Org Spotlight: MAPAS Provides Underrepresented Students With Opportunities for Outdoor Activities

Photo by Graeme Jackson

Krystal Chen
Staff Writer

The benefits of venturing into nature, listening to the sounds of the forest, and fleeing from the stresses of university life may seem like a tempting option to some students. Making Adventures Possible for All Students (MAPAS), is a new organization looking to give students the opportunity to explore nature. 

According to the 2018 Outdoor Participation Report, around 49 percent of the US population has participated in an outdoor activity at least once. However, due to a number of factors, minorities have been left out significantly: nearly three-quarters of Americans who participate in outdoor activities are white.

Ivan Gonzalez, a biology major and the chairperson of MAPAS, told The Bottom Line in an interview that “the cost of participating in outdoor activities is not as easy for a low-income student that pays his own school tuition.” 

For a low-income college student, a lack of financial ability coupled with not knowing where or how to get involved in the outdoors can leave Gonzalez feeling “culturally isolated” and “alienated.”

At UCSB, excursions like those offered by the Department of Recreation have allowed some students to experience the outdoors much like those rambling nature poets from American literature classes. Yet, the Adventure Program, which offers outdoor trips and recreational courses, charges from $59 to $199 for a one-year membership. 

Prices like these, which include unlimited rental gear and other equipment from Campus Point or the Adventure Rental Center, can financially exclude some students from low-income backgrounds.

Low-income college students might also be intimidated by what Britt McClintock, an Outdoor Ed staff member at Colorado College, calls “gear fear.” Gear fear refers to how a lack of outdoor experiences coupled with the pressure of matching with other peers’ fancy hiking equipment have, to some extent, discouraged and intimidated some students from participating and fully experiencing outdoor activities.

With this concern, to create a more inclusive adventure environment for students of differing socio-economic backgrounds, and aid the psychological well-being of all UCSB students, in 2018, MAPAS was created. In the hopes of gathering more financially and culturally isolated Gauchos together, MAPAS has strived to generate a more welcoming community for historically underrepresented students.

There are many things to do, whether it’ll be rock climbing, camping, kayaking, in Santa Barbara,” said Elvia Cruz-Garcia, MAPAS social chair and environmental studies major, on the organization’s GoFundMe page. “We don’t want money to be the reason why anyone can miss out on feeling an exciting and happy experience in a new environment.” 

Since their initiation, MAPAS has organized more financially accessible events for minority students, such as a trail restoration and camping trips at Arroyo Hondo Nature Preserve, allowing them to experience outdoor activities without financial burdens and peer pressures. 

MAPAS empowers students to explore their best selves and positively encourage them to consistently push their limits. In the end, the organization was established with the goal of helping more students to form a sense of responsibility for their community and the environment, hoping that “by nurturing a love and passion for the outdoors it will translate in increased awareness of careers of Sustainability, Conservation, Environmental Justice, etc.”