Outdoor Advanced Leadership Academy is a one-week resident summer camp for middle schoolers, from some of the most impoverished San Francisco neighborhoods. At OALA kids get out into the wild through an immersion into natural sciences over their week long stay at two incredible resident camps. Imagine how it would change a child's life to spend a week during the summer in middle school outside, building confidence and experiencing the profound majesty of nature!

"The most important thing I learned at OALA is how to be a good leader.”


We created OALA in 2015 in partnership with the California Waterfowl Association. Since then OALA has coupled environmental stewardship with leadership training to teach the kids about their own potential to do great things, regardless of the backdrop of their daily lives. Outdoor Advanced Leadership Academy places children outside of their normal routines and in the beautiful spaces that are so close to home: these spaces that will be theirs to steward as the future generation of environmental leaders. 

Make a Gift

Young Environmental Stewards

Outdoor Advanced Leadership Academy cultivates an appreciation, understanding, and love for the environment while building youth up to develop confidence. Our goal is for youth to leave the week as environmental stewards with strong self-confidence.

Our Approach

Kids participating stay at the Point Bonita Y in the Marin Headlands, and at the California Waterfowl Association’s Grizzly Ranch in Suisun Marsh for six days of intensive hands-on learning and discovery.

Over the week, youth participating in OALA experienced immersion into natural sciences – geology, invertebrate biology, hydrology and food chain concepts – coupled with leadership training which fosters the self esteem kids need to discover their own potential to do great things. 


What's OALA like for Kids?

In the Suisun Marsh at California Waterfowl’s Grizzly Ranch, youth slept under the stars, examined marsh water under a magnifying glass, donned chest waders to head into the water and band ducks for research, and got their first taste of kayaking to explore the world they couldn’t see on foot.

At the Point Bonita Y, youth were led on hikes and explorations guided by naturalists, interacting with the beautiful and eco-diverse Marin Headlands. Youth faced fears big and small through ropes course challenges and kayaking, and throughout the week had opportunities for reflection to learn more about themselves. 

“A challenge I overcame this week was my fear of heights. I still haven’t completely conquered my fear, at least I tried and got to the top of the tree at the ropes course.”

The Academy accomplished all of our goals about leadership, ecology, teamwork, self-confidence and respect for our natural resources and fellow classmates. The feedback we got from the kids was inspirational – many had never slept outside before, or enjoyed a starlit night in a rustling wind. Their worlds expanded dramatically, and their lives were altered in ways that may take years to play out, though other impacts were immediate.

We take children outside to discover the strength they each hold, inside themselves. 

Measures of Success

Who We Reach

71% of our youth qualify for free/reduced lunch. Participants are from Chinatown, Outer Richmond, Visitacion Valley, Sunset, SOMA, Excelsior, Bayview Hunters Point, and the Tenderloin.

Future Leaders

93% of youth participants reported that they know at least one way to protect the environment, versus only 60% of participants coming in to the week. 

Bridging the Outdoors

Post program, 84% of youth reported that they enjoyed being outdoors; a dramatic increase from only 40% of participants coming in to the week.

Just as many of the kids at OALA hadn't spent time in nature in their young lives, many parents were touched that their children would be able to have this experience.

“I just want to say thank you very much as I could not have afforded to send Sarah to stay away camp in a million years. It is something I wanted to do desperately as a kid and never had an opportunity to do. It ranks up there with never getting to go to prom. So thank you for your dedication and commitment to providing children with great experiences that enrich and educate them.

She will have an opportunity to do things she's never done before, while meeting new friends and mentors! We really appreciate the opportunity you’re giving my daughter.”

Our Partners


Support this Initiative 

In 2017, we want to expand to two seven-day sessions with 100 children. We hope to add deeper instructor training, and continue developing the curriculum with our expert partners, to maximize the impact of our education modules. We need your support to continue to grow this impactful, needed program.