"I want them to be comfortable around all that Idaho is.”

- Bella Martin

Background Information

Bella Martin grew up in Boise, Idaho and is going into her senior year at Boise High School. Since a young age Bella has been surrounded by adventure in the outdoors, mostly in the form of camping, backpacking, rafting and kayaking. She has kayaked since she was 8 and has always had a passion for the river and the lessons that rivers can teach to young individuals. Through this love of the river, she continued to share her passion and work on the river as a guide in training for a local river company. After Alzar School, Bella came back to her community with the hopes that she could share this passion for rivers with new-to-America youth. Although Boise is a very outdoorsy community, many activities in the outdoors are only offered to affluent middle class communities, and refugees as well as “new-to-America” communities were overlooked. Bella saw this within her community and created EmpowerOut in the hopes that she would be able to empower and bring confidence into these youth. Her biggest hope was that these teens would get a better sense of who they are as well as a better sense of all that Idaho offered.

Implementation of Project

Bella first had to figure out who would be able to provide the gear and materials needed to go on a two-day rafting trip. She was able to connect with Wild Science Explorers, a river company she works for in the summers out of McCall, Idaho. Getting Wild Science Explorers to help was huge in the success of her project. Bella along with her action team then contacted Hillside Jr High to see if they had interest in EmpowerOut. Bella was then connected with the Hillside Bridge program, a program that helps new Americans learn English and assimilate into the community.     The kids in the program were ecstatic about being invited to come on this trip and they quickly were gathering all needed paperwork and supplies for the trip. On two occasions Bella went to visit the kids to explain how the trip would work, where they would be, and calm any nerves that seemed to be arising. All the while, Bella started gathering supplies, guides and any gear that the kids would need for the EmpowerOut trip to be successful.

“Everything they did, I wanted them to feel it and touch it versus me talking. I wanted them to go fishing and hold the fish. See the snake. Feel the water — feel how cold it felt. … I want them to be comfortable around all that Idaho is.”
– Bella Martin

Results of Project

EmpowerOut was a great success and surpassed anything Bella and her action team could have hoped for. The kids built confidence on the river as they learned how to turn the boat and paddled from one side of the river to the next. One of the biggest things Bella tried to keep in mind during her actions days was providing opportunities for exploration.  As the group floated down the river, they stopped to explore old Chinese mining houses, beaver dams and had lunch in the shade of rock formations next to the river. EmpowerOut had 12 students involved and nearly 20 action team members. Without the action team, none of this would have been possible. Bella visited the kids the week after EmpowerOut to gather some supplies and drop off EmpowerOut t-shirts, and this is when she really saw how much EmpowerOut had impacted the kids. Teachers from Hillside came up to her thanking her for all that her and her action team had done for the kids. It was apparent that the students had bragged and talked to each other about the trip, and other students were coming up to Bella asking when they would get to go on the  trip.

What’s Next

Bella will graduate from Boise High School in May 2017 and go on to college, however she is confident that EmpowerOut will continue on. She believes EmpowerOut may work towards a broader audience of teens and may include more first-generation college students as well as new Americans. This fall EmpowerOut will continue through day/weekend trips and Bella will continue to help with these trips. As she moves on from Boise, she hopes that EmpowerOut will continue to impact and empower kids in the community.