San Diego

Outdoor Recreation Program Helps Refugee Youth Adjust to Life in San Diego

Through fun water activities like kayaking and stand-up paddle boarding, refugee youth enjoyed a classic San Diego experience

Friday was a special day for dozens of refugee students from El Cajon Valley High School.

Outdoor Outreach, with support from California State Parks and Southwestern College, held a day of kayaking and stand-up paddle boarding activities at Silver Strand State Beach in Coronado for 30 newcomer and refugee high school students. The majority of students were from Syria, Iraq and other Middle Eastern countries.

For many kids and students taking part in this event, the outdoors was a dangerous place where they came from. This program aims to teach them how to swim as well as enjoy the outdoor activities that San Diego has to offer.

When asked about her experience Friday, Hosneia Fnu stated: “I’m so excited, I just can’t believe it!”

She is a refugee student who participated in the Outdoor Outreach program for the first time.

Before coming to San Diego, Fnu said she could never hang out at the beach with friends. The Outdoor Recreation Program has allowed Fnu, and many of the students, to feel like a kid again and adapt to their new life in San Diego.

The event was part of El Cajon Valley High School’s HOPE/PRIDE Summer Program, a three-week innovative summer school program that works to acculturate vulnerable refugee students to a new life in San Diego.

San Diego County is the nation’s largest resettlement site for refugees from around the world. Many struggle to connect and acclimate to their new life.

Outdoor Outreach is a San Diego-based nonprofit that runs year-round programs for disadvantaged youth that address critical community needs--such as mental and physical health, success in school, and employment.

"We appreciate Outdoor Outreach as a partner with California state parks. Outdoor Outreach does a great job being an advocate for parks and connecting youth to the outdoors, particularly here at Silver Strand State Beach,” stated Richard Dennison, Sector Superintendent for California State Parks.

To learn more about Outdoor Outreach, visit their website.

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