Today's Lesson: Keeping Your Head Above Water
Water Bottles

Expedition Survival Tip

It gets cold and rains out there in the wilderness so pack accordingly. And if all else fails there’s always the huddle together for warmth method.

2013 Annual Report

The mission of Big City Mountaineers is to instill critical life skills in under-resourced, urban youth through transformative wilderness mentoring experiences by working with community-based partners and volunteer mentors to deliver programs that focus on character development and youth success.

The Need

Under-resourced youth live in communities where as many as 50% of students drop out of high school. Low graduation rates contribute to:

  • Unemployment
  • Drug use
  • Poor health
  • Participation in crime and violence


2013 Accomplishments

Delivered 4,853 program days for under-resourced urban youth

393 adult volunteer mentors logged more than 38,000 mentoring hours in the field

145 Summit for Someone climbers raised over $560,000 for BCM kids.

WILDERNESS MENTORING: Guiding Youth Who Need It Most

One of the key differentiators between Big City Mountaineers and other wilderness-based youth programs is that BCM combines the educational benefits of the outdoor environment with a 1:1 ratio of youth to adult role models. Unlike programs where a ratio of 10:1 or less is standard, BCM is deliberate in pairing the under-resourced youth we serve on week-long expeditions in a 1:1 ratio with caring adult mentors to ensure that our youth receive the maximum support and reinforcement needed to become successful.

Each BCM volunteer mentor goes through a rigorous screening and training process to ensure that they are prepared with the proper tools and know how to make the greatest impact possible on our young participants. Year after year, our wilderness mentoring programs prove to effectively achieve lasting results that mean future success for our kids.

Youth Spotlight

TonyTony, Age 16

Partner Agency: Soccer Without Borders, Oakland, CA

Prior to his expedition with BCM, sixteen year-old Tony had never experienced the wilderness, let alone high elevation.  Tony comes from a community where high school drop out rates are alarmingly high andmost kids never experience life outside their urban neighborhoods.

On the summit day the group scrabmled over boulders, granite slabs, and even snow. tony had never been at suck a high elevation and was proud of overcoming his fear of heights.

On my BCM Expedition, I learned that I am a good leader. I will apply this back home by getting more involved in my community and challenging myself to be more outgoing in school. I see clearly that I have limitless options for the future.

Tony on the 2013 Soccer Without Borders Expedition in the Sierra Mountains

Tony on the 2013 Soccer Without Borders Expedition in the Sierra Mountains


Measuring Impact: Wilderness Mentoring Works

Big City Mountaineers programs positively impact under-resourced urban youth more than ever before.

BCM Youth show a statistically significant gain in the number of developmental assets they possess, through their week-long mentoring expeditions, as measured by the Search Institute’s 40 Developmental Assets profile.

Developmental assets protect youth from engaging in high-risk behaviors, including violence, alcohol use, and illicit drug use. Developmental assets also promote thriving behaviors, such as valuing diversity, maintaining good health, and succeeding in school.

BCM Youth see significant improvement in these key areas:

  • Commitment to learning: Motivation to do well in school, homework performance, and reading for pleasure.
  • Positive Values: Caring for others, promoting equality, demonstrating honesty and integrity, and behaving responsibly.
  • Social Competencies: Planning and making good decisions, resisting peer pressure, seeking to resolve conflict non-violently.
  • Positive Identity: Feeling in control with high self-esteem and having optimism about the future.


Partnerships: Creating Impact Together

Big City Mountaineers partners with community-based youth development agencies to identify under-resourced youth that would benefit from the BCM experience, and recruits young participants directly from these agencies. We have chosen this partnership model to maximize ongoing youth impact, and work alongside agency staff to reach out, recruit, and properly prepare youth for this catalyst experience. Agency partners are selected based on the profile of the youth served, their relationship with the youth, measurement methodologies, geographical location, and ability to participate in Big City Mountaineers training and programs. Each BCM expedition includes one staff member from the partnering youth agency to ensure that expedition learning is continued and reinforced when youth return home to their communities.

In addition to youth agencies, collaborative partnership is the lens by which we view all our working relationships. Strong partnerships with outdoor industry companies have been essential to supplying much needed gear, funding, and promotional support for our youth expeditions and Summit for Someone fundraising climb series.

Through the generosity of our outdoor industry partners, BCM received more than $500,000 of in-kind support in 2013. Thank you!





Working With Youth Who Need It Most

Big City Mountaineers works exclusively with under-resourced, racially diverse youth, mostly between the ages of 13 and 18, who often have no experience outside their local neighborhood. The BCM expedition is often their first experience with the wilderness.

  • 84% Qualify for free or reduced lunch
  • 54% are Hispanic/Latino(a)
  • 19% are African American
  • 9% are Caucasian
  • 3% are Asian American/Pacific Islander
  • 2% are Native American

2013 Revenue & Expense