ELK Provides Access

Environmental Learning for Kids
3 min readMay 12, 2023
Shandiin Hurd at Great Sand Dunes National Park during ELK’s 2023 Spring Break Adventure

My name is Shandiin Hurd and I’ve been involved in ELK since about the third grade. Like most other students, I joined because my older sister was involved. I tagged along for fishing and camping trips at first. But as she got more involved, so did I. And I really began to see how much of a positive impact it made in my life to get into the outdoors.

I was able to build the foundation I needed to succeed in both my academic and personal life. Even now as I transition into attending schools like Colorado School of Mines, I’m aiming my career in engineering towards a focus in building environmentally sustainable homes and conservation work.

ELK has brought me access to things that I couldn’t even imagine for myself before, from being able to connect with nature for a sense of self and grounding, to getting excited to see people from my community finding their place in the outdoors.

On our most recent camping trip to the Great Sand Dunes, I realized how much of a family ELK is. It’s not just going on a trip with an organization but going on a trip with family, like cousins and sisters.

I’ve been so grateful throughout the last 10 years to have ELK in my life as both a trailhead for where I’m going and as a testament to who I am.

Shandiin Hurd on an ELK trip to Colorado Outward Bound School in 2022

During her time with ELK, Shandiin has been able to participate in many ELK programs, such as Leadership Corps (a program within Youth in Natural Resources that is specific to high school students to further life skills and leadership development), and LEAF activities (our family focused program that enables family members to enjoy healthy outdoor activities with their ELK student(s) while establishing strong family bonds and strengthening the support system for students to succeed). In addition, Shandiin has recently engaged in our professional development opportunities and learned about the post-secondary experience through ELK led campus tours. She has also been able to experience hands-on learning through our partnerships with state agencies like Colorado Parks and Wildlife (CPW).

Environmental Learning for Kids is honored to support students and families feeling grounded in the knowledge that the outdoors is so for all. We ensure that young people that are too often under-encouraged in considering careers in STEM, have access to the highly important career exploration that is necessary in sparking a passion within these fields.

About Environmental Learning for Kids (ELK): Environmental Learning for Kids (ELK) is a Denver-based, nonprofit organization established in 1996 to address the growing need to introduce and educate Colorado’s racially diverse youth about science, leadership, and careers. Twenty-seven years later, ELK continues to provide strong educational support, good role models, and opportunities for positive community action for youth, helping them to become engaged, productive, and successful members of society. Learn more at elkkkids.org.

About the Author: Shandiin Hurd is currently a high school senior. She plans to attend Colorado School of Mines’ engineering program this fall.



Environmental Learning for Kids

Environmental Learning for Kids cultivates a passion in science, leadership, and service in a diverse community of learners.