Youth development has been central to Eric Sorrell’s life for nearly 20 years. He was always drawn to working with middle school students due to his self-proclaimed “goofy personality” and found the greatest reward has been being able to invest in young people. Sorrell also has a passion for camping and backpacking. In college, he fell in love with the outdoors because it was a place where he could find peace.
“So much of our society and our culture is based on screens and based on spending time indoors,” Sorrell explained. “The studies are so clear that kids who spend more time in nature do better in school. They do better with their mental health, and they process their emotions better.”
As an OSI-Baltimore Community Fellow, Sorrell will combine his commitment to youth development and love of the outdoors to expand Fernway Outdoors, an initiative that uses outdoor adventures to encourage young people to grow by facing challenging new environments, applying new skills, and experiencing the joys of nature. The program will include monthly day trip adventures, a camping trip, complete wilderness first aid certification, and more.
Sorrell believes many are quick to judge and assume that local Baltimore children do not have much to contribute to their community. In reality, the Baltimore community faces systemic injustice, violence, trauma, and poverty along with schools not having adequate resources to meet the growing needs of their students. It is clear that Baltimore students need to have greater access to safe spaces for growth.
“All these things that are just difficult to find. The other problem is that so much of the outdoor industry is geared toward suburban, affluent people,” shared Sorrell. “It’s a difficult hobby to start for somebody who doesn’t have the access or the resources to those things. I’m helping kids find that exposure if it’s something that they’re interested in. I’m convinced that if the only thing that I accomplish with Fenway Outdoors is getting kids more time outside, then it will improve their lives.”
Sorrell feels privileged to have been selected for this fellowship program.
“I feel like I’m not even that special!” he laughed. “I’m just grateful to be a tool and to be able to be used in what I see God doing in our community. What I see our neighbors doing in our community and other partners. So, I’m just happy to be part of the bigger picture.”