Working with youth is nothing new for Mike Anderson. Mike has been coaching for 30 years, teaching for 23, and also volunteers as a Boy Scout leader. When a student saw the Backpacker Magazine on his desk just over a year ago and asked why they didn’t have a club that did outdoor stuff, Mike saw an opportunity. Being an outdoor enthusiast himself and knowing the positive impact that the outdoors can have on people he loved the idea. Making the idea a reality was the first challenge.
Mike headed to the Internet and started doing research on outdoor youth development programs. A number of different organizations proved to be very helpful in helping him start his program: T3-Teens to Trails, the Appalachian Mountain Club, and Outdoor Outreach to name a few. It was through Chris Rutgers from Outdoor Outreach that Mike was introduced to TYO and invited early on to be part of the pilot test group.
“TYO has given me confidence in running my program and reinforcement that we are on the right track.” – Mike Anderson
Using his experience in the school system and local community, Mike got to work making things happen. The school board approved the insurance and transportation request and they were off, the Grinnell H.S. Outdoor Adventure Program was created. While the club is available to any interested student, there is an effort to reach out to students who are considered at risk and may have not found a good fit with the school’s other clubs or team sports. Students who can pay for the outings are charged a nominal fee to cover costs and there is financial assistance for students who need it. 45 students have participated in outings and this group is spilt almost evenly between girls and boys.
Mike realized with this many interested students he was going to need some help. Reaching out to nearby colleges resulted in mutually beneficial partnerships. Partnering with two local college outdoor programs has not only created great teaching and mentor opportunities for the college students, but is exposing the high school students to how “cool” college can be. Students participating in the outings are learning character building qualities, leadership skills, and the importance of team building all while rock climbing, backpacking, hiking, and paddling.
As his program has grown, Mike has looked to various TYO content topics for help with areas such as curriculum development and fundraising support. Mike shared that the easy to use organization and layout of the site have made finding information simple and has him coming back weekly. He looks forward to connecting with other TYO members, as his experience has shown that often the conversations with like-minded colleagues produce great ideas.
We at TYO wish Mike lots of success and look forward to seeing his program grow and flourish in the years to come.