Improving Health Outcomes for BIPOC Youth in South King County through Nature-Based Outdoor Programming

Youth Experiential Training Institute logo


Grantee: Youth Experiential Training Institute (Y.E.T.I.)
Timeframe: July 2023 – June 2024 | Amount: $55,000

With a PHPDA grant, Y.E.T.I. will increase health equity for students in underserved schools and communities in south King County by increasing access to nature-based outdoor programming. Through this programming, Y.E.T.I will address the following health outcomes and access disparities impacting low-income, BIPOC and English Language Learner (ELL) youth:

  1. High percentage of ELL youth do not meet CDC physical activity recommendations. Only 11% meet CDC guidelines, significantly lower than for King County youth in general.
  2. Worse access to recreation spaces in south King County that can lead to less physical exercise for low-income youth. Commonly cited issues include: less facilities, decreased safety outdoors, and increased transportation barriers.
  3. Low-income King County youth participate in organized sports at lower rates than higher income peers (75% compared to 95%), reducing their total exercise and resulting health benefits.


Through their direct experience and assessments like the King County State of Play Report, Y.E.T.I has identified hundreds of students who do not participate in adequate levels of physical activity and face barriers to accessing local recreation spaces and regional public wildlands. As a result, they are more likely to experience adverse health conditions such as diabetes, anxiety, and stress that will impact their long term health.

Specific schools where Y.E.T.I will facilitate outdoor clubs are as follows:

  • Glacier Middle School, SeaTac- 90% BIPOC, L, 82% low-income, 33% ELL
  • Pacific Middle School, Des Moines- 81.2% BIPOC, 71% low-income, 30.4% ELL
  • Cascade View Elementary School, Tukwila- 90% BIPOC, 79% low-income
  • Maritime High School, Des Moines- 35% BIPOC, 26% low-income
  • Sylvester Middle School, Burien- 61% BIPOC, 48% low-income
  • Highline High School, Burien- 83% BIPOC, 71% low-income
  • Big Picture High School, Burien- 58% BIPOC, 52% low-income

In partnership with Highline and Tukwila School Districts, Y.E.T.I has selected schools based on their large numbers of low-income, BIPOC, and English Language Learner (ELL) youth who experience major barriers to accessing nature. All schools are situated in or near to King County Opportunity Areas that King County has designated as “serving communities that lack access to open space and experience demonstrated hardships.”


PHPDA Major grant funds will be used to facilitate free, low-barrier, nature-based activities that improve physical and mental health for underserved youth while wrapping them in layers of positive emotional and social support. All funds will be used for direct programming expenses such as: staffing costs for recruiting new youth, directly facilitating outdoor activities, building partnerships that enhance programming, and other essential expenses.

Core activities will include: hiking, snowshoeing, rock climbing, mountain biking, backpacking and sea kayaking. Most activities will take place at county and state parks within a half hour of school sites, with some weekend and overnight trips to more distant, premier public lands such as the Alpine Lakes Wilderness Area and Dry Falls State Park in Eastern Washington. All activities will be led by Y.E.T.I.’s team of professional outdoor guides and educators which include two part-time Program Coordinators, a full-time Program Director, and six outdoor instructors.

In terms of health benefits, all trips include an average of one to eight hours of rigorous physical activity in outdoor settings. Additionally, Y.E.T.I’s programs have a strong mentorship component as volunteers and staff build intentional relationships as they participate in outdoor activities together. Through these connections, many of their youth gain a new important layer of emotional support that can help them to make positive decisions, develop postsecondary education and vocational plans, and build a healthier sense of identity and self-worth.


All nature trips incorporate environmental education and life/leadership skill building activities. While the students are learning how to belay a partner or what to bring on a hike, they also learn communication, leadership and empathy. Altogether, Y.E.T.I programs create an immersive and enriching environment that addresses physical, emotional, intellectual, and social health simultaneously. Even better, by cultivating youth to be lifelong environmental stewards and outdoor recreationists, the programs help instill in them health habits they will carry with them for the duration of their lives.

Y.E.T.I works with dozens of schools, community centers, local parks and recreation departments, outdoor recreation companies, and community organizations to expand the breadth and depth of their programming and reach more underserved youth.


Student-led trips: Through Y.E.T.I’s model of in-school nature clubs, most nature trips are student-organized and led. Students help Y.E.T.I decide where to visit, what outdoor recreation activities they would like to try, and what environmental education topics they would like to learn.

School Staff: Y.E.T.I also works closely with teachers and school staff at schools where we are involved. Y.E.T.I partners with teachers on outdoor field trips, environmental education opportunities, recruiting youth, and better understanding how the programs are benefiting youth in the classroom. Many of these staff are BIPOC educators who share our passion for engaging youth of color in outdoor programming.

Conversations with youth, their parents and teachers, and community partners give Y.E.T.I additional feedback of progress made by youth towards academic and youth development goals.



Youth Experiential Training Institute (Y.E.T.I.)

Y.E.T.I.’s mission is to provide access to outdoor recreation for all youth in King County by mitigating financial, gender, and cultural barriers. Their model is simple: place caring outdoor educators into the public schools to engage youth in the possibilities that await them in our incredible public lands. Y.E.T.I believes this is the crucial missing link needed to make outdoor recreation truly accessible for all King County youth.

Major Grant

View all projects >>