EHS Outdoor Leadership Program

The Might of One. The Power of Many.

Often programs find success due to multiple organizations partnering to bring their individual strengths or resources together. Or in other words, the might of one becomes the power of many. The pilot of the new Outdoor Leadership Program exemplifies everything AntFarm stands for. Three different organizations fostered a relationship that ignited a program to create a new opportunity for the high school youth in Estacada.

It all started with an idea.

During the Summer of 2021, the Directors of Adventures Without Limits reached out to Chris, the Estacada Community Manager from AntFarm. They had an idea. The idea was to create a program where high school students who do not have access to outdoor programming due to economic status or other limitations, could have the opportunity to learn about and explore the nature in their region.

In this pilot, the AWL directors suggested three main activities: backpacking, rock climbing, and an environmental project. While AWL had the grant money, the gear, and the idea; they did not have access to youth in Estacada, though they knew that Estacada held the biggest need for such a program.

AntFarm, on the other hand, had connections to Estacada youth and already had programs established in the Estacada school district and the general community. With Chris, AntFarm’s Estacada Community Manager, having both worked as an outdoor guide and teacher, AntFarm became the implementation tool of the program.

Now that the program had the monetary backing, resources, and the implementation actions to move forward, the last piece to this partnership came from the Estacada School District. The school district offered AntFarm and its programs a space to utilize free of charge. This room in the high school is meant to make it easier for students to access AntFarm’s resources, allowing AntFarm to support youth academically and through extracurricular activities after school. This partnership allows AntFarm staff to integrate themselves within the community of youth. By giving this room and having a mutual trust of support, the district has allowed itself to utilize homework clubs, study skill curriculums, and much more for its students.

Each one of these partnerships complements the others, allowing the Outdoor Leadership Program to reach its full potential.

The nuts and bolts of the program …

So, what is the Outdoor Leadership Program? It is a nine-week program split into three weeks segments to cover each of the main activities; backpacking skills and gear, rock climbing fundamentals, and an environmental project encompassing regional needs. Each week, students attend a two-hour course that integrates topics, lectures, games, and other activities to engage them and excite them on that particular activity.

At the end of each topic, students are taken on an excursion where they are able to implement the skills taught and practice with the gear discussed within the class in a safe and supervised environment. For the backpacking trip, students will do a full-day hike and mock camp set up along the Salmon River on the flanks of Mt. Hood. For the rock-climbing excursion, students will attend a two-day trip to Smith Rock State Park where they will climb both days and camp overnight. The last series will have students connecting with a local environmental organization that will allow them to give back to their natural space, keep it healthy and retain the quality of space they enjoyed in a specific one-day project.

We are excited about the prospects this program presents and we are already seeing great results. If you are interested in partnering with AntFarm to continue the impact on Clackamas County youth, reach out to Community starts with you.