Blue Sky Fund, now in its ninth year, continues to grow in size, impact, and strong governance. Three years ago, Blue Sky’s leadership team signed off on an exciting and ambitious strategic plan. The goals included “going deeper blue” with the participants and “climbing higher” by scaling-up the organization to provide more (and more excellent) programs through a strategic focus in Richmond’s East End. These targets were dependent, however, on the goal to strengthen the organizational foundation and secure financial health by diversifying funding sources. 2014 was a capstone year for the strategic plan with full implementation of the 5th grade expansion of Explorers and the development and full capacity execution of our Outdoor Adventure programs. Blue Sky’s strategies, values, and guiding direction remain consistent with the former plan.
During this next strategic window, Blue Sky is committed to deepening its roots in Richmond’s East End; to strengthening its capacity to work with kids from elementary through high school; and to building a generation of young people whose “Deep Blue” experiences with Blue Sky are personal, transformational, and real. Our three strategic actions will be 1. Expand program integration from elementary school through high school in Richmond's East End (adding K-2nd and 4th grade to our field trip program, piloting a trail running team, and growing the number of kids who participate in our leadership program). 2. Establish clear characteristics of a "Deep Blue" kid, and build programs around the needs of our community. 3. Strengthen our organizational capacity, focusing primarily on staff development, sustainable fund development capacity, and succession planning.
I have now been on my Blue Sky journey for almost 10 years! In the summer of 2006, I spent several weeks crafting vision, goals, and dreams for how I thought outdoor education could impact the lives of young people in my neighborhood. I wanted students to access hands on learning through field trips, street kids to get away into the woods to discover more about themselves, and teens to learn leadership and build bridges across divides through wilderness experiences. And I wrote down that the evidence of this all “working” would be when the kids themselves run the programs.
As we report to you on 2015, we want to introduce you to some kids (and programs) in various stages of their Blue Sky journey. We consider the students who stick with us along the Blue Sky trail of programs as the greatest highlights of our year. You will meet Quianday, who elected to participate in our Outdoor Adventure Club in 6th grade after having the outdoor world opened to her first as a 5th grade student in our Explorers environmental field trip program. You will meet Alyssa, who started her journey with us in 8th grade in an Outdoor Adventure Club and then was nominated, applied, and participated as a young leader in our Outdoor Leadership Institute during high school. Lastly you will meet Jon, a high school junior, who paddled over 60 miles in a canoe on our alumni wilderness trip and then trained to return as summer staff to lead the next generation of outdoor leaders.
I am beginning to see the kids themselves running our programs! We are excited to report to you on our outcomes, goals, and finances, but we know the trail is long and that we have not arrived at a destination of meeting all the needs we see or empowering all the students to take over our jobs. We still have a long journey ahead, and we hope that you will find a way to continue to journey with us as a participant, volunteer, donor, staff, or mentor. In 2015, we caught a glimpse of our students growing up with us, and we want more and more stories of young people growing into servant leaders who can shape our communities, care for the environment, and bring other youth along with them.
What’s your next step in your Blue Sky journey?
At the beginning of 2015, we set out to develop a strategic plan for Blue Sky Fund that would take us to the “next level.” We also established an ambitious fundraising target to support our programs. Well, not only did we identify our strategic goals and begin to implement our “Version 2.0” strategic plan, but we also impacted hundreds of kids through our programs thanks to our unprecedented fundraising success.
And now the journey continues.
Our plan for 2016 is to continue to work on expanding our programs in order to reach more of Richmond’s youth and to deepen our relationship with the students that we have the opportunity to reach.
Our hope is that the kids we meet and serve in elementary school will continue their Blue Sky journey with us by participating in an Outdoor Adventure Club offered at their middle school. And we hope that we will inspire many of these boys and girls to take on new challenges in high school through out Outdoor Leadership Institute. Finally, some of those same students will blaze their own Blue Sky journey by graduating from OLI, applying to be a junior counselor, and joining our staff.
We have established challenging goals for Blue Sky Fund. But we know that with the continued strong financial support and the efforts of our loyal volunteers, we can continue to achieve those goals and provide outdoor learning opportunities for our Richmond youth that allow them to blaze new trails that they never thought were possible. We hope you will continue to help us preserve and grow our programs so that our Outdoor Adventure Clubs and Outdoor Leadership Institute can one day be an option for every 3rd grader we taught this year.
On behalf of the Board of the Blue Sky Fund, THANK YOU to our generous donors, our tireless staff, and our dedicated volunteers for the tremendous success that we achieved in 2015!
Blue Sky Fund will lead crews of 12 high school students (separate boys’ and girls’ programs) from diverse backgrounds to come together to build teamwork,confidence,leadership, and community involvement. The summer institute centers on a five day backpacking trip, during which crew members learn, through challenges, how to strengthen their leadership and teamwork skills. The program design includes experiences that will help shape knowledgeable multicultural leaders who learn about the social needs of Richmond through service learning. After completion of the summer institute, crew members will continue to meet monthly to apply their new skills by engaging in meaningful community service together.
90% of participants report increased confidence in participating in outdoor activities and increasing the amount of time spent outside. This is inline with our main goal as an organization to provide transformation experiences for urban youth in the great outdoors.
Indirect Public Support HelpIndirect public support represents revenue received through solicitation campaigns. This includes funding United Way and other federated fundraising organizations, but does not include donor designated contributions.
Earned Revenue HelpEarned revenue represents income generated in direct exchange for a product or service.Earned income includes income from government contracts.
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