By Raymond N. Greenwell
Sierra Club Inspiring Connections Outdoors (ICO) is a community outreach program that provides opportunities for urban youth (and also adults) to explore, enjoy and protect the natural world. ICO is dedicated to providing outdoor opportunities to people that would not otherwise have them, including low-income youth of diverse cultural and ethnic backgrounds. ICO is made up entirely of volunteer leaders who work to provide young people with outdoor recreational opportunities, leadership training, positive group experiences, and environmental education, while imbuing in them a love of nature and the outdoors.
I have been leading trips with the New York City ICO group since 1984. Now that I live in Santa Fe, I’d like to start a group in the Santa Fe/Albuquerque area. If you think you might be interested in helping out, contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org. To start, I need at least five dedicated individuals who can either serve as volunteer leaders on trips, fundraise, serve as treasurer, or manage a website.
The requirements to become a certified leader in the ICO program are fairly extensive, including first aid (usually for the wilderness), leadership training, and training in child abuse recognition and prevention. However, to join trips as a volunteer, all that is needed is membership in the Sierra Club, filling out a volunteer application, signing the ICO Code of Conduct, and attending a new volunteer orientation session.
ICO partners with schools or community agencies to make trips happen. The New York City ICO chapter currently works with eight different agencies. In recent years I worked with Ellis High School in the Bronx, where students from around the world were learning English as a second language. We did about eight trips a year, mostly day hikes, but also apple picking, rafting, orienteering, and ice skating at an outdoor rink in the mountains north of New York City.
There is already one ICO group in the Rio Grande Chapter, located in El Paso, TX. Led by Gloria Santellano, the group has provided outdoor activities for the Reynolds Home for women and children, as well as a girl scout troop.
For more information about the ICO program, visit http://content.sierraclub.org/outings/ico.