I had the opportunity to speak to Katherine Long, the founder of the nonprofit Exploring Paths, which provides services to children in need. During the COVID-19 pandemic, many youths have been afflicted with depression, anxiety, drug abuse, domestic abuse, and I was inspired by her work that serves underprivileged kids with an outlet and mentoring in a unique way. It all started with a love of cycling and youth rides with a friend, a colleague’s nudge and a desire to pay things forward.
That’s all it took for Long—a technology professional who grew up in a Texas bordertown called Del Rio, spent summers in New Orleans and Southern Louisiana, and has lived and traveled in both the U.S. and abroad—to buy a domain and get to work on creating Exploring Paths. While her love of cycling developed years ago as an exchange student in Germany, her idea for Exploring Paths came much later in 2012 while mentoring with New Alternatives for Children in New York City and cycling with a friend.
She quickly realized that some students were not experiencing all the city had to offer, even in a city abounding with opportunities such as NYC, and very few knew how to cycle. Having lived and studied abroad, Long understood what exploration and exposure could open up for youths and teens and how a healthy and active lifestyle can set them up for success, and she set out determined to help change the status quo.
In 2013, with guidance and encouragement from community leaders, friends and ride leaders, she partnered with the Chinatown YMCA in Manhattan and Citibike and began the first program.
Exploring Paths teaches students how to cycle, offers bike rides throughout the city and the East End to museums, urban farms and nature preserves to encourage a healthy and active lifestyle and to move past their four-block radius to explore the world around them. After years of success and interest from other Y branches, Long decided to expand EP’s efforts. She spent the pandemic creating the Exploring Paths app and platform.
The app allows the Y to expand Exploring Paths at a time when social distancing and outdoor activities are key and provides families in NYC, the East End and beyond the ability to explore in-person and online, with proceeds going to fund more cycling programs for youth in underserved areas. The app is available on iOS and the web, and with additional funding for Android, even more students will be able to participate.
For more information or to get involved, visit exploringpaths.org or exploringpaths.com. Katherine Long is excited to roll out the program on the East End and is happy to answer any questions you might have.
Peter Michalos, MD is Associate Professor of Clinical Ophthalmology, Columbia University Vagelos College of Physicians and Surgeons; Past President of Medical Staff and Past Chief of Surgery Southampton Hospital; Chairman Hamptons Health Society. He has been a resident of Southampton for three decades.