We are fortunate to live where we can enjoy being out in nature year-round. Our extensive trail system serves hikers, mountain-bikers, horsemen and dirt-bikers, and these groups all work together to maintain and create our numerous and diverse trails. Getting outside and hooked on fresh air and exercise is fun, and easier for us retired old folks, but isn’t as easy and accessible for young people, especially if their parents are too busy to get the family outside much.
Getting kids outside and active is the main focus of Brent Roberts and the Azimuth Quest Foundation. Azimuth Quest helps young people discover and develop their potential through outdoor adventure education. Its mission includes four goals: personal growth, development and success, wilderness and outdoor-living skills, mentored leadership and teamwork, and service and stewardship.
This small all-volunteer nonprofit has deep roots, partially inspired by a program Prescott College helped establish in the 1970s in the Phoenix area. Most Azimuth Quest board members themselves benefited from high-school outdoor-adventure education programs, and some are current or former outdoor adventure leaders and educators. Just as United Way partners with local groups to fund programs to benefit specific sectors of the community, Azimuth partners with Prescott Unified School District, the Boys and Girls Club and The Launchpad to help create opportunities for kids to get outdoors and away from screens.
An avid mountain-biker and outdoorsman, Roberts taught for 26 years at Yavapai College. His focus now is freelancing for Azimuth, helping develop programs with these youth-centered agencies. The ultimate goal is to kindle a passion for outdoor adventure in kids that will empower them to not only lead more fulfilling lives, but also care for and understand their environment.
In 2017 the Prescott Mountain Bike Alliance (PMBA) won generous grants from Yavapai Regional Medical Center, the Kiekhefer Foundation and the Margaret T. Morris Foundation to set up a summer program for local youth, and purchase bikes and a trailer to house and transport them. PMBA also helped the US Forest Service fund a youth conservation-corps program in the Prescott National Forest, which grew to two teams in 2018. That summer PMBA also connected with the Boys and Girls Club and The Launchpad and provided regular ride opportunities.
The pandemic brought those programs to a temporary halt, but by spring of 2021 mountain-biking was deemed one of the safer outdoor activities. PMBA was growing, as was interest in youth biking programs, so the group contacted Roberts asking that Azimuth take over management of the equipment and program-planning, putting up seed money to help keep up momentum. The Boys and Girls Club obtained additional funding to expand the bike fleet, filling in some size holes and upgrading some older bikes. This led to a highly successful ride series that summer, cosponsored by the Boys and Girls Club and Azimuth Quest.
Roberts listed some other outdoor programs for youth that Azimuth has helped fund and organize for Prescott High School. The Challenge Club offers weekend outings during the school year, in summer 2021 a two-week program that included a six-day trip around northern Arizona, including the North Rim of the Grand Canyon. A full-year elective course in outdoor adventure and leadership will start this fall.
Roberts sees Azimuth as a kind of think-tank for such programs. “The Challenge Club is a good model for public schools. The challenge is to build something you can basically import into any school system, to get kids engaged in meaningful activities and working with their peers, developing positive relationships within their age group and with adults. It’s about how to function in life.”
Roberts was pleased to represent the Challenge Club recently at Future Freshman Night at PHS. He would love to see cycling become as popular and accessible as the traditional school sports like basketball and track and field.
Azimuth hopes to develop the Challenge Club into a multiyear program serving students and including older student mentors. The foundation is also funding a Prescott College internship for a student to help run the Challenge Club.
The bike fleet managed by Azimuth now numbers 17 and is made available to groups including the Boys and Girls Club. Roberts finds the work with the BGC really rewarding. “The kids at the BGC don’t often have access to bikes or much opportunity to get out into nature. That’s where the outreach is, to get kids into riding and get them engaged in something outdoors.” The summer 2022 biking program at BGC starts on June 6, and there is now an after-school bike club for Mile High Middle School and Granite Mountain Middle School that Roberts, Azimuth Quest and many other volunteers are helping organize and run.
We see the success of the work of the Azimuth Quest Foundation in the growing number of kids out biking and enjoying our beautiful outdoors. Azimuth has no website, but works behind the scenes to raise funds for programs that share its mission: to get kids off their phones and outside.
To contact or donate to Azimuth Quest Foundation, email email@example.com. Visit azcycling.org to find out about local cycling teams.