Tyrhee Moore began doing outdoor activities in high school when he would attend an annual camp. The D.C. native would continue to pursue his passion for the outdoors, successfully climbing Grand Teton, Mount Kilimanjaro and Aconcagua.
However, Moore acknowledged that while he enjoyed these feats, he was facing a lot of “alienation” as one of the few people of color in his outdoor community.
“That was challenging because, just being from Southeast (D.C.), my life was all Black,” Moore said.
So, he decided to come back to D.C. and create an outdoor community by and for people of color. Soul Trak was founded in 2018 and in the beginning, Moore went unpaid, relying on the work of dedicated volunteers to help keep the non-profit afloat. However, as the years would go on, the organization grew and began to solidify partnerships and funding that would give them the opportunity to expand.
Now, Soul Trak has flourished into an established organization that is looking to expand their reach to college students.
Although the ambassador program is open to any college students in the D.C. metro area, they would like to emphasize their desire to see more Black and brown students involved in the outdoors. Moore understands how that fear of alienation can hinder people of color who are interested in the outdoors and believes that D.C. is the perfect place to “bridge the gap.” Not only is it a culturally diverse city, but its coastal location provides multiple landscapes to climb, hike, or boat.
“There are very few places where you develop a sense of community or team building qualities, in a way that you will in outdoor settings,” Moore explained. “We’re putting students in very testing environments that cause them to lean into one another.”
The cohort is a six-week program that is looking to help college students gain experience in outdoor leadership, community organizing and networking. A passion for the outdoors doesn’t have to be just a hobby, and Soul Trak hopes that students will leave the program understanding how to make a career in working in the outdoor community.
“There is a huge outdoor industry that we have access to that really opens a lot of our students’ minds up to where they can sort of see themselves in the next few years,” Moore said.
At the end of the six-weeks, the cohort will utilize their learned skills to plan and execute an outdoor event for their collegiate community.
Junior architecture major Ashanti Ash enjoys exploring the outdoors and believes that Soul Trak’s cohort is an important program for Black students to get involved in.
“Hiking and general outdoorsy spaces are so predominantly white that it can be uncomfortable trying to navigate that as a Black nature lover,” Ash said. “So, being around other Black people who share that same passion for the environment is super affirming.”
Copy edited by Chanice McClover-Lee