Wilderness, Leadership & Learning is a 12-month, experiential-learning, youth-leadership, and life-skill development program for DC high school youth. Throughout the program youth engage in hands-on activities to develop knowledge on a variety of issues including team work and decision making, cultural awareness, smart goals and financial literacy, and environmental awareness through community service projects in DC, a field trip to the Chesapeake Bay, and through their capstone project: a 7-day expedition on the Appalachian Trail.
The project which we are applying for is the Lead the Way Expedition which is the final achievement for our youth. Through this 7-day expedition the youth are utilizing each skill they have acquired throughout the previous months. The expedition is an opportunity for the youth to continue to learn team work and encouragement as they only hike as fast as the slowest person. They learn “real-world” decision making by determining what gear, food, and personal items they will take on the expedition, understanding that everything will be packed-in and packed-out. They continue to learn respect for the environment by following leave no trace principles, and finally they will continue to develop themselves as leaders and trail blazers in their own families and communities by completing the expedition and graduating from the program. The Appalachian Trail expedition concludes with each youth participating in a 12-hour solo where they will spend this time reflecting on the last year, journaling about what they have learned, how they have developed, and forming future plans following the smart goal approach.
This project is awesome because it gives DC teens exposure to a completely unique environment, while providing an opportunity to rely on each other, and for youth to self-examine and recognize how they have grown and matured in only a few short months. Many youth describe the experience as incredibly hard, but totally worth it!
Funded by Washington, DC (June 2015)