Outdoor learning for Jersey City Teens
Team Wilderness is a national nonprofit organization that uses an experiential educational model to teach urban teenagers teamwork, leadership, and character.
Team Wilderness is the only wilderness experiential education organization offering programs focusing specifically on Hudson County’s most underserved youth. Their programs are affordable for all income levels, since they cater to the youth from the community, they help positively impact the community itself.
The mission of Team Wilderness is to grow teamwork, leadership, and character within the urban youth through wilderness excursions. To achieve their mission, Team Wilderness emphasizes striving to be E.T.H.I.C.A.L. in the wilderness and reflecting on its application to life. They are firm believers in Wilderness Therapy and the data shows that it is good for all teens, especially urban ones. They hope to help teens be their best self and live a healthy and balanced life through mental and physical challenges.
Helping Teens Build a Culture of Health
For Team Wilderness a Culture of Health means nurturing among Jersey City’s teens the ability and desire to recognize what is necessary to be your best self and live a healthy and balanced life. This incorporates both being physically active and fostering support for your own mental health. In alignment with HealthierJC principals, Team Wilderness centers on creating a challenging and fun environment that helps teens remove their fear of leaving their comfort zone, and the joy of discovering new passions. This all happens in the wilderness, a place entirely unfamiliar to most city teens.
Team Wilderness builds a Culture of Health in Jersey City by taking disadvantaged teens out of their comfort-zone and into the wilderness. Through mental and physical challenges, teens recognize what is necessary to be their best self and live a healthy and balanced life.
Team Wilderness Adventures
Team Wilderness used the HealthierJC mini-grant to focus on the physical and mental health of teens, taking dozens of Jersey City teens on empowering outdoor adventures throughout 2020. The entry and exit surveys for these trips reveal that for most of these teens it was their first hiking experience ever, and feedback was universally positive.
Specifically, Team Wilderness combined both funds from HealthierJC and Jersey City’s Department of Community Development in order to provide transportation to a total of 36 children for 3 events which included a pick-up location in each ward, as well as organize set activities for teens to get more physically active.
Pre-Covid, Team Wilderness organized a Martin Luther King Day of Service event that included Jersey City residents. A group primarily made up of teens volunteered on a frigid January morning to clear out invasive plants from Liberty State Park. This was not only good exercise but an opportunity to help clean up a park that serves their own community.
Despite the challenges of Covid-19 pandemic, Team Wilderness held two events in the summer of 2020. When they surveyed the participants they found that one third of the teens that participated said it was their first time they had been physically active in months. Another one third reported that before joining Team Wilderness, they were physically active no more than once a month. Therefore, with the combination of these two mini-grants, these teens were able to get more physical activity by not only leaving their houses, but exploring through different hikes the importance of nature for health, developing leadership and teamwork skills.
As an example of teamwork, during one of these hikes, a participant who was a 17 year old girl, tripped and hit her knee against a boulder. While not severely injured, it hurt for her to move and they found out later that it was a deep contusion that would lead to a week with crutches. However, they still had 2 miles remaining in the hike and it included a descent of several hundred feet. The rest of the group rallied to support her by carrying her backpack, encouraging her, and making her laugh when she needed it. At the end of the excursion, she was still smiling and the entire group bonded together. So despite difficulties, Team Wilderness will always try to make the best out of any situation, prioritizing health and teamwork.
After this event, Team Wilderness checked in with her to see how she was healing. She said that she would still do it all over again and could not wait to try hiking a second time. In conclusion, despite this tragically accident, the main products of the reporting period were still empowering outdoor day-hikes and outdoor volunteering.
Team Wilderness has organized yoga hikes in the past and intend to do them again in the future. Since obtaining this grant, they were able to post a MLK Day of Service at Liberty State Park and a Summer Hike on the Healthier JC events calendar, as these notifications hope to lead to an even bigger impact in the future.
Moving forward, Team Wilderness seeks to collaborate with HealthierJC to conduct more mental health awareness and learning activities for the Jersey City community.