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Adventure Challenge Program and Summer Leadership Camp

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Community , Education
South Texas
Cycle Year
Youth Odyssey, Inc.
Rebekah Koeller
PO Box 331394
Corpus Christi
Used for
Nueces County Texas has a high rate of juvenile crime, violence, teen pregnancy, as well as alcohol and drug abuse. Grant money will be used to support Youth Odyssey's adventure challenge program and summer leadership camps. Both programs teach students skills and values they need to avoid negative influences in their lives. Youth Odyssey’s programs promote student's evolution of judgment, personal responsibility, and awareness of group needs.
At-risk youth face daily challenges that depend upon their ability to set and achieve goals, cope with defeat, communicate with peers, family, and community agents, make decisions, and solve problems (Perkins, D.F., Borden, L.M., Key Elements of Community Youth Development Programs). Youth Odyssey contributes to this youth development through high ropes/challenge courses and adventure wilderness trips. When youth have the ability to overcome these daily challenges, they also have the ability to become productive members of society and avoid the negative influences occurring in their communities.
Proposal Description
Youth Odyssey is a non-profit 501 (C) (3) organization formed in 1997 in Corpus Christi, Texas to address the rising tide of juvenile crime and violence. Youth Odyssey's mission is to provide at-risk boys and girls with youth development through adventure challenge programming. Youth Odyssey works towards this goal by teaching life skills to at-risk youth through adventure-based activities. Youth Odyssey's definition of an at-risk youth is a person who is susceptible to participate in activities that include drugs, alcohol, violence, gangs, premature sexual activities, and are economically stressed. In addition, at-risk includes youth who are victims of abuse, neglect, violence, and demonstrate delinquent and/or anti-social behavior. To date the success of Youth Odyssey's program can be viewed by the number of organizations and schools requesting new programs as well as those who have supported the program for years. Organizations such as the Corpus Christi Independent School District, Community Youth Development, and the Boot Camp program have consistently funded and backed the Youth Odyssey program because they believe the program is positively affecting their youth. By partnering with numerous organizations throughout Nueces County and surrounding areas (e.g., Corpus Christi Independent School District), we are able to go on site to help young men and women in their neighborhoods and schools. The direct beneficiaries of the adventure challenge program are the youth of these communities who participate in the program. These young men and women make the choice to question their assumptions and challenge the limitations placed on them by the environment they live in. During the program participants learn and use the six core life skills: communication, teamwork, leadership, setting goals, solving problems, and trust. These skills are the tools that participants will use to choose the direction that their life will go. Grant monies will be used to compensate for the cost of the adventure challenge program as well as the summer leadership camps. Both programs are open to any youth, age 11 – 17, who makes the choice to be a participant. During the adventure challenge program, no youth is ever charged for their participation. Organizations requesting a program from Youth Odyssey are asked to make a monetary investment in the program; such as ten to twenty-five dollars per youth, per nine-week program. Funding from grants makes up the difference between the total cost of the adventure challenge program and the investment the collaborating organization has made. These costs include, but are not limited to, transportation, equipment, and personnel for ropes courses, wilderness trips, kayaking trips, as well as the on site program. ADVENTURE CHALLENGE PROGRAM: Youth Odyssey's adventure challenge programs involve at-risk teens in physical outdoor activities, which promote the personal growth and development necessary to effect changes in at-risk juveniles. The program consists of four levels. Each activity follows a sequential process and builds upon skills learned at the previous level. Processing at the closure of each experience includes reflection, evaluation, and goal review to help the youth derive meaning from the experience and how it applies to their lives. Level 1 - 4 Portable Ropes Challenge Courses onsite (2- 4 hours each) Level 2 - 2 Stationary Ropes Challenge Courses (6 hours each) Level 3 - 1 Adventure Wilderness Trip with a specific adventure challenge (3 – 5 days) Level 4 - 1 Graduation Ceremony (Day or overnight camping trip with parents) Portable and Stationary Ropes Challenge Course The portable ropes challenge course consists of portable low element activities. Portable ropes courses are typically two- hour sessions and are conducted onsite at the referring agency. Low Elements During the low element portion of a ropes challenge course, the focus is on the team. Activities draw on the knowledge and ideas of every group member and require the participation and cooperation of the entire team. Activities are performed on or close to the ground, gradually increasing in difficulty so the team can learn from its successes and build trust and confidence as they overcome obstacles. High Elements The high element activities are built on the team development and trust established during the low element portion and emphasizes individual challenge and accomplishments. The high elements are a powerful developmental tool because of the activity’s perceived risk, which allows youth to expand their comfort zones and overcome fears that can block personal development and achievement. Adventure Wilderness Trip The wilderness is a place where nature is dominant and consequences are real. Camping in these conditions, away from the distractions of modern civilization fosters self-reliance, respect, a sense of responsibility for personal actions, as well as developing a love for the outdoors. Many of the youth who attend an adventure wilderness trip have never been outside of a city to see a mountain or a deer in the woods. Participants expand their horizons beyond concrete and asphalt and learn about themselves, nature, and their environment. Each youth spends 3 - 5 days with caring adults in an environment that teaches them more effective ways of relating to others and healthier ways of valuing themselves. Youth Odyssey provides all equipment and supplies for each trip. Youth are introduced to the concept of environmental stewardship through Leave No Trace ethics. This concept teaches an acceptance of personal responsibility for maintaining the health and beauty of the natural environment. Each trip in the adventure wilderness trip program includes at least two of the following challenge