear that we have a lot to do in establishing a professional organizational profile.
Organizational Capacity and Motivation for Growth
At this time our staff is all volunteer and functions as both Board members and staff. They are:
Marsha Bankston MSW, MA: Licensed Independent Social Worker, Licensed NM State Board of Education. President, Board of Directors; Director of Programs (white)
Wayne Kuang MD: Secretary, Board of Directors; Executive Director (Asian)
Ryan Louchard: NM EMT-Intermediate, IFSAC-FF1 Vice President, Board of Directors, Director of Facilities (white)
Sonja Davis: Member, Board of Directors, Office Manager (African American)
“We understand that a site visit will be performed if an award is received.”
Project Budget and Budget Justification Narrative