Success Stories

TrueCourse1TYO Member Mike Valler works as a Case Manager assigned to a 2nd Chance Juvenile Court. Using his years of experience working with youth organizations and teaching Positive Youth Development Frameworks, Mike is developing a program using the outdoors to bring life-skills to the at-risk youth he works with.

Using TYO to focus on the business side of things, such as creating a plan and vision for his nonprofit, has been Mike’s focus. He knows first hand that it takes more than passion to create a sustainable program and that having a strong foundation is essential to its success. We were inspired by the work that Mike is doing and wanted to share his story.

Mike is a former Marine, an avid hiker/camper and backpacker, and member of the Appalachian Mountain Club’s YOP Program (Youth Opportunities Program) that focuses on taking urban youth outdoors, and has been actively working with at-risk youth for over 11 years.

TrueCourse2TrueCourse2Mike started taking youth, who he was working with in the Juvenile Court, outdoors on day hikes to build a connection and help get them back on the right track through mentoring. After some great success getting the kids out of the courtroom and into the outdoors, and with the support of local judges and the Juvenile Court, Mike is establishing a new nonprofit organization called “True Course – Youth Outdoor and Empowerment Program.”

The philosophy behind the True Course name comes from a term that’s used in Aviation, Sea and Land Navigation. It refers to your course after all corrections from outside sources are accounted for resulting in your actual true course to your destination. Mike is developing 10-12 lessons/modules for his program in which kids will learn various life skills via the outdoors.

TYO has been a great resource for Mike’s major challenge: developing a sustainable program. While True Course is just getting started, the tools found in TYO have helped them develop a business plan, create their program model and other important aspects of their organization development. The fact that Mike didn’t have to re-create the wheel was “immeasurable and priceless” for him.

“The benefits of TYO are endless…document andvVideo resources, social connections, articles, etc. I also foresee a huge benefit as the community grows creating the opportunity to come together on important topics related to advocating for youth and the outdoors.” -Mike Valler, True Course

When asked what has been the most useful part of TYO, Mike shared that the learning paths, which lead to various resources (videos, documents etc.) all related to a specific learning objective, have been invaluable. He also is looking forward to the ability to discuss obstacles, what works, what doesn’t work with others within the TYO community.

Do you have an inspirational story like Mike’s? Send us an email at