About Our Program

Explore Austin Mission: To change the lives of underserved youth through leadership, mentoring, and adventure.

Explore Austin equips underserved youth to make positive life choices like avoiding risky behavior, developing healthy relationships, and advancing their education. Through leadership training, long-term mentoring, and outdoor adventure Explore Austin is improving the wellbeing of each participant, their families, and the community. 
Research shows when children have a long term caring adult in their life, access to challenging outdoor activities, and opportunities to lead others and themselves they are more confident and prepared to reach their highest level of success. Explore Austin matches underserved, yet high potential, 6th grade youth with caring and committed adult mentors and start them on a six-year journey including nine Saturday Challenges and a week long Summer Wilderness Trip that increases in difficulty and distance from home each year.
Over the course of the six-year program, each Explorer spends more than 1,300 hours with their Mentors and fellow Explore teammates, creating life-long changes in character, integrity, courage, and resilience - all skills necessary to succeed in life. What makes the program unique is that Explorers begin in sixth grade and the volunteer mentors stay with the kids through the graduation of high school and beyond into their adult lives. In other words, it’s truly long-term. To get a better feel for the organization, watch our short video
At Explore Austin, we believe... 
We believe that anyone can make a difference when they combine their strengths and abilities with their passions and interests to meet a burning need in their community.
We believe it takes a community to raise a child.
We believe that ACES leadership begins with yourself; lead yourself, then lead others.
We believe that a single lasting positive relationship with a caring adult Mentor will change the life of a child, and set them on a course of well-being for life.
We believe that outdoor adventure teaches us not only how to survive, but to thrive in a world full of uncertainty and challenge.
We believe in challenge by choice, in learning through failure, in freedom and responsibility, and in self-discovery and self-disclosure.
At Explore Austin, we Promise… 
Our Explorers that we will provide them the skills, tools, habits, and opportunities to change their own lives through leadership, mentoring, and adventure. Specifically, we promise:
Leadership: to introduce and cultivate your ACES Leadership through “first” formative experiences and “seconds” that connect those experiences to your everyday life.
Mentoring: to surround you with a team of caring and committed Explorers and Mentors for six years.
Adventure: to provide you with safe, outdoor, and progressively challenging adventure opportunities. 
Our Mentors that we will connect, equip, and inspire you to help your Explorers change their own lives through leadership, mentoring, and adventure! Specifically, we promise to: 
Train you up: Provide beneficial training and educational opportunities so you can identify and address growth areas in your Explorers,  your Mentor team, and in yourselves.
Guide you Right: Provide your team the critical safety and education necessary for lives to be changed by recruiting, training, and retaining top-tier trip leaders with the necessary technical knowledge and skills. 
Gear you up: Provide and maintain the necessary equipment for challenging adventure activities during Saturdays and Summer Wilderness Trips.
Know the way: Provide your team working knowledge of and access to public or private wilderness lands and adventure locations. 
The Community that Explore Austin will be an effective, sustainable, and professional organization giving everyone in our community the chance to change lives through leadership, mentoring, and adventure. 
ACES Framework
The ACES framework is a list of questions an Explorer can reference when making decisions as a leader. Its purpose is to serve as a guideline and checklist by both Explorers and Mentors when evaluating the progress of an Explorer’s journey to becoming a leader. The term ACES is an acronym for Action-Oriented, Courageous, Excellent Teammate, and Strong Communicator.
Six-Year Curriculum
Explore Austin accepts 6th grade boys and girls from KIPP Austin Public Schools, and makes a six-year commitment to helping them develop the skills, tools, and habits they will need to become effective leaders. Through a combination of mentoring and outdoor adventure, Explore Austin has created a six-year curriculum around its ACES framework. Our curriculum is built upon the idea that by taking its committed Explorers, placing them in a unique environment, and giving them problem-solving tasks and challenges, Explorers will develop the character traits necessary to be effective leaders.