ABC7 Unite: Brooklyn to Alaska inspires, challenges teens

BROOKLYN, New York City (WABC) -- A nonprofit whose mission is to bring brave and adventurous urban youth to the wilderness of Alaska is striving to to inspire and challenge Brooklyn teens to overcome obstacles, develop self-confidence, and experience the power of open communication and teamwork.

Brooklyn to Alaska was created 12 years ago by Sam Gregory, a local attorney who loves that outdoors and wanted to share experience with urban youth.

A group of teens returned from Alaska in late July, including Zachary Byrd, who loved the Alaskan wilderness thousands of miles away from his home in Crown Heights.

"I'll be honest, I wasn't so good at rowing but was good at everything else," he said. "My mom has a joke, I'm going to be the one who will buy a house in the middle of nowhere and still have a home in the city."

ABC7 Unite: Black-owned businesses look to each other to survive coronavirus pandemic

The 19-year-old and nine other teens from all over Brooklyn spent 22 days hiking, climbing glaciers and camping in a national park.

"They learned wilderness cooking, learned how to read water," Gregory said.

Gregory adores Alaska, where he bought a small cabin years ago -- and had an idea.

He's an attorney, and some his clients were from the roughest sections of Brooklyn.

"I said, these guys never get to do what I did when I was young," he said. "So why not see what we can do get a program going."

That was back in 2007, and since then, more than 100 teens have now have made the journey, overcoming challenges and building self confidence.

"When these kids go up there and they fit in and adjust to the wilderness, they realize, hey, look, we belong here," he said. "That America belongs to us, and we belong to America."

ABC7 Unite: Public Allies offers new opportunities to young people

An annual fundraiser helps pay from for most of the kids expenses, which can run $4,000 per teen.

Byrd wants to be a pediatric surgeon, confident lessons learned in Alaska will come into play.

"It's added to my skills of being a leader, changed the way I see the world," he said.

For more information or to make a donation, visit


See more stories at


Watch Here & Now
Here & Now episode archive


We are also publishing resources in a range of areas, which will grow and can be found below:

Ways to Help
Black Lives Matter
Black Voters Matter Fund
National Institute for Criminal Justice Reform
No New Jails NYC
Voices of Community Activists & Leaders (VOCAL-NY)
Black LGBTQIA + Migrants Project

Teaching the Next Generation
Black Lives Matter at School
Creating Space To Talk About Racism At Your School
Teaching for Black Lives - Rethinking Schools

Black-Owned Bookstores in New York and New Jersey
Cafe con Libros (Brooklyn)
Grandma's Place (Harlem)
Sister's Uptown (Manhattan)
Source of Knowledge (Newark)
The Lit. Bar (Bronx)
The Little Boho Bookshop (Bayonne)

Born a Crime: Stories from a South African Childhood by Trevor Noah
I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou
Raising White Kids: Bringing Up Children In A Racially Unjust America by Jennifer Harvey
So You Want to Talk About Race by Ijeoma Oluo
The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness by Michelle Alexander
White Fragility: Why It's So Hard for White People to Talk About Racism

Black Wall Street 1921
Jemele Hill is Unbothered
Still Processing:

American Son: Available on Netflix
If Beale Street Could Talk: Available on Hulu
Just Mercy: Available on Amazon Prime
Selma: Available on Amazon Prime
The Hate U Give: Available on Amazon Prime
When They See Us: Available on Netflix

13th: Available on Netflix
America Inside Out with Katie Couric: Available on National Geographic
Becoming: Available on Netflix
I am Not Your Negro: Available on YouTube
Copyright © 2021 WABC-TV. All Rights Reserved.