Outdoor Industry Association (OIA) announced capstone projects for Class 4 of the Skip Yowell Future Leadership Academy (FLA), an immersive leadership experience for the next generation of outdoor industry game-changers. This year’s class includes 35 driven emerging leaders from REI, Yakima, Pacific Crest Trail Association, Backcountry.com, The North Face, Outdoor Research, Burley and others.

Through collaborative learning and one-on-one mentorship, the Skip Yowell Future Leadership Academy focuses on giving up-and-comers in the outdoor industry the skills, education and insights they need to become the next generation of outdoor industry leaders. The capstone projects that each class completes are the culmination of the leadership skills learned during the six-month program.

For the capstone projects, the FLA class will split into teams of seven, each working with an outdoor industry nonprofit to strategize on solutions for a wide range of needs: diversity, equity and inclusion, outdoor recreation economy, conservation, public lands, health in the outdoors and more.

The nonprofits chosen for this year’s capstone projects are Adventure Therapy Collective, American Indian College Fund, Big City Mountaineers, Cal-Wood Education Center, Minnesota Environmental Fund (MEF), PeopleForBikes and The Nature Conservancy in Colorado.

“The Skip Yowell Future Leadership Academy capstone projects allow FLA participants to apply what they’ve learned throughout the program and tap into their diverse professional skillsets to provide valuable insight and guidance to our nonprofit partners,” said Kristen Freaney, leader of the Skip Yowell Future Leadership Academy. “Our goal is to give back to the nonprofits who do a lot of the heavy lifting on important issues tied to our industry, while also cultivating a lifelong commitment to service among our program participants.”

“We are grateful for this opportunity to partner with Cal-Wood Education Center in Colorado for our Skip Yowell Future Leadership Academy Capstone Project,” said Susan Strible, director of marketing at Ruffwear and FLA Class 4 class member. “Our goal is to help Cal-Wood build connections with outdoor industry companies to support the expansion of their popular Latino Family Camp. We’re excited to be part of the effort to serve a growing number of outdoor enthusiasts in the Latino community and empower more Latino families to explore Colorado’s natural wonders.”

The capstone projects will be presented to the nonprofits, FLA staff, OIA board members and key stakeholders at Outdoor Retailer Summer Market in June. Class 4 will also hold a graduation during Summer Market.

“In our work with Native students, we know that nature holds a special inherent place in their hearts and minds,” said Jack Soto, career readiness pathways program manager at American Indian College Fund. “Nature is where they go to learn, edify their spirit and find solace. A challenge is learning how to connect our student’s appreciation of nature to the outdoor industry. We were thankful to find a place among the projects selected for the 2019 Skip Yowell Future Leadership Academy program. We look to this exercise to help grow our evolving understanding of the work in connecting students to meaningful experiences.”

Applications for the Skip Yowell Future Leadership Academy Class 5 open June 17, 2019. For more information about the Skip Yowell Future Leadership Academy or to get involved in future years’ programs, contact Kristen Freaney at kfreaney@outdoorindustry.org.