Our flagship program, Catapult, aims to mentor youth and keep them engaged in wilderness and career-interest opportunities through the long haul-- members join in middle school and stick with us through high school. 

We foster the abilities of participants by matching cohorts (groups) of 10-20 students with mentors that help them organize outdoor excursions, both local and distant, and who can also guide them to people, organizations and resources that will help them gain experiences in their preferred fields of study.

So what exactly does it mean to be a youth in Catapult? 


Click on the links to jump to section:

  1. Farm to Forest Garden

  2. Military Veteran Mentorship

  3. Backcountry Rite of Passage

  4. Career Exposure

  5. Service Learning

  6. Junior Ranger (Peer to Peer        Mentorship)

Send in your questions about Catapult

Students begin their adventures with our annual camping trip Mono Lake trip and complete the program as high school seniors. Along the way, participants become leaders who take ownership of their environment, community, themselves, education and future careers. Catapult also incorporates US military veterans into this five year engagement as community mentors. Youth and veterans will work together on service learning projects, Leave No Trace ethos, recreation and leadership through hiking and backpacking, access to the outdoors, and caring for the environment, their communities, and each other.

Through the years Catapult participants challenge themselves and gain experience by climbing mountains.




Farm-to-Forest Garden

This edible classroom at Carver Middle School is a firm introduction to Catapult’s fundamental concepts: wilderness, youth, leadership, and diversity. While they are on the “farm," students learn about nutrition & exercise, plant science, and service to others as they help choose what to plant, how to maintain the garden, enjoy the harvest, and share their work with their peers, families, and larger communities. 

Farm-to-forest students are invited to monthly hikes in the mountains surrounding Los Angeles. During a brand-new hike each month, students learn to appreciate nature as they become more familiar with the sights and sounds of the wyld. 




Photo: Students show off the "farm" harvest... they took 30 lbs of radishes home from the school garden that day!



A Word from Latasha Buck, Principal of Carver Middle School...

"Every week, students look forward to working in the garden and watching the fruits of their labor literally grow -- corn, pumpkins, herbs, flowers, etc! The garden reinforces community as our students share the garden's gifts with our staff and families.

Not only are our students learning about how to take care of our earth, but they are taking pride in the work they are doing in the garden. Our garden is also a space for our parent volunteers to give back to the school in a way that is accessible and fulfilling to them."

Military Veteran Mentorship

WYLD’s mission is to connect urban youth and military veterans with WYLDerness experiences that foster personal growth. Veterans often return home and seek opportunities to integrate their skill sets and passion for service in civilian life. At WYLD, they help students develop navigation skills, physical endurance, survival skills, teamwork, cooperation, and determination. Many veterans also come from the same communities that WYLD students are from.

How does it work? One veteran is matched with a group of 5 Catapult students. During WYLD hikes, backcountry adventures, and other field trips, each veteran provides support and guidance to his assigned group in coordination with the WYLD staff. They help plan, prepare, and execute all activities. 

For more information on this program component, visit our Veterans section.


WYLD's Veteran Program Manager, Atem (second to the left), poses with other WYLD staff in celebration of hiking to a waterfall!

Backcountry Rite of Passage

The backcountry call to adventure is the capstone to Catapult members' time in middle school. This trip provides access to a fun challenge alongside the peers they've been with in WYLD since 6th grade. The challenge, sometimes well-understood through the metaphor of hiking a mountain, provides an opportunity to achieve heights and overcome obstacles that previously seemed insurmountable. Participants will enjoy the scent of the pine trees, tell stories over campfires, sleep under a starry night, and wade in alpine lakes. It's a beautiful setting for reflection and learning on their accomplishments thus far and what comes ahead. Once they return from the trip, participants will be a few weeks away from beginning high school and will be exposed to career paths related to their newly-developed passions. Past backcountry trips have brought kids to the alpine rivers of the Eastern Sierra Mountains, but may also include the Angeles National Forest, San Bernardino, San Jacinto, Joshua Tree and more.


Carrying your world on your own back... and feeling confident and comfortable while doing it!

Career Exposure

In addition to outdoor experiences designed to strengthen a student’s awareness of their abilities, WYLD aims to expand upon those abilities by supporting youth in their career and educational interests. WYLD encourages youth to seek and push for their dreams, recognizing that different opportunities will best serve different students.  WYLD will offer these services in partnership with other nonprofits and programs.  Our commitment is to provide exposure and opportunities for youth, including:

  • Addressing the interest of the participant and offer guidance, transportation, exposure and assistance in gaining access to resources, companies, people and internships.

  • Assistance with college and university entrance processes, including communication, applications, financial aid forms, grants, and assistance with required essays.

  • Internships and job opportunities in fields such as engineering, clean/green tech, forestry, or any other area of interest expressed by the participant.


Service Learning

Service-learning, in the words of the national Service Learning Clearing House, “is a teaching and learning strategy that integrates meaningful community service with instruction and reflection to enrich the learning experience, teach civic responsibility, and strengthen communities.” At WYLD leadership is a main component of service learning, and projects are identified, designed and carried out by youth with support from their mentors. Projects can be a year or many years long, depending on the interest of the students and needs of the community.


WYLD 7th graders learned about the importance of water conservation at the Catalina Environmental Leadership Program.

Junior Ranger (Peer to Peer Mentorship)

This feature allow older WYLD participants to mentor younger WYLD cohorts. A junior ranger is a peer leader who assists in education, guiding, and development of day hikes and even backcountry expeditions.


The Junior Ranger responsibilities include:


  • Motivating other youth to attend a day hike or expedition.

  • Speaking at orientation meetings and sharing experiences with families and prospective participants.

  • Planning and scouting trips with cohort members and for younger participants.

  • Participating in the pre-trip planning of their own and other trips.


  In the WYLDerness:

  • Teaching navigation and other facets of the hiking program to younger participants.

  • Maintaining a positive attitude, following and shadowing the directions of the instructor.

  • Teach and support other participants with tent set up, gear functions, and general equipment usage.

  • Explain and guide activities, games, and journaling.


Varsity Rangers who have ‘graduated’ from junior rangers, who wish to design their own expeditions will:

  • Choose a location for an expedition, such as Haleakala National Park in Hawaii, or even just a day hike.

  • Identify participants to work with.

  • Design itinerary, activities, learning objectives, and identify least one service project.

  • Compute and complete budgets, including travel, park fees, food expenses, etc.

  • Fundraise and manage all business aspects of the trip.

  • Complete all pre-trip paperwork and logistics

  • Complete all post-trip paperwork and reflections.

  • Share expedition highlights and accomplishments with the community.



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