Gerben Scherpbier is the Youth Programming Manager for the Youth Opportunities Program of the Appalachian Mountain Club. Based out of the AMC headquarters in Boston, Massachusetts, he helps to train youth workers and teachers serving urban and low-income communities to take their students on outdoor trips. Gerben also serves on two of AMC’s “Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Working Groups,” and has started a weekly staff lunch to discuss issues of social justice and identity as they pertain to outdoor recreation and environmentalism.
Prior to working at the AMC, Gerben spent three seasons working as a ranger in Yellowstone National Park—two as a crew leader with the Youth Conservation Corps, and one as a protection ranger. Gerben studied earth science and economics at Dartmouth College and served as the president of the Dartmouth Outing Club and the director of their First Year Trips outdoor orientation program.
“One of the greatest challenges I face while working in places like Boston, New Haven, and Worcester is the concept or perception of ‘nature’ or ‘the outdoors.’ Many students I work with see themselves as separate from nature and subscribe to the notion that one must travel great distances to be in the outdoors. I am trying to shift this perception so that students recognize the natural opportunities in their own communities.
“The other great challenge of perception is that of who can be an outdoor or environmental leader. A younger student recently asked me, ‘Gerben, are there black park rangers?’ I think it is extremely important to change the predominant narrative that the outdoors are a white space. I want to help highlight the stories of the many historical and contemporary outdoor and environmental leaders who are black, brown, LGBTQ+, immigrant, differently abled, living in cities, or coming from poorer backgrounds.”
Gerben is a member of the 2017 Emerging Leaders Program.