Through grant support from the Sierra Club, Big City Mountaineers (BCM) is excited to launch the Veteran Leadership Program in 2012! Partnering with the Military Families Outdoors program, this initiative will enable veterans to serve as role models to under-resourced urban youth on wilderness mentoring expeditions to instill critical life skills. Through the program, 10 veterans in the Rocky Mountain region will mentor under-resourced youth on week-long backpacking expeditions, gain wilderness skills to independently experience the outdoors following BCM expeditions, and return as mentors on future BCM wilderness programs.
BCM is a non-profit organization pairing under-served youth with supportive adult mentors in a 1:1 ratio on wilderness expeditions designed to change lives. Veterans will help youth improve integrity, self-esteem, responsibility, decision-making abilities and communication skills on the trail and in their communities. BCM has a proven track record of improving young peoples’ lives with:
- Increased likeliness to stay in school
- Reduction in violence
- Reduction in drug use
BCM is thrilled to announce that more kids than ever will be served in Colorado this summer, and we’re so happy to do so with the support of the military community. Military veterans broaden the pool of experiences of BCM volunteers, bring their knowledge and insight to disadvantaged youth, and are an important resource to teens that often do not have supportive role models at home. One BCM youth said of his experience: “I learned so much about myself, and how far I can push myself when things get difficult. The adult leaders helped me with issues I was having at home and gave me tools to use when I have a hard time.”
BCM developed the Veteran Leadership Program to utilize the strengths of returning veterans, and to call upon military community members to use their unique experiences to serve as mentors to under-resourced urban youth. The mentor and mentee relationship developed on expedition can be powerful and lasting. One BCM volunteer said of their experience, “I really enjoyed it. The irony, of course, is that the adults are supposed to support and inspire the youth, but I ended up feeling supported and inspired by them instead.
Through sequential programming, veteran participants residing in Colorado will embark on BCM expeditions to mentor youth, develop wilderness skills, experience healthy environmental recreation and gain appreciation for environmental protection and awareness. Using the wilderness as a classroom, veterans will experience the peace that outdoor experiences can provide, and share their life experiences and wisdom with under-resourced youth.
Collaborating with local Sierra Club partners, the program will foster an appreciation for nature, increase quality outdoor experiences and educational opportunities for the military community, and empower veterans to experience the wilderness on their own. Through support from the Sierra Club, BCM will achieve a lasting impact on veteran participants, connect urban youth to positive adult role models, and effect positive change in our shared communities. By imparting their knowledge of leadership, perseverance, respect and resiliency on our expeditions, veterans will become important role models for our kids and enhance the experience for all participants.
For more information, please contact Mitsu Iwasaki at [email protected]