activities: camping, hiking/backpacking, fishing, canoeing, kayaking, or rock climbing. Each activity on the adventure wilderness trip program provides a “challenge” and encourages youth to stretch themselves beyond their self-imposed limits by facing the challenge. This encourages the evolution of judgment, personal responsibility, and awareness of group needs. The activities build on successes and achievements to encourage youth to assume responsibility and to develop the six core life skills promoted on each trip. Evaluation of the adventure challenge program is conducted using a pre and post-test, at the beginning and end of the six-nine week sessions, to assess the change in each youth. Other evaluative measures include a program satisfaction questionnaire, individual assessments by staff, trip journals, and youth discussion comments about what they have learned and how it can apply to their lives at the end of each activity. We also send a survey to the parents after the completion of each program to assess changes they have observed in their youth. SUMMER LEADERSHIP CAMP: As previously stated, the grant will also help fund the four summer leadership camps that will be held between June and July of 2011. The camps are weeklong residential programs where youth have an opportunity to live in the wilderness and take part in activities that they normally would not have an opportunity to do. Each camp will have between ten and twelve participants and three staff members, for a camper to staff ratio of 4:1 maximum. Youth Odyssey is charging youth, who can afford it, a fee of five hundred dollars for the weeklong program. This fee pays for food, transportation, equipment costs, and staffing for the week. Grant money will make up the difference between the full cost of the camps and the fees that participants pay. Grant money will also allow youth who cannot afford the program to receive a full scholarship to the camp of their choice. Throughout each camp, participants will take part in the camp curriculum, which focuses on core life skills (communication, teamwork, leadership, setting goals, solving problems, and trust). In addition, youth will learn, use, and understand leave no trace ethics as part of everyday life. The curriculum starts with community building activities and a ropes course, which incorporates all of the life skills. As the camp progresses, activities will incorporate a follow-up or debriefing period. During a debriefing period, everyone in the group is able to review what they just did and recognize the core life skills the group, including individuals, were exhibiting. The debriefing period is what differentiates a recreational program from a learning experience. Two of Youth Odyssey’s summer camps will be held at the Coastal Bend Bays and Estuaries Foundation’s Delta Property, located thirty minutes outside of Corpus Christi. The Delta Property will be used as a base camp for the week’s activities. These activities may include, but are not limited to, kayaking, hiking, orienteering, SCUBA diving, and surfing. All of these activities are located in and around Corpus Christi with limited travel time required from the Delta Property. As part of the Delta Property camp, Youth Odyssey will be bringing in outside speakers to do programs such as astronomy, natural history, and CPR. The third summer camp will be a weeklong backpacking trip along the Lone Star Hiking Trail in the Sam Houston National Forest. For four days, youth will be able to hike and explore the Same Houston National Forest by foot. They will carry all of the equipment with them and be reliant on each other to accomplish the tasks for the day. The group will pick leaders within the group to be responsible for navigating the trail and reminding the group of what needs to be done. The group will be responsible for finding and filtering their own water. Determining where we are and how we should get to the next campsite. In addition, the group will have to cook dinner using backpacking stoves, find firewood if they want a fire, and set up their tents if they want something to sleep in. The wilderness backpacking trip will have the most direct and visible consequences to individual and group behavior. Every member of the group will learn how his or her actions affect the group and the importance of making group decisions and sticking to them. An example of this would be if the person tasked with cooking dinner one night decides not to do it, the group would end up being hungry. Consequences during a wilderness backpacking trip are more real than on a normal camping trip because civilization seems so far away due to the time it took to walk into the wilderness. Even though this camp will be in the Sam Houston National Forest, the curriculum will remain the same as the other camps. Participants will learn about life skills and leave no trace ethics. They will practice being a leader and a team member as well as working as a group to solve problems that arise on the trail. During the fourth summer camp, Youth Odyssey will be taking participants to the Shumla School near Comstock Texas where they will camp in a desert setting and participate in the Shumla School program. The teachers at the school are uniquely qualified to supplement the summer camp program with classes about Native American history and rock art because of their expertise in the subject matter and the location of their facility. The Shumla School teaches participants about the rock art of the Lower Pecos and their meanings. Participants also learn critical thinking and problem-solving skills as they mix paint based on Native American recipes, produce fire from friction, examine and analyze the native plants, and make tools from the same stone used 4,000 years ago. The Shumla School shares Youth Odyssey’s goal of strengthening character and youth’s feeling of self-self worth. In addition, the Shumla program is committed to meeting the following goals/objectives: The learners will rediscover the joy of learning through hands-on, active learning. The learners will gain knowledge about the culture, community, and environment of their world through study of the Lower Pecos area. The learners will gain a new appreciation of cultural and environmental resources. The learners will gain a sense of pride in terms of caring for themselves, for one another, for their environment, their community, and for the preservation of humankind’s irreplaceable cultural heritage. (The Shumla School. The fourth camp in itself provides youth from Nueces County an opportunity that many people will never receive. While the instructors of the Shumla School will be teaching the majority of the program, Youth Odyssey staff will still provide instruction and debriefing to help youth relate what they are learning back to their home life. Youth Odyssey staff will also be leading a wilderness kayaking trip on the Pecos River as part of the camp. For two days, participants will have an opportunity to kayak the Pecos River away from civilization and camp on the banks of the river in a wilderness setting.