The Outdoor Leadership Academy is funded by the National Park Service to provide outdoor experiences and leadership development for underrepresented youth.


We offer a diverse series of activities designed to inspire an appreciation for our public lands for regional high school and college students throughout the calendar year. Programs range from a unique college orientation experience to camping and white water rafting, to short presentations and programs about exploring the amazing natural environment in our region and beyond. We also include leadership development at different levels in all of our activities so that our participants will hopefully influence their peers and future generations by helping the experience the outdoors as well.


Registration for individual activities is generally restricted by age and sometimes by school. Students from DSU, SUU, UNLV, Nevada State College, and the College of Southern Nevada as well as students from high schools our target region are welcome to participate.

If you are a school teacher or club advisor and would like to talk to us about sponsoring a program, please contact us at ola@dixie.edu.​

Public Lands and National Parks

If you would like to learn about sponsoring a program, please contact us.


Students from DSU, SUU, UNLV, Nevada State College, and the College of Southern Nevada as well as students from high schools of our target region are welcome to participate.


If you are a school teacher, club advisor, or professor and would like to talk to us about participating in a program, please contact us.

Featured Trips

Our adventurous team

Erin O'Brien
Erin has worked as the director of The Outdoor Leadership Academy since its birth in 2015. She is currently a professor and the department chair of Biological Sciences at Dixie State University. Along with acting as director of OLA, Erin is also involved in Gene Girls and eSMART, summer camps dedicated to encouraging and promoting girls' interests in STEM fields. Dr. O’Brien has always been passionate about the outdoors and promoted inclusivity and diversity on and off campus, maintaining the OLA mission of helping underrepresented youth connect to the outdoors.
Kelly Bringhurst
Kelly has acted as the co-director of The Outdoor Leadership Academy since its beginning alongside Erin O’brien. Kelly teaches Environmental Science classes at Dixie State and is currently the Director of Community Engaged Learning. Kelly has always been passionate regarding conservation efforts and regularly leads class trips to Costa Rica. Kelly alongside Erin is passionate about growing diversity within the outdoors as well as university leadership.
Jeff Axel
Jeff Axel is the Chief of Visitor Experience and Partnerships at Grand Canyon - Parashant National Monument. He has worked at 9 national park sites in his 20 year career. He got involved with OLA right away when he arrived at Parashant in 2015. He loves coming up with creative ideas to get the next generation out on public lands to have amazing adventures and educational experiences. His hobbies include BBQing, exploring the southwest in his 4x4, and is currently studying for his pilot's license.
Thomas Valencia
Thomas Valencia holds the role Education & Outreach Specialist at Lake Mead National Recreation Area. He works as the main coordinator for the park's education program with the gateway communities surrounding Lake Mead, including Las Vegas and Clark County School District, the fifth largest school district in the United States. Beyond K-12 education, Thomas manages park outreach operations through local community centers, universities and community organizations including Boy Scouts & Girl Scouts. Growing up in Las Vegas, he understands the benefits of gaining a connection to local public lands and outdoor areas and has a passion for sharing that with the local community.
Eli Aguirre
Eli Aguirre is currently an intern with The Outdoor Leadership Academy and assists with managing social media as well as general needs for trips, addressing student needs, and working with The Multicultural Inclusion Center at Dixie State University. She is currently majoring in Biology with an emphasis on Natural Science. She moved with her family from Mexico when she was six years old and her involvement in OLA sparked her love of the outdoors as well as influenced her decision in picking an area of study.
Marcy Brown
Marcy is a recent addition to the Outdoor Leadership Academy team, and serves as the Community Outreach Technician for the Lake Mead National Recreation Area. She graduated from the University of Nevada, Las Vegas in May 2018 with a degree in Earth and Environmental Science. In her last two undergraduate years, she worked in both the Outdoor Adventure department and Office of Student Engagement and Diversity on campus, where she realized she could combine her passion for increasing representation in natural spaces with her love of expedition planning and outdoor education.

Latest Story

Life Changing Experience

by Sandra Aguirre

The Outdoor Leadership Academy has helped open up many opportunities for me in areas that I didn’t know it was possible. Thanks to OLA I am writing a degree that is built around what the program does….

Get in touch

Interested in sponsoring or need to learn more?

Use this form to drop us an email.

Address 225 S University Ave
Address St George, Utah 84770

Monday to Friday 9:00 am to 5:00 pm