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Team Wilderness

Team Wilderness

 

Research has long documented what every hiker knows.  Hiking has profound psychological effects.  In fact research suggests it can elevate moods and combat loneliness.  Additionally research has suggested teens benefit from experiences in nature more than any other population, particularly in the area of academic performance (CRC Health, 2017). Unfortunately urban teens lack equal access to the wilderness. Plus between the pandemic and social injustice it has been a year of isolation and frustration; being stuck inside does not help at all. 

Since 2016 Team Wilderness programs have been empowering Hudson County’s urban teens by introducing them to wilderness excursions. This year we polled teens and they had a clear response: no more zoom. They are tired of virtual experiences and being cooped up indoors. They want the real thing. Over 50% of our teens reported that since the pandemic began they were active only two or less times a month. In 2020 we led over 200 teens on bonding outdoor excursions. These included empowering day-hikes in New York and New Jersey as well as kayaking and paddle boarding adventures on the Hudson River. 


We emphasize the parallels between their trail experiences and life. They learn that just as they overcame adversity to summit their first mountain, they can overcome life's challenges as well.  Offering these excursions while transporting youth in a socially distant COVID-safe environment has proven to be a very expensive challenge. However with the impact it makes we know it’s worth it. On one hike to a mountain lake after a brief dip a 19 year old female screamed “I feel reborn!” Another teen told us that the excursions mentally prepared her for the college application process and was the topic of her college essay. And two years after one teen joined us for a summer his mother wrote to us. 

 


“Thank you for mentoring my son.  I didn’t think that one summer hiking experience would have such an impact on him.  He’s been accepted into college and even enrolled in a hiking expedition in August offered by the university.  These are opportunities that city kids don’t usually get to do.  I am very grateful for the opportunity given to him at no cost to me.  He will remember it forever.” - Cynthia


Our programs include:

• Summer Treks

These two-week summer sessions include hiking, yoga hikes, rock scrambles, rock climbing, and even waterfall rappelling. In week two teens backpack for three days without their cell phones.


• Wilderness Club

Our after school program for middle school teens provides weekly tutoring, team-building and mentoring along with monthly trips. The club’s manager and tutors are all alumni of our programs.


• Partnership Programs

We tailor empowering and team-building day-trips to fit the needs of our partners for maximum impact. These customized outings cater to organizations serving the community. Past partners include Big Brothers Big Sisters, The City of Jersey City, Women Rising and Hudson CMO.


• Wilderness on The Water 

We partner with Resilience Paddle Sports to provide STEM infused adventures that teach teens how to kayak and paddle board. They also learn about local marine life, how to conduct water quality tests, and climate change’s impact on local waterways. 


• Myles of Science

In 2019 we partnered with Montreat College’s weeklong adventure-based, science-intensive program. Teens backpacked while assisting park scientists with the collection of important field data in the Great Smoky Mountains of western North Carolina. 

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