The Woods Project

Houston, TX   |  www.thewoodsproject.org

Mission

To create wilderness education and exploration experiences that develop critical behaviors needed for disadvantaged students to achieve success in school and life.

Ruling year info

2008

Executive Director

Mrs Natalie Hausman-Weiss

Main address

2700 Southwest Freeway

Houston, TX 77098 USA

Show more contact info

EIN

26-2959996

NTEE code info

Secondary/High School (B25)

Environmental Education and Outdoor Survival Programs (C60)

Youth Development Programs (O50)

IRS filing requirement

This organization is required to file an IRS Form 990 or 990-EZ.

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Communication

Programs and results

What we aim to solve

SOURCE: Self-reported by organization

Research suggests that without intervention, economically disadvantaged students complete fewer years of schooling and earn much lower incomes than those of higher socioeconomic status. They are less likely to begin college, less likely to finish and less likely to find gainful employment that allows them to break the cycle of generational poverty and increase their chance to lead rewarding and productive lives. Some of the factors contributing to this epidemic, include: a lack of exposure to the wider world, a lack of role models and lack of opportunities. The majority of economically disadvantaged students in Houston have never visited a national park or forest; many have never been hiking or camping with family, school or scout groups; few have experienced a natural environment beyond the floodplains, bayous and piney woods of Southeast Texas; nearly half have never traveled by plane. For these students, The Woods Project experience is transformative.

Our programs

SOURCE: Self-reported by organization

What are the organization's current programs, how do they measure success, and who do the programs serve?

TWP Programming

The Woods Project is a comprehensive program of wilderness education experiences oriented toward the development of life skills in youth from disadvantaged backgrounds. The Woods Project programming starts in September of each year with selected High School students. Programming continues through the school year and culminates in intensive summer sessions designed to promote team building, provide physical challenges and opportunities for leadership development. During the fall and spring, activities include:
Weekend backpacking, camping and service projects in the national forests and park areas near Houston. These activities are intended to improve self esteem, self reliance and leadership skills while giving the students a preview of the challenges they will encounter during the summer session.
Weekly after school Outdoor/Environmental Clubs, hosted at several of our Houston School Partners. The curriculum for these Clubs promotes a bigger vision of the world.

Population(s) Served
Adolescents
At-risk youth

Where we work

Goals & Strategy

SOURCE: Self-reported by organization

Learn about the organization's key goals, strategies, capabilities, and progress.

Charting impact

Four powerful questions that require reflection about what really matters - results.

The Woods Project (TWP) offers underserved students the kind of access to outdoor spaces and recreational activities that are more common among their higher-income peers. By challenging students to spend time outside, rely on their peers, step up to leadership roles, spend days or weeks away from their families and mobile devices, understand and care for the natural environment, and undertake the physical and mental challenges of outdoor recreation, TWP helps students develop important character traits (independence, distress tolerance, critical thinking, social competence/ adaptability, perseverance, curiosity and environmental awareness) that correlate strongly with success in school, in the workplace and in life.

The Woods Project’s year-round educational program is comprised of:


• Weekly after-school club programs, hosted at a majority of our Houston school partners. Club lessons, led by TWP staff, focus on outdoor themes and skills as well as leadership development. They encourage the development of communication skills, teamwork and critical thinking through a focused curriculum and introduce concepts of wilderness education, camping skills, conservation and environmental awareness.

• Weekend overnight camping trips, led by staff, teachers and volunteers, include environmental service projects, hiking, backpacking, canoeing and kayaking in the national forests and park areas near Houston. These activities are intended to improve confidence, self-reliance, and leadership skills while giving the students a preview of the challenges they will encounter during the summer session.

• Two-week summer immersion programs in wilderness areas such as: Yosemite National Park, Glacier National Forest, Donner Pass/Desolation Wilderness and most recently the Apostle Island region of Lake Superior. Each trip includes eight days of guided, place-based field education, as well as, an intensive six-day, extended wilderness backpacking or sea kayaking adventure led by trained volunteers. Students participate in wilderness recreation experiences including hiking, paddling, camping, rock climbing, team building exercises, and are taught essential camping skills such as: how to use and care for their gear, survival skills and "Leave No Trace" principles. They also learn about the history of the area, engage in hands- on forest ecology and carbon lessons and have several opportunities to reflect upon and share their experience. Through these experiences, students establish a strong connection with nature, develop relationships with mature, stable adults outside of the family structure and emerge from the program with a stronger sense of the wider world, their ability to function effectively in it, and a renewed drive to succeed against all odds.

The Woods Project’s year-round educational program is comprised of:


• Weekly after-school club programs, hosted at a majority of our Houston school partners. Club lessons, led by TWP staff, focus on outdoor themes and skills as well as leadership development. They encourage the development of communication skills, teamwork and critical thinking through a focused curriculum and introduce concepts of wilderness education, camping skills, conservation and environmental awareness.

