20 Under 40: Ian O’Brien considers his generation globally focused, altruistic
Ian O’Brien is something of an adventurer. At just 25 years old, he is already working his way up in the outdoor adventure industry and currently serves as the Leadership and Trips Director for YMCA Camp Chief Ouray, a place he is quite familiar with from childhood.
Others in the Grand County community have take note of O’Brien’s attitude and work ethic, as was evident in his nomination to this list.
“Ian is more than an impressive young professional, he is a phenomenal role model,” stated the individual who nominated O’Brien. “Having worked alongside and underneath Ian for four years I know him to be caring, honest and invested in the lives of his coworkers and subordinates.”
Name: Ian O’Brien
Profession: Leadership and Trips Director.
Education: B.S. Environmental Management and Protection; Humboldt State University.
Place of Employment: YMCA Camp Chief Ouray.
What problem would you like to solve?
Within the outdoor industry, and the United States in general, there’s an unacceptable amount of inequity that exists. Outdoor recreation in the United States is very privilege based. Having grown up in that demographic, I feel that I must responsibly use my position at Camp Chief Ouray to empower women, people of color, people of varying ability and those in LGBTQ+ communities to experience the outdoors. I just want every child, and person in general, to experience nature as it should be: Wild, empowering and judgment free!
Who’s your hero and why?
All of the counselors that I had during my time as a camper at Camp Chief Ouray taught me a lot about being my best self and empowering others to do the same. Especially in my summers as a camper in our Leadership Training Programs, I was able to think more critically about what I wanted to do and who I wanted to be in the future largely from the impact my counselors had on me.
What is it about your generation that sets it apart?
I think that most millennials are more globally focused and altruistic. Obviously, there is the stereotype of narcissism and self-promotion due to the rise in social media, but there are arguably more people who use the same social media platforms to disseminate information about what they are passionate about. My generation is more diverse than any before it and more focused on not just leveling the playing field, but also making the rules of the game fair for everyone involved.
Why did you choose Grand County?
I was a camper at Camp Chief Ouray for eight years, seasonal staff for five summers, and then happened to be in the right place at the right time when a year round position opened up. Aside from luck, the mountains and endless trails are a huge draw as well.
How do you like to play in Grand County?
Trail running, Nordic skiing, biking the dirt roads, bagging peaks.
What kind of future do you see for your industry in Grand County?
Grand County will continue to be the place where people come to experience nature to the fullest, and the camping industry in Grand County will continue to give all youth formative experiences in a beautiful landscape.
If you could change one thing about Grand County, what would it be?
More affordable housing.
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