January 18, 2022

Outdoor Outreach Prepares Young Leaders for Success in the Outdoor Industry: Meet Maung Lay

Maung Lay, Outdoor Outreach Participant

I never thought that the outdoors would have an impact on my life. But to be in a space where I can be in my own thoughts and sort of free my mind is a reminder that I’m here, I’m breathing, and I’m alive.

As a refugee kid, life in America was a culture shock. Everything was new to me and not knowing English was tough, but I overcame many challenges of feeling different from other people. I always like being outside because that’s what I did growing up. Life was more simple.

My name is Maung Lay, and I am an Outdoor Outreach Leadership program graduate. In high school, I was part of Outdoor Outreach, a youth development nonprofit that runs outdoor adventure-based outings. One of my favorite memories is my first backpacking trip. I was learning how to swim for the very first time on that trip. I felt very accomplished. It was tough but super worth it. 

Being in the Leadership Program opened up so many opportunities for me. My experience in the program showed me the possibility of working in the outdoor industry and inspired me to pursue a career in the outdoors. Throughout my 8 weeks in the program, I learned to be a leader and hone my skills in outdoor activities but the positivity and support I experienced from my peers were my biggest takeaways.

My time with Outdoor Outreach sparked my passion for the outdoors and after I left, I really wanted to get more experience in working in the outdoors. I applied for an internship at Joshua Tree National Park. The work that I’m doing is answering questions that visitors might have. Talking with visitors on trails, educating them about the geology of this place. The outdoors wasn’t always accessible to me, transportation and the knowledge of the outdoors was a huge barrier for me.

Getting involved in the outdoors has taught me so many things; to live life at my own pace, take deep breaths, and not rush things. Now I have a better understanding and I have lived more happily and simply. That stuff is really important for like kids in this generation that is growing up. I think that people should have the opportunities and access to the outdoors where they are included. Being in nature can be a healing space where we can test our strength and learn to appreciate things in life.

To support our work at Outdoor Outreach or to learn more, visit and follow us on Instagram @outdooroutreach.

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