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Youth Outdoor Leaders

Over the years we’ve done several stories about Great Outdoors University, a youth outreach program of the Tennessee Wildlife Federation. The concept is simple…give kids who don’t have access to nature an opportunity to experience it in a meaningful and often life-changing ways. But now some GOU participants are taking that connection with the natural world to another level. It’s called the Youth Outdoor Leadership Program, nine months of more intensive outdoor experiences with an emphasis on teaching and training. While there is still plenty of fun to be had, as Wild Side Guide Ken Tucker discovered, the ultimate goal is for these young men to learn enough to become naturalists and then share their knowledge with younger GOU participants.

So far Great Outdoors University has provided more than 15 thousand outdoor experiences to kids who wouldn’t have had the opportunity otherwise. In keeping with the program’s mission, the Tennessee Wildlife Federation has embarked on a five-year project to measure the long-term impact these nature-based experiences have on the lives of young people who participate. The highly successful program has even spread beyond Tennessee, as North Carolina has copied the GOU model, serving more than 4 thousand children within its first year. To learn more or find out how you can help, visit the TWF website at

From show 2808