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A Guide to Becoming a Mentor

Posted by Clark Wimberly

Last Updated: Sep 29

Being an Explore Austin Mentor is a six-year, ongoing volunteer experience with youth in 6th-12th grades, with a commitment of one Saturday per month during the academic year and one week in the summer.

Mentors have the opportunity to learn a variety of outdoor disciplines and skills taught by Explore Austin’s Trip Leader staff, including:

  • Hiking and backpacking
  • Camping
  • Caving
  • Navigation
  • Rock climbing and rappelling 
  • Canoeing
  • Mountain biking

Mentors learn alongside their mentees – no previous experience required! Each summer, they’re also supported in going on a weeklong out-of-state backcountry trip with their team to some of the most breathtaking places in the U.S., from Utah to New Mexico to Idaho and beyond.

Being a Mentor with Explore Austin allows you to make a difference in the lives of Austin youth, whom we call “Explorers,” the majority of whom are underrepresented in the outdoor-adventure space. Teams are normally made up of five Mentors and 15 Explorers, with each Explorer spending 1,300+ hours over the course of the free, six-year program with their Mentors and fellow teammates. As a Mentor, you’ll also join a strong network of 100+ Explore Austin Mentors.


Our Mentors are caring, responsible adults who model courage and a spirit of adventure for their team’s Explorers. They also facilitate leadership and social-emotional learning activities and discussions during programming.

Prerequisites & Commitments

  • Caring, responsible adults (age 21+) who model leadership, courage and a spirit of adventure for youth in 6th-12th grades
  • Six-year commitment if selected as a Mentor for a new team; if selected to backfill an open Mentor position, year(s) of commitment will vary
  • Commit to one Saturday per month during the school year (called “Saturday Challenges”)
  • Commit to a weeklong Summer Wilderness Trip each June or July, most of which are out of state
  • Background check ($18) required with application

How to Apply

Step One

  • Confirm you meet the above requirements

Step Two

  • Fill out the Mentor Interest Form, typically available in late summer or early fall
  • You will be notified when the Mentor Application opens

Step Three

  • Fill out the Mentor Application, which typically opens in early fall
  • Complete a background check along with your application
  • You will be notified on the status of your application in the early spring


Anitra Edwards, Program Manager
(512) 320-8899

Our Method

Experiential Education

Saturday Challenges

Saturday Challenges are in local natural areas and include activities such as backpacking, paddling, rock climbing, caving, mountain biking, swimming, navigation and wilderness medicine. Explorers and Mentors learn more advanced skills each year, building confidence and strengthening overall wellbeing. One Saturday Challenge a year is a volunteer project focused on environmental stewardship and the other eight Saturday Challenges focus on the dedicated outdoor discipline the team is learning that year.

Summer Wilderness Trips (SWTs)

SWTs are annual, week-long excursions to premier backcountry destinations across the country where Explorers and Mentors apply the knowledge and skills they have developed throughout the year. Last summer, our newest teams traveled to Texas’ Colorado Bend State Park while more experienced teams explored mountains, rivers and hiking and biking trails in Arkansas, New Mexico, Utah and Idaho. For many of our youth, these trips represent their first experience traveling away from home and their families, and their first time on a plane or out of state.

Leadership and Social-Emotional Learning Development 

Saturday Challenges and SWTs afford Explorers the opportunity for leadership development and social-emotional learning (SEL). Mentors facilitate SEL discussions using evidence-based curriculum from the Search Institute to help Explorers gain self-awareness and interpersonal skills. At Saturday Challenges, Explorers serve as leaders of the day and learn leadership skills such as risk management and wilderness medicine in preparation for their SWTs. During SWTs, teams rotate leaders for daily camp tasks and select one Leader of the Day who ensures teammates perform their campsite duties and technical skills. As youth move through the program, they are responsible for ensuring that campsites conform with Leave No Trace principles and wildlife mitigation practices. Rising seniors are heavily involved in planning their Capstone SWT. 

“Whether the conversations are big and life changing or small and seemingly insignificant, I know that the mentees in our program are learning to make decisions and set a path for their own lives. My team is still young and has many years left in the program. I’m looking forward to the adventures we will have, as we continue growing together.”

Jeff, Mentor

Explore Austin produces a pipeline of youth who are poised to become leaders within their spheres of influence. Over the course of six years, an Explorer spends 1,100 hours or more in nature mastering a variety of outdoor skills under the guidance of committed, caring Mentors and Trip Leaders. That proficiency, combined with social-emotional learning and our leadership approach, gives youth the tools and surety to teach others the skills they have learned, broadening the reach of our program. Explore Austin’s program helps youth pursue their own versions of success and enables them to envision possibilities beyond their current circumstances.