Big City Mountaineers is eager to launch a new Veteran Leadership Program, in conjunction with the Sierra Club this season.
Partnering with the Military Families Outdoors Program, this initiative will enable veterans to join BCM’s week long backpacking expeditions, helping to provide positive wilderness experiences to under-resourced urban youth.
“I think that veterans have a unique perspective to offer our teens,” says BCM’s Rocky Mountain Program Director Elizabeth Williams. “We’re trying to use the outdoors as a tool for youth to learn teamwork, positive self-esteem, and how to overcome challenges, and then translate those lessons back to their homes, schools, and communities,” she adds.
BCM developed the Veteran Leadership Program to utilize the strengths of returning veterans, and to offer them the opportunity to mentor youth in a transformative wilderness setting. “Our program provides a one-to-one mentor to teen ratio, which creates unique relationships between our volunteers and the kids,” says Williams.
The Veteran Leadership Program, created through a grant from the Sierra Club, is designed to encourage Colorado veterans to enhance their outdoor skills while relating to under-served youth—many of whom have never experienced the wilderness. “It’s a cool way for veterans to get involved back in their communities and to share their stories with our teens,” says Williams.
“The veterans in this program are going to be gaining skills that they can use after their BCM experience as well,” adds BCM Development Associate Alex Kaney. “These are skills that they can take with them to go backpacking with their friends and families later on,” she says.
With the support of the Sierra Club, BCM is looking forward to connecting veterans with their youth. “I think there’s a cathartic element to being outdoors, and a lot of veterans have tons of wilderness experience,” says Williams. “This program simply encourages them to translate their military training into a back country setting.”
For more information about the Veteran Leadership Program or Big City Mountaineers, contact Elizabeth Williams at 303-271-9200 ext. 406 or visit www.bigcitymountaineers.org.