• Weekend overnight camping trips, led by staff, teachers and volunteers, include environmental service projects, hiking, backpacking, canoeing and kayaking in the national forests and park areas near Houston. These activities are intended to improve confidence, self-reliance, and leadership skills while giving the students a preview of the challenges they will encounter during the summer session.

• Two-week summer immersion programs in wilderness areas such as: Yosemite National Park, Glacier National Forest, Donner Pass/Desolation Wilderness and most recently the Apostle Island region of Lake Superior. Each trip includes eight days of guided, place-based field education, as well as, an intensive six-day, extended wilderness backpacking or sea kayaking adventure led by trained volunteers. Students participate in wilderness recreation experiences including hiking, paddling, camping, rock climbing, team building exercises, and are taught essential camping skills such as: how to use and care for their gear, survival skills and "Leave No Trace" principles. They also learn about the history of the area, engage in hands- on forest ecology and carbon lessons and have several opportunities to reflect upon and share their experience. Through these experiences, students establish a strong connection with nature, develop relationships with mature, stable adults outside of the family structure and emerge from the program with a stronger sense of the wider world, their ability to function effectively in it, and a renewed drive to succeed against all odds.

TWP partners with Houston high schools that serve high percentages of low income students which provides access to those students who are most likely to benefit from the experience. Participants are from economically disadvantaged households and range from 14 to 18 years of age. On average, 73% of participants are Latino, 19% African American, and the remainder are of mixed race or other ethnicities.
Utilizing trained volunteers and teachers as trip leaders, allows for an extremely dynamic and efficient program that provides student participants with positive role models and expose them to a larger perspective. Trip leaders come from diverse backgrounds and experiences including demographics similar to that of TWP participants.

TWP wilderness experiences change lives in a thousand little ways. During our two-week adventures nearly every student tries something for the first time, whether it’s visiting a national park, orienteering, washing in an icy stream, going weeks without texting, or even traveling by plane. Students join the trip because they heard camping was fun or to alleviate boredom. They have goals like “meet new people,” “get conditioned,” and “survive without Wi-Fi.” In the woods, they meet these modest expectations – and so much more. We hear feedback such as, “The Woods Project helped me realize how much potential I have to develop more and help others. I have become more confident in my capabilities to be a leader and it has greatly encouraged me to put them in action.” Students tell us they can use what they learned at TWP to “become more engaged in school and my community and to fully enjoy the beautiful natural world and protect it because it is worth so much.” 94% of students reported that The Woods Project helped them improve their confidence and independence, and 96% said that it helped their perseverance. Study after study tells us that these traits (and the five others TWP seeks to develop in students) prepare students to advance in ways they never imagined possible.

TWP summer wilderness experiences provide underserved students, experiences where they have no choice but to develop the skills they need to overcome challenges and change their own life trajectories. In a truly out-of-the-box method, TWP successfully offers low income youth not a hand-out but a hand-up. When these young people are provided opportunities to appreciate our natural resources, develop life and leadership skills and experience the natural wonders of our country, they not only talk the talk but truly walk the walk. TWP students are smart, curious and excited to embark on a new adventure. However, what awaits them is a renewed curiosity and sense of what is possible that will lead them to change their lives.

In FY2018, TWP provided 3,500 student days and nights in the woods. Since its founding, approximately 1,600 high school students have participated in two-week long summer programs out of state, approximately 2,700 students have participated in weekend wilderness immersion experiences in Texas and an additional 2,200 students in school-based club programs.

Financials

The Woods Project
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Operations

The people, governance practices, and partners that make the organization tick.

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Connect with nonprofit leaders

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  • Analyze a variety of pre-calculated financial metrics
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The Woods Project

Board of directors
as of 2/25/2021
SOURCE: Self-reported by organization
Board chair

Vean Greg

Terry Bruner

Terry Bruner Law Offices

Micheal Palmer

CBRE

Jeremy Samuels

Community Volunteer

Vic Samuels

Director Emeritus

Champ Warren

Vean Gregg

Local Capital Partners

Pat Buckley

Harper & Pearson Company, P.C.

Anna Eastman

Community Volunteer

Mike Marsh

ENGIE North America

Gil Melman

Spark Energy

Julie Vitek

ENGIE North America

Whitney Walsh

Community Volunteer

Courtney Hoyt

Junior League of Houston, Outside Board Representative

Steve Guerrero

Stephen F. Austin High School

Organizational demographics

SOURCE: Self-reported; last updated 11/17/2020

Who works and leads organizations that serve our diverse communities? GuideStar partnered on this section with CHANGE Philanthropy and Equity in the Center.

Leadership

The organization's leader identifies as:

Race & ethnicity
White/Caucasian/European
Gender identity
Female
Sexual orientation
Decline to state
Disability status
Decline to state

Race & ethnicity

Gender identity

 

Sexual orientation

No data

Disability

No data