To be good neighbours, we do our best to give back to the community we live, work, and play in. But instead of being a drop in the bucket we want to support environmental and youth initiatives because we believe they’re integral in