Editor’s note: MAI Board Member and Youth Programs Volunteer, Mike Gundlach, is dedicated to mentoring young people through the exposure to the natural world. Mike finds success to be the blending of People, Passion & Planet. Enjoy Mike’s account of hosting a group of young men from The Next Door Inc.’s Independent Living Program (http://www.nextdoorinc.org/category/independent-living-program/) and WING’s (http://www.getwings.net/index.html) on the Mt. Adams Institute Ropes Course.
What is a successful day of experiential learning?
Is it the sincere “thank you” and a firm handshake from a young adult who said “I thought this was going to be a crappy day and I almost didn’t come but I’m glad I did.”
Is it seeing a bit of fear in someone’s eyes before doing a trust fall and then witnessing them bursting with a smile when they overcame that fear?
Is it sitting in silence deep within the darkness of a lava tube with an energetic group of young men that are rarely silent who afterwards tell you, “I really enjoyed the silence.
Is it having a participant write down on a feedback form that one of the most valuable things they learned during the day was to “Trust people more” or another who wrote that his most valuable lesson was “learning about how we can work towards solutions that benefit the greater good.”
Is it working together on a community service project that everyone participates in and understands the importance of the work and the benefit to the community?
Is it having a participant rate the day a “10” on a 1-10 scale?
Is it knowing that a group of young adults had a brand new and unique life experience that will help positively shape their life as they move into full adulthood?
Is it educating young men about new career opportunities that they didn’t know existed and were excited to learn more about?
Is it watching a participant “step up” and take on a leadership role within his peer group?
Success shows up in a variety of ways, all of which are highly dependent on numerous variables. Many of those variables are beyond our control, yet nature is the one consistent variable that never fails to provide endless opportunities to help all of us grow regardless of our age. Webster’s attempts to define success as a “Favorable or desired outcome.” One could say that the outcomes we experienced today meet the definition of success. However, that doesn’t come close to touching the true depth and significant impact a positive and rich emotional/physical outdoor experience can have on a young adult. I continue to be amazed and grateful for the transformational power of outdoor experiential activities.
Much gratitude goes out to all those that made this day possible: Livia, Shawn, Brendan, Jim, Allyson and Bill and most importantly the young adults that made the effort to show up: Abben, Brandon, Cody, Jason, Richard and Trenton.