In this first installment of "Zander Breaks Barriers", we learn a little bit more about Zander and his relationship with OTA.
How did you learn about OTA?
I learned about OTA directly from one of their outreach sessions that was hosted at a local queer youth group I used to go to in Bellevue.
What trip(s) have you done?
So far I have only done one Outdoor School with OTA, where we went on an 8-day kayaking trip through the San Juan Islands in Washington. I have done two-day trips with them, where we went indoor rock climbing, and the other time we went on a day hike.
What has been your favorite OTA moment?
I have many favorite moments with OTA. The first would be the 5th day into our kayaking trip, and we decided to stay an extra day on a particular island because we were feeling a bit tired and really liked the spot. I remember setting up my hammock and tent, we cooked this incredible meal with this weird grapefruit dessert at the end, and I watched one of the most incredible sunsets I have ever seen disappear past the water. My other favorite memory with OTA was at their second annual fundraiser in 2016. They asked me to speak about my experience with OTA and why more youth should get OUT with us. It was an incredible moment, to speak in front of so many people who cared about such a great and impactful organization. I got to see how much the trips and participants meant to Elyse and Kira, as they saw and listened to how much OTA means to us.
Has OTA made an impact on your life? If so, how?
A huge reason why I decided to go back to college was because of the success through trial and error, hard work and passion I got a glimpse of that my trip leaders experienced in order to make that first OTA trip possible. It was motivating, really – to see other queer people, similar to me in at least one way, who had really made a name for themselves. That was pretty radical and impactful to me. OTA has been a support system both on and off the trail. They have provided opportunities, connections and wisdom that no other organization would have ever been able to. Letters of recommendation, hand-me-down gear and cool fundraisers have enriched my knowledge of how to embrace getting dirty, but also to give back to my community, raise awareness, stay connected and be active.
Why should other young queer folks get OUT with OTA?
I think OTA is one of those once-in-life-time kind of things. There is no other known organization that does the work that they do specifically for queer young people. Not only is OTA unique, but they are a family in the outdoors, a teacher, an adventure buddy, and a [gay]teway into the outdoors.