Black Leaders in Outdoor Spaces
Our Foundation is committed to creating equal access to wild Florida. During Black History Month, we are celebrating Florida’s Black leaders in outdoor recreation through this series. We think the myriad benefits of an outdoor life need to be experienced by all Americans.
Jovan McNeill, Founder of Cloud Nine Outdoors, Inc.
“Nature is a tool to get children to experience not just the wider world, but themselves.” – Stephen Moss
Cloud Nine Outdoors (CNO) founder Jovan McNeill embodies these words, working to bring life-changing outdoor experiences to youth in the Tampa Bay Area.
CNO, a non-profit organization, teaches fishing, archery, hunting, and camping skills. “Our program is the intersection of mentorship, education, and the outdoors,” said McNeill. CNO works with inner-city youth, many of whom live surrounded by the water of Tampa Bay but have never picked up a fishing pole or been on a boat. “It’s hard to put into words the expression on their face when they catch their first fish or choose archery over iPhones.” The organization is young but has already achieved great results. In seven years of operation, CNO introduced 895 youth and 190 adults to fishing, archery, and hunting.
“Being able to see their faces light up with the experience that we can provide is truly priceless,” said Jovan. “What makes it even better is seeing the adults also learning and doing something for the first time. It’s opening a culture and breaking many barriers that are highly important for society, conservation, and the use of natural resources.”
The organization’s programs also gives kids a source of consistency; they stay with CNO leaders throughout the year, year after year. While teaching a love of nature, leaders also impart life skills. Their participants have a 100% high school graduation rate, and all have gone on to college or trade schools with scholarships from CNO.
Our Foundation hosted Jovan for a conversation about his mission to introduce new audiences to hunting and fishing. Watch the full discussion below: