By Kayla Walker, YEP Teen Ventures alumni
I started attending summer camps with the CMC’s Youth Education Program when I was 12, enticed by a mild interest in rock climbing. I had so much fun that I convinced my parents to sign me up for several more programs that summer and every year following. Two years ago, when I new course was introduced, I immediately leapt at the opportunity to go on the Teen Ventures Outdoor Leadership Summit. I signed up a bit skeptical about the prospect of a week focused on teambuilding and volunteer work. It turned out to be my favorite week all summer. I could go on a multi-hour rant about how much fun I had, but for the sake of brevity, I’ll condense it into a list of the nine best parts of the trip.
9. Red Vines
Because there’s no better camping snack than Red Vines. And there’s no better group activity than consuming an entire bucket of the stuff in under 72 hours.
8. Ridiculously large sandwiches
We prepared our own delicious food all week, creating a chore chart to delegate preparation, cooking, and cleaning. My favorite meal was probably the last day when we made a sandwich out of an entire loaf of bread that ended up being a couple feet long. Raw garlic dipped in peanut butter took a close second.
I thought I was too old for tag, capture the flag, and the human knot. I was wrong. As it turns out, those games also sneakily teach both teamwork and leadership.
Among my fondest memories of the trip were nights spent sitting around the fire cracking jokes, doing imitations, telling ghost stories, singing, or even quietly reflecting on the day to practice introspection.
5. Golden Gate Canyon State Park
Need I say more?
4. Outdoor stewardship
Towards the end of the week, we had the opportunity to spend time in Eldorado Canyon to help eradicate invasive species of plants. It wasn’t easy work, but the rewarding feeling of accomplishment was well worth it. Not much can beat the satisfaction of improving the natural world.
3. Leadership skills
Each day, two of us were assigned as leaders. This meant we were responsible for organizing the group for the day. I was given a glimpse of what it means to manage a site, pay attention to group dynamics and safety, and be involved in outdoor leadership. It gave me an awareness of both the challenges and rewards of leading a group.
2. Spending time outside
Throughout the week, we camped, hiked, rock climbed, and just enjoyed nature. In a world where I found myself with my eyes almost constantly glued to one screen or another, a week away from it all was a wonderful relief.
At the start of the week, I only really knew one other girl. By the end, I had laughed with, shared memories with, and gotten to know a collection of six pretty amazing kids and a pair of the coolest instructors I’ve had the pleasure of meeting. It was an experience I wouldn’t trade for anything.