Madelynn Bramm remembers growing up in Kirkland, bicycling around town, hiking in the Potawatomi Woods Forest Preserve and fishing and playing with her poodle in the Kishwaukee River State Fish and Wildlife Area.
Now a freshman at Northern Illinois University, Bramm questioned why kids these days aren’t outdoors as much anymore and how she could change that.
In December, Bramm applied to be an Outdoor Nation College Ambassador. Founded in 2010, Outdoor Nation seeks to engage young adults in the outdoors. Built on the belief that those most affected by the outcome must lead lasting cultural change, Outdoor Nation empowers young leaders, primarily college students, to mobilize and motivate a new generation of outdoor enthusiasts.
Bramm was selected as one of 18 students nationally to be an Outdoor Nation College Ambassador. Over winter break, Madelynn visited Washington, D.C., for orientation and training.
Bramm earned a $1,000 grant for the Outdoor Adventure program and has been designing outdoor outings for the community. Upcoming events include an Earth Day event on NIU’s campus from 1 to 4 p.m. Sunday, April 22, “Huskies Help Huskies” trail cleanup and picnic helping Raven’s Husky Haven and Rescue from noon to 3 p.m. Sunday, April 29, and a hiking and camping trip to the Smoky Mountains May 14 to 20.
Bramm spoke to MidWeek reporter Katrina Milton over the phone to discuss being an Outdoor Nations Ambassador and the events she has planned.
Milton: Tell me more about yourself.
Bramm: I am a freshman undergraduate majoring in electrical engineering with an emphasis in biomedical engineering. I’m from Kirkland and graduated from Hiawatha High School in 2017.
Milton: What is Outdoor Nation?
Bramm: Outdoor Nation is a nonprofit organization that aims to inspire children to get outdoors. Research has proven that kids aren’t outdoors as much. Outdoor Nation’s goal is to discover why kids aren’t going outside as much, whether it’s cultural relevance, access or safety, and get them outdoors. Outdoor Nation Campus Ambassadors, students like me, aim to get students outdoors through activities such as a national park day, Earth Day and individual events. Right now, I’m working on all three of my events.
Milton: How did you become an Outdoor Nation Campus Ambassador?
Bramm: The application process was in December 2017. I found out about it through my boss, who posted something on our employee page. I thought it was a good opportunity to try something new. I loved that it was targeting the community, especially college students, because college students are the future. Getting them outside will hopefully inspire younger generations to get outside.
Milton: Tell me more about your planned events.
Bramm: I’ve been planning the events since January, and they’re coming up. The first event is for Earth Day. We will pick up invasive species around NIU’s campus, cleaning up the environment and will do some yoga. It’s 1 to 4 p.m. April 22, it’s on campus and it’s a free event. It will be a lot of fun. We’re calling it “Thank the Earth Day Party.”
Milton: What is the second event?
Bramm: I planned an event “Huskies Help Huskies” for Raven’s Husky Haven and Rescue from noon to 3 p.m. April 29. We will do a trail cleanup for the huskies so they’re able to walk on them. After cleaning up the trail, we’ll have a picnic as well. I’ve never done a trail pick-up before. I’m excited because it’s something new and creative. I’m trying to get as many people engaged as possible, and it involves dogs, and people love dogs. There will also be dogs that are able to be adopted at the event.
Milton: What is the third event?
Bramm: The third event is to hike and camp in the Smoky Mountains for a week once classes get out. It will be from May 14 to 20, an entire week away. It will be a great recovery from classes and finals. To sign up for the trip, you can go online to NIU Outdoor Adventures’ page. All the information will be there, dates, prices and registration. The trip is open to the public and whoever wants to can sign up. For NIU students, there are scholarships. They can have up to half of the trip costs cut off.
Milton: Why did you first get involved with Outdoor Nation?
Bramm: I agree wholeheartedly that not enough people are going outside. There’s a stigma that you have to be a certain way, be an avid hiker or have a lot of money to enjoy the outdoors. We’re trying to break those stigmas and get more people outside. It’s a really good way to try to reach out and get people active and involved. My goal is to try to expand, do more events and be outside. The overall goal of Outdoor Nation is to have an ambassador on every single campus to get the movement going to get people outside.
Milton: Were you active outdoors when you were younger?
Bramm: I remember as a kid, going to the lake in Kirkland. I’d take my poodle with and we’d play in the water. I’d go fishing, but not too often. I did a lot of bike riding and walking. Now kids spend hours just looking at screens, whether it’s their computers or their cell phones. I think parents should limit their kids’ time with electronics. Parents should go outside with their kids, go on a bike ride, go to a park, join a club or attend an event. It’s important to get some fresh air and just enjoy being outdoors.
For more information about events, visit www.niu.edu/campusrec/programs/outdoor-adventures/.