Dropping Into The Wild: Cottonwood Institute Teams Up With Colorado Youth For A Change

Meet A TreeThe Cottonwood Institute had an amazing opportunity to work with Colorado Youth for a Change (CYC) during a four day program. Led by Cottonwood Institute instructors Deb and Jessi, the program began with two day hikes and culminated in an overnight backpacking trip at White Ranch Open Space Park outside of Golden, Colorado.  Colorado Youth for a Change is a nonprofit in Denver that works collaboratively with school districts throughout the state to provide outreach and recovery services for high school dropouts.  CYC reengages hundreds of young people who have dropped out of high school and provides support for up to a year after students have re-enrolled in high school.

In early August the Cottonwood Institute provided an enrichment program for CYC students titled “The Nature of Music and Survival.”  Students expressed the following reasons for wanting to participate in this program:  to have fun, build community, meet new friends and “clear their head” before classes began.  Eight high school students accompanied by two CYC staff enjoyed connecting to the natural world, developing their leadership and communication skills, community activities, games and introductions to survival skills all while exploring the natural world just minutes from downtown Denver.  Among the highlights of the day trips and camping trip were building traps, creating survival shelters, making friction fires, whittling, cooking dinner over an open fire, challenging their minds, pushing their bodies, and connecting with each other and the natural world. Literally hours were spent White Ranchimmersed in the natural world as they explored, camped and discovered all kinds of things including finding themselves sitting alone in silence.  One student, Rebbecka noticed, “[The course] taught me to be a little more patient with life. Everything takes time to grow and evolve into something. Just like the little bushes that turn into enormous pine trees.” These inspiring young adults shared some great laughs and wonderful conversations. Even the CYC staff gained new insight from the program. Amy, the CYC Youth Leadership Coordinator reflected, “What an awesome experience! I really hope to continue a CYC-Cottonwood partnership. I am amazed by the adaptability and emphasis on youths’ unique interests and personalities. What an incredible sense of community in a short period of time. You really helped each of our youth feel like they belong. Thank you!”

Bow DrillThe last day was capped off by a thunderstorm – a reminder that a learning adventure is around every corner.  “It takes courage to push yourself to places that you have never been before.”  Hats off to CYC students for going to places that they had never been before!

Written by Deb Kulcsar, edited by Katie Craig

Thanks to CYC, Cottonwood Institute donors and supporters, and everyone who helped make this memorable journey possible!

View more photos of “The Nature of Music and Survival” by clicking here!

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