Teaching Leadership Through Adventure

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The Redwoods Group

Posted by The Redwoods Group on December 1, 2014

Teens become leaders on a summer-long wilderness adventure into Canada and Alaska, through a unique program of Camp Manito-wish YMCA.


The camp's 45-day Expeditionary trips are the culmination of the Outpost Program, a progressive series of outings that grow in duration and difficulty with every year of participation. Only the most experienced campers are invited to participate in the capstone journeys, in which single-gender groups of five or six teens, with two leaders, trek through rugged terrain of North America’s natural areas via sea kayak, canoe or on foot.
 The challenge of small group dynamics for an extended period offers rich opportunity for growth. “Often these are the only humans they’ll run into for 45 days,” explains Executive Director Anne Derber. “Whether it’s raining or snowing or the mosquitoes are horrendous, everyone has to learn how to live and work together. They learn how to lead, follow and make decisions as a group, keeping in mind safety and the work to be done.”

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The personal transformation at the end of the trips is visible,” says Derber. “These young people come back and they wear their confidence well. They’re articulate and passionate. They show a level of independence and self-reliance that emerged when they were put in a role that brought out their resilience.” Parents tell Derber that their teens are better prepared for the transition to college because they have made real-life decisions under intense conditions, and have learned to live with other people.

They paddle, portage, set up camp and cook their own food. It might rain the whole time and we’re not going to bring them in, unless there’s a safety concern.” Experiences like these, says Derber, prepare campers to surmount greater challenges.

Program participants have gone on to succeed in a variety of career paths. “We’ve got a long list of accomplished alums. Governors, congressmen, teachers, physicians, camp directors, attorneys–it’s so cool to see what these young leaders have gone on to do.”

Manito-wish, in Boulder Junction, Wisconsin, has provided kids with character and leadership building opportunities through wilderness experiences for 96 years, with families returning for as many as four generations. 

For more information on Camp Manito-wish and all of their Outpost wilderness trips, please visit their website.

Categories: Camp

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