We probably sound like a broken record when we say that community is at the heart of everything we do here at Apogee – but it’s true. In our ongoing effort to extend the scope of the Apogee community, one of our major considerations is making our trips more accessible to more young people. Over the last few years, we have dedicated a lot of time, energy, and financial resources to our Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) initiatives in order to do just that. As we continue to plan and prepare for our 2023 season, one of our biggest areas of focus is to increase the number of Apogee students from historically marginalized communities.
To make this happen, we are excited to introduce our “Creating Outdoor Opportunities Program,” colloquially known as COOP. Though we are just introducing COOP now, that’s not to say that the concept is new; we have been working with partner organizations to identify worthy students and provide funding for Apogee trips for well over a decade now. But our more formal establishment of COOP highlights our efforts to create a more structured program – and one we can more easily share with new partners and students.
So what exactly is COOP? The goal of COOP is to identify, provide, and support outdoor adventure opportunities for students from historically marginalized communities and students who have faced great adversity in their lives. In order to serve these deserving students, we have established COOP to partner with a variety of community organizations and schools around the country. Our partners identify deserving students, and we work with our partners to make our trips financially possible – at no or very minimal cost to the students and their families.
As mentioned above, this is not a new concept for us. Over the last 15 or so years, we have had longstanding partnerships with some amazing organizations like Beacon Academy, the Wildflower Foundation, Summer Search, and Success Academy, and we’ve welcomed dozens of amazing students from those organizations on our trips. In our effort to increase the number of COOP partnerships in 2023, we crowdsourced ideas from one of our best resources: the Apogee alumni staff network. Our staff eagerly connected us with a number of fantastic organizations spanning from Vermont to Colorado to Washington, and we already have a number of students in mind from several new partners.
In addition to identifying the students themselves, another important component of COOP is reducing or removing the financial barriers for families to access our programs. The primary trip costs include student tuition, travel to and from the trip start/end, and trip equipment (sleeping bag, sleeping pad, backpack, etc.), with tuition comprising the largest percentage. That’s where the To the Top Foundation comes in; they’re a great non-profit that provides partial funding for programs like Apogee. In many cases, the COOP partner organization contributes little to nothing financially toward the student’s tuition, so together, To the Top and Apogee will cover the student’s tuition.
To reduce other costs (primarily costs associated with travel and gear purchases), we prioritize trips in locations in proximity to each COOP partner’s headquarters to minimize travel costs (e.g. placing students from our Denver partnership on our Colorado’s Rocky Mountains trip or Seattle-based students on Northwest Explorer). Additionally, we have a number of ways to provide some or all of the required equipment through our own gear share program and our new partnership with the Maine-based non-profit Maine Gear Share.
When the process of identifying (a) great students from historically underrepresented communities and (b) financial support for those students comes together, you get COOP. We’re excited to put a name and framework to our existing partnerships. And we are looking forward to using COOP to connect with more great organizations and thus welcome more awesome students into the Apogee community.
If you know of any organizations that might be interested in joining COOP, we’d love to know about them! Please send us contact information to firstname.lastname@example.org so we can start the conversation.