Trial by wilderness |

Trial by wilderness

Reid Williams

FRISCO – A week of rafting, climbing, ropes courses and canoeing was tiring enough for Kate Chapman. But two hours of blindness showed her just how hard it could have been.

Chapman, a Silver Shekel resident who just finished her sophomore year at Summit High School, will complete the first phase of Wilderness Outreach camp today, along with five other teens.

The camp is a pilot program being tested by the Breckenridge Outdoor Education Center and trains young adults in wilderness experiences while giving them leadership coaching. The camp is modeled after the BOEC’s internship program, which mentors 21-year-olds (and older) looking to work with the center’s adaptive outdoor education programs.

In addition to learning the dos and don’ts of the recreational activities, the teens are challenged to lead activities and are introduced to the special-needs populations the center serves. Chapman and others, for example, spent Wednesday evening working with a program for brain-injury victims. They followed up the encounter with a “disability dinner,” in which each camper was given a disability.

“I had only 5 percent vision,” Chapman said, describing the sunglasses covered with duct tape she was forced to wear while cooking and cleaning up after dinner. “I don’t know how people really do it – the people we met were so positive. We were exhausted. It was a huge eye-opener.”

The group spent Friday morning kayaking at the Frisco Marina. The teens definitely had fun, but they also were learning about leadership, group dynamics and interpersonal skills. Chapman explained that each camper sets goals for the week – what they want to learn, what they want to accomplish, etc. The campers take turns being “leader of the day,” and are responsible for getting the group going in the morning and organizing their attempts to finish the day’s challenges.

“I’ve done most of these things before,” said Andrew Ehrmann, a classmate of Chapman’s at Summit High. “But that was with friends. This is new. I’m learning people skills: about negotiating conflicts, how to handle different opinions. It’s great experience.”

The teens will “graduate” from the first phase of the camp today. Their “final exam” will consist of putting their leadership knowledge to use by leading their parents through an outdoor education exercise. The second phase of the camp, said leader Lisa Canterbury, will be to place the counselors-in-training with another week-long camp offered by the BOEC.

“You can only do so much in seven days, so we try to raise their awareness while giving them the basics of the outdoor stuff,” Canterbury said. “Then they’ll come back and work with a group like the brain injury program.”

BOEC outreach coordinator Cindy Wetherald said she hopes to see the program grow in coming years. Wetherald said the idea for the program came from the coordinators of the adult internship program, who saw a growing interest from high school students. Wetherald said the camp trains young leaders who gain from the experience while giving back to the community.

“It’s a neat concept,” Wetherald said. “It sort of takes experiential learning full-circle by training the students to become leaders themselves.”

For more information about Wilderness Outreach or other BOEC programs, e-mail Wetherald at or call (970) 453-6422.

Reid Williams can be reached at (970) 668-3998 ext. 237 or

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