Kim Olsen, Program Coordinator
Kim has worked for the Ithaca Youth Bureau for 19 years, 15 of those in the Outings Program. She is passionate about helping young people grow and learn at their own pace in the great outdoors.
Kim has always had a love for being outside, getting dirty, and playing and grew up in a family that participated often in outdoor adventure. As a student at Ithaca College, she found comfort and solace in being outside. Hiking in the woods helped her to relax and feel grounded and only expanded her admiration for what fresh air and outdoor activities could do to nourish one’s body and mind. She was thrilled to take that passion and join the Outings team after four years of working in another program at the Youth Bureau. She now spends every day focused on providing new experiences to the youth of Ithaca and helping them grow into amazing adults.
“I believe that there are so many different ways to learn and show intelligence. I try very hard to share these concepts with all the kids we work with. Ultimately it doesn’t matter whether you can start a one-match fire. Outings is really about what you learn about yourself and how to best work with others. I hope that your growth and success in Outings activities spill over into success in other aspects of your life.”
Kim’s love for the outdoors is infectious. No matter how different or scary a new activity might seem, she stands alongside every program participant and encourages them to push themselves beyond what they ever thought possible. Whether it’s seeing the ocean for the first time or overcoming a fear of heights, Kim helps Outings Program participants explore new activities, realize their potential, and find success in small victories that add up over time to build a lifetime of confidence.
Alex Reynolds, Program Leader
Alex first experienced the Outings program as a six-grade participant. She was ecstatic to be able to hike, canoe, ice climb, or participate in other fun outdoor activities every week. She continued with the Outings Program throughout high school and even did her senior independent project focused on outdoor education based on her Outings Program experience. Even into college, Alex always found her way back to the Youth Bureau because it was so rewarding to share her love of the outdoors with younger students. She was a Youth Bureau volunteer and transitioned to being a part-time staff member before coming on full-time in 2018.
As a lifelong heights enthusiast, Alex loves sharing her passion for rock climbing with youth who may never have been able to experience a similar activity. Be it sea cliff climbing in Acadia National Park or ascending to the top of the Lindseth Climbing Wall, Alex is there to support and cheer on every participant who conquers their fears and reaches their goals.
“There is something so beautiful about when you take participants into the woods and they are so immersed in the activity that they do not even notice there is no technology. There are not many opportunities to do that with the hustle and bustle of life, which makes the Outings Program so special.”
Alex is happiest when she is outside. Her childhood home was near Shindagin Hollow State Forest, and she spent much of her youth running around the area. Her parents instilled in her to have respect for the environment and to appreciate the beauty and gift we have in nature. Alex helps Outings participants come together and connect with each other and nature. She encourages them to play with sticks, climb trees, build fires, and be present in the moment. With an unfortunate and ever-growing increase in anxiety and depression in the youth of America, Alex believes it is more important than ever to get kids building confidence and forming bonds with staff and other participants via the natural world.
Anne Brenna, Program Leader
Anne first came to the Outings Program as a seasonal staff member in May 2018 and became a rostered employee in March 2022. She participated in groups and programs similar to Outings as an adolescent but otherwise didn’t have much of a background in this field of work. However, she feels grateful that she fell into this profession, not only because of the work but also because of the supportive net surrounding her. She views the program as “small but mighty” in that she and her co-workers are able to accomplish a lot while still striving to make the activities and experiences as amazing as possible for participants.
The fact that the program provides unique opportunities and memorable outdoor experiences for its diverse group of participants is just one of the reasons that Anne enjoys being a part of the Outings Program. She likes to see the youth interact with one another and create friendships while going on adventures and exploring local nature areas. Being a witness to their personalities blossoming throughout the duration of the program is also something that brings her joy.
Anne is passionate about outdoor education, especially at a time when children and families spend a lot of time online. Through the Outings Program, participants are able to reconnect with nature and she finds it very rewarding to be a part of that and to facilitate empowering interactions for youth. She states, “It’s a lot of fun to watch people leave their comfort zones to try something new, only to succeed and build up more confidence in themselves than previously thought possible.”
Throughout the past few years of working at Outings and with many different youth in the community, there isn’t a particular memory or experience that sticks out for her. “I will…say that any time we can make participants happy with our programming…is a happy memory for me and energizes me to get right back to work to experience that same feeling of satisfaction again and again.” Sounds like it’s a rewarding experience for all involved!
“When you spend so much time with one another in a collaborative and purposefully-cultivated environment with such beautiful natural settings, the personas that we all often create to project a certain image to one another slowly melt away so that everyone’s true self can come shining through. That is one of the many beauties of the Outings Program. I cannot imagine investing my time in any other way that could fill my heart as much as Outings continues to do.”
- Alex Reynolds