Both in the classroom and out in the wilderness, students reflect on the ongoing questions, “Who are you, who do you want to be, and how can Project Success help you navigate those questions?” When in nature, students are liberated from the distracting influence of their cellphones, technology, and the expectations of their daily lives, thus allowing them to connect with their peers, with the wilderness, and with themselves. With our PS programming students are free to be curious, to explore and to contemplate those introspective questions, all while having fun, gaining new memories, challenging themselves and discovering new passions that may connect them to their purpose!
Students Explore the Boundary Waters
This summer, close to 200 Project Success (PS) Minneapolis Public Middle School students seized the opportunity to explore the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness (BWCA) with fellow middle school students from across the district. This summer’s PS Boundary Waters experience was our largest one yet! In June, Project Success took 27 groups of seven students and two staff for week-long trips to Minnesota’s BWCA where they had the opportunity to venture in parts of the million+ acres of government-protected wilderness. Students canoed in pristine lakes, hiked wooded trails, slept in tents and learned how to cook meals over a fire, all while making minimum impact on our environment. They navigated through and persevered in all types of weather conditions and various challenges through great teamwork, leadership, self-determination and respect for their peers. In addition, students swam in fresh clean lakes, scouted for animals, explored and stretched their creative minds which often led to impromptu singing and boisterous laughter! In the BWCA, students cultivated friendships, learned new skills, and gained confidence and experience in goal-setting, self-discovery, and teamwork within the beautiful bounds of nature!
The positive changes in our students once they return from their trip are immediately noticed by their loved ones. One parent shared,
“My student has come back a new kid and I mean that in a good way!! He’s expressed he feels more confident since the trip, and I can see such an improvement in his confidence only two days later!! I am, we are, forever grateful for this experience!!!
Apostle Islands, Accessible Camping Experiences for Our Young Explorers
This July, for the first time in Project Success history, we took eight MPS middle school students to the Apostle Islands National Lakeshore in Wisconsin. Partnered with Wilderness Inquiry, PS focused on providing accessible outdoor adventure opportunities for our PS students who would otherwise not be able to engage in such experiences. This exploration was designed for students who may need additional support. From hiking trails to kayaking through sea caves and over shipwrecks in Lake Superior, students had a chance to experience the outdoors in a new and exciting way.
Former PS Facilitator Kenny Nguyen returned for this trip as Support Staff for our students. He shared on his experience working with students in the Apostle Islands:
“I thought the trip was incredible. It was nice letting students experience the outdoors, especially students with adaptive needs. The staff we worked with was incredible and were able to create an experience for the students that was authentic and challenging.”
High Schoolers Challenge Themselves in the Beartooth Mountains
In another first for Project Success, this July nine PS high school students had the opportunity to explore the outdoors while backpacking in Montana and Wyoming’s Beartooth Mountain Range.
This expedition was a great opportunity for our young explorers to build upon existing skills and interests regarding nature and teamwork. Several of our students who partook in this trip had also experienced the BWCA with Project Success when they were in middle school. But many students have had limited opportunities to camp since attending a BWCA trip with Project Success. While a handful had done some camping before, a backpacking trip was new to all participants. “Students were hungry for a similar experience.” Project Success Major Gifts Officer Madilynn Garcia, who facilitated the trip with PS Outdoor Adventures Associate Josh Mchenry, shared, “the opportunity to be outside and in nature and to do something challenging is what brought [students] to this trip.” She also shared that students’ initial nervous exterior at the beginning of the hike, quickly morphed into excitement for every aspect of camping.
Wilderness Inquiry guides, who have worked in Colorado and Yellowstone, marveled at the exceptional stamina, determination, and go-to attitude of our students throughout the trip. Students were eager and passionate to take in all that nature had to offer, including watching shooting stars in the evenings, hiking during the day, maintaining the campsite, and waking up at 5 am to watch the sunrise together (an early-morning decision they made on their own). As with all Project Success outdoor adventure programming, students had the ability to step outside of their normal day-to-day and marvel at what nature had to offer, respect the land they were navigating, make meaningful relationships, and learn more about themselves.
Thanks to the determination and support of the PS team, especially Outdoor Adventures & Global Experiences Program Manager Jenny Battan and Outdoor Adventures Associate Josh McHenry, our lovely PS volunteers, our partnership with the Wilderness Canoe Base and Wilderness Inquiry, and our donors for making these trips possible!