The summer after my freshman year of high school, my best friend Casey and I decided to make a summer bucket list filled with things from bike around downtown to tube down Boulder Creek to climb a 14er. It was September and we had done just about every other thing on our list except for climb the 14er and the season was running out. This was when her mom suggested we join this volunteer club who was going to climb 14ers; we figured why not. So we showed up to a Starbucks in the rain and met the Denver chapter of CYL. I didn’t realize it then, but CYL and those 14ers we decided to climb would direct the course of my life up until now and beyond.
The rest of that year, I got involved in every way I could from volunteering with the elderly to a food justice scavenger hunt to organizing clothes for people in need; I did it all. And it was so fulfilling, yet I could feel that there was something missing. All of these things were fun and having a positive impact on the community, but they weren’t quite me. They were very valuable experiences that showed me what I do and don’t like and I am so grateful to the Mount Democrat summit for allowing me to explore all my options and for leading me to where I needed to be to set me on a path that I absolutely love.
Then in my junior year, I found rock climbing and was immediately hooked. It became my obsession and I was climbing four times a week and competing with other teens and living and breathing rock climbing. I had already fallen in love with backpacking, skiing, hiking and the outdoors in general, but it was all more of a hobby than anything. CYL showed me that I could take this hobby and use it to make an impact on my community, create a career around it, and save the planet. The more I got involved in volunteering with outdoor-oriented organizations, the more passionate I became about conservation and sustainability. One memory this brings back is my favorite service adventure of trail maintenance and climbing in Red Rock Canyon Park and Open Space. It was exhausting work involving a pick ax for 5 hours and we did not even end up climbing due to rain, but I was surrounded by people with a similar passion to me who were all committed to making a positive impact on the environment. It was beyond inspiring. The Mount Cameron and Mount Lincoln Summits I completed this year created a strong community around helping the planet and provided connections for me to further my love of the outdoors and adventure as I moved towards Mount Bross.
Senior year CYL has allowed me to combine leadership with helping the environment and getting others involved in such work. For example, we organized a weekend-long conference partnering with Volunteers for Outdoor Colorado, ELK, and other youth organizations working in environmental stewardship at which we did a morning of service and an afternoon of learning about environmental protection and related careers. I made some strong friendships there. My Mount Bross Summit took this a step further and took a group of high school peers and taught them team-building, problem-solving, and technical outdoor skills. I was able to take my passion and use it to empower other youth. I did this with an 18-week course that culminated in a high ropes course and outdoor climbing trip. The high ropes course was a chance to push comfort zones, experience challenge by choice, and work as a team, while the outdoor climbing trip was a chance to apply the technical skills and environmental principles we learned throughout the semester.
In the end, I had students telling me how our team felt like a second family to them and many said they wanted to follow in my footsteps through the leadership program at my school that I helped shape. I feel so fulfilled knowing that something I did gave other teens so much confidence, drive, and passion just like CYL did for me. Without CYL, I don’t know if I would be going into environmental engineering with a minor in leadership. I don’t know if I would be empowering other teens to become leaders. I don’t know if I would be the person I am today. But thanks to CYL I am. And I could not be happier with where I am going and the passion I have found. Thank you CYL.
Lauren G. Class of 2019