Imagine yourself, back in your high school years, some of your friends may be spending their spring break sleeping for 7-days-straight, the family vacationing to Mexico… and instead, you have been hoping to enter your adventurous, challenge zone. Well, you would have been joined by 7 other young leaders who took a chance and signed up to participate in a 3 day, 2 night trip to Estes Park, Colorado with two facilitators who were also ready for some service, and some adventure.
Our young leaders leapt into “service” and “adventure” on Day 1 with Estes Valley Watershed Coalition, where they served alongside 20+ WorldDenver youth ambassadors to fix elk closures and collect trash near the creek. And you better bet, we encountered the well-known Estes Park strong winds and sideways snow. According to WorldDenver, this collaboration was the highlight of their Denver program, because they had the opportunity to meet and work alongside local youth, while making a significant difference as a group, and overcoming the natural elements. One of the Denver high school juniors on the trip felt that working with World Denver, Tish Richards expressed, “it was really cool how we could all overcome barriers in language and see how even though we live in different countries, we had similar life experiences.”
After our service project and cultural immersion, the following day revolved around a snowshoe adventure partnership with 2 well-versed and passionate Rocky Mountain National Park Rangers, who led the young leaders through a series of games and challenges to teach mountain and avalanche safety. Need a guide on your next winter hike? Ask our students what the “10 mountain essentials” are to pack and bring them along to build you an emergency snow cave.
The trip was able to exceed student and facilitator expectations, thanks to the leadership qualities exhibited by each of the students and facilitated through the trip activities, utilizing qualities that ranged from appreciating diversity, to accountability and with a base of teamwork. The students seemed most inspired by their ability to challenge themselves, because each participant performed something new to them, from: snowshoeing for the first time, serving alongside Argentinean & Chilean students, to cooking a team-created meal of spaghetti, salad, garlic bread & brownies. Both, Tom Robinson and Manda Wittebort, as facilitators were able to share leadership roles with the young leaders. The facilitators led teambuilding activities, coordinated with 3 community partners and a welcoming bible-study school/lodge, and supported the leaders in their own leadership journey—goals, reflections and of course, fun. Tish Richards also shared that, “working together on cooking meals, playing games, and doing leadership activities really brought our group together. Everyone in our group was really positive which made it easy to share with the group and try things that might have been outside our comfort zone.”
We even had growth moments on the trip itself! Imagine, as a team of 7 students, half who have never snowshoed, your facilitators challenge you to lift a golf-sized ball using a silver washer that is connected to a set of strings, and as a team you must carry this ball using the tension between your strings, to the middle of the frozen Rocky Mountain National Park “Nymph Lake” to place it in a snow shovel. Feeling the “heat”? Well, our students, not only self-led themselves to complete this challenge but cut their time in quarters and then in halves, as they performed this task on snowshoes, then off snowshoes and up a set of stairs. (golf clap please)
Between our outdoor adventuring, providing a service to the local community, and while learning about each of our leadership styles and capabilities, our young leaders embraced the opportunity to explore a new way to lead.
They climbed, they snowshoed, they entered the adventure challenge zone.
Manda Nicole Wittebort
Colorado Young Leaders,
Denver Chapter Summit Guide
& RMNP Trip Facilitator