Update on Vet Program (10/2017):
In 2015 we brought together resources to pilot a military veteran mentorship of youth program. In 2016, we brought in a Master's in Social Work Candidate from USC with a veterans focus, and daughter of distinguished veterans herself, to help us develop curriculum for the vets mentor program. We had trouble identifying and recruiting. We then brought in a 5 year Marine Veteran for this purpose. We hoped the connections in the veteran community would result in those vet mentors for WYLD, but unfortunately we were unable to get vets out for various reasons. The vet coordinator did join us on most day hikes and did help guide on last summer’s Big Pine Creek trip, and we continue to collaborate with him, even though he is no longer a formal employee.
We are not giving up on this aspect of our organization and feel that WYLD would be a powerful fit for returning vets to mentor youth in their community, but we are removing the language from our mission and documents while we figure out our next steps. We would like to thank everyone who supported this particular aspect of our mission, and know that great headway was made in this endeavor, and we look forward to reintroducing it already up and running in the not-too-distant future. Our commitment to urban youth and outdoor ed continues to grow in exponential ways and is flourishing. Thanks everyone your commitment to getting youth in the outdoors.
WYLD’s aims to identify military vets from within the communities we serve to guide youth in the outdoors, and are encouraged to further mentor in our long-term Catapult program. Youth and veterans will work together on service learning projects, Leave No Trace ethos, recreation through hiking and backpacking, educating the community about access to the outdoors, and caring for the environment. We believe these groups have a lot to offer each other and their communities when given the opportunity to meet their highest potential. Moreover, both groups are often largely excluded from the wider conversation of timely environmental and social issues, and our programming aims to let them know that they are an integral part of the solution.
What’s it like?
Through participation, leadership by example, and team-building, veterans help youth by identifying strengths, aspirations, and dreams. Veteran mentors demonstrate there is no limit to what youth can achieve in life. Veterans help youth prepare for the future and engage communities. The program will assist veterans and youth to make milestone transitions from military to civilian life and from adolescence to adulthood, respectively. The mentor relationship will benefit the veterans through service to the youth, increasing a sense of purpose and community, and giving them a new mission back here at home. It will benefit the youth by providing a consistent adult mentor to lean on during transitional challenges, a reference for knowledge and skills, and an encouraging force throughout their formative school years.
The WYLD Catapult program offers the opportunity for a long-term mentorship engagement, incorporating experiential education, and investing in the interests and creative outlets of both veterans and youth. Catapult will give the veterans a new mission and a new purpose back here in civilian culture, and that is to mentor the youth. Veterans will also provide expert knowledge gained through their past service in areas of navigation, teamwork, survival skills and more, opening young eyes to a new world of discovery outside of their everyday classrooms.
How does it work?
WYLD employs a team mentorship model, where a group of a 2-3 veterans are matched with a cohort of 10-12 students. The relationships will be built during WYLD hikes, gardening, backcountry adventures, college support tutoring, career exposure, internship support and service learning. Each veteran provides support and guidance to their group and will stay with the same group of students as they advance from middle school all the way through high school.
Are you a U.S. military veteran interested in the program? We'd love to hear from you!