One hundred percent of the trip leaders are trained from the program. They have been through the process and want to give back. Most importantly, they can relate because they've been there themselves.
The brief, three and a half weeks experience is an investment in community building, for participants will learn the benefits of working with others toward a shared goal.
This is the purpose of the Deepwater Project, an experiential education program based in Westport, which provided scholarships for Adirondack youth to participate in such life-altering experiences.
Since 2001, Deepwater has provided more than 300 scholarships to deserving students. Program director, Elizabeth Lee of Westport, explained the criteria for scholarship selection, "We look for youth with leadership qualities, with the potential to take what they learn in the program and bring it back to their communities."
"The hardships of wilderness travel form a bond among the group as they learn to work together. They learn about stewardship of the land, environmental awareness and their own potential."
But why send our youth so far away, can't they get the same experience in the wilds of the Adirondacks?
"That's a key component of the journey", explained Lee. "They are out of their element and learning to expand their comfort zone. Also, the travel is too distant to just back out. For many, those three and a half weeks away are a key to their eventual success."
"It was one of the greatest experiences of my life," explained Daniel, a 17-year old-camper. "Not only was it fun and beautiful to be out in the wilderness, but I learned countless skills and learned that I am capable of dealing with unexpected circumstances."
Removed from familiar environs, participants learn to cope with a variety of stresses ranging from strenuous portages to clouds of bugs to interpersonal communications. They learn new means of relating to others and further develop leadership qualities. In many cases, these potential leadership traits were the determining factors in their initial referral for a scholarship opportunity.