Scholars Program
2024 Applications Are Now Closed

All young people deserve the opportunity to spend meaningful time in the natural world, and to spend their summers expanding their horizons and learning about themselves.

W.I.L.D. Scholars is for Bay Area teens from racial, cultural, and social backgrounds that have been historically underrepresented in wilderness education.

As a W.I.L.D. Scholar you'll receive

  • A full scholarship to one of our 10 day rites of passage backpacking trips in summer of 2024
  • All the gear and equipment needed
  • An incredible community of peers and mentors
  • Multiple touch points throughout the school year to prepare for your trip
  • Support with job and college applications
Applications for Summer 2024 Closed on April 15

We recommend taking some time to review the application and
preparing your answers ahead of time. Please only submit one application form. Applications cannot be edited once they’ve been submitted. Ready to get started?
Applications Are Closed

Referral Partners

Do you teach or work with teens? Would you like to connect youth in your life with this program? Learn more about how to nominate a young person for this opportunity.

Become a referral partner
Scholars Programs


  • Be a current sophomore, junior, or senior 
  • Qualify for free or reduced lunch
  • Be sponsored by a Back to Earth referral partner
    To see our list of current referral partners, click here.
    If your school does not yet have a referral partner, get in touch with us about being the first W.I.L.D. Scholar from your school.

Important Dates

Applications due
April 15
Scholars announced
April 20
Daylong orientation
May 11
Summer trips
Summer debrief
What’s the Point of W.I.L.D. Scholars?

What’s the Point of W.I.L.D. Scholars?

A deep connection to the natural world is our common birthright. Too often, though, when we grow up in cities, we start to think of nature as something “out there,” “for other people.” Maybe we didn’t grow up camping or backpacking. Maybe no one in our families or among our close friends knows anything about living in the wilderness.

Redistributing access to wild places has been a core element of Back to Earth’s mission since our founding in 2014, and we’ve always made sure that no teen is turned away for lack of funds.

Learn more about Back to Earth’s mission

However, we know barriers to more equitable and diverse participation in the outdoors are not limited to program costs. They also include a lack of information and awareness about these activities, transportation challenges, safety concerns, feelings of being unwelcome or discriminated against in subtle and overt ways, and a lack of programming that speaks to the cultural experience of BIPOC participants.

That’s why the W.I.L.D. Scholars program is about more than just a free summer trip: it’s about building relationships, and cultivating trust and mutual respect among participants and their families, guides, Back to Earth staff, and our network of referral partners. 

We want scholars, not just to have access to a summer adventure, but to be truly prepared to enjoy it.  That’s why scholars participate in two day-long gatherings during the Spring semester, where we cover everything from how to prepare for your trip, to making the most of your time in the mountains. When summer is over, scholars gather to celebrate their achievements together. Those entering senior year are also invited to participate in a Back to Earth-sponsored college essay event, where mentors will help them translate their summer experiences into their college application essays. 

Become a W.I.L.D Scholar today.

Talk to Someone

Curious if the W.I.L.D. Scholars Program is a good fit for you? Need to ask some clarifying questions before submitting your application? Get in touch with Program Director Lauren Hoernig here.

Get in touch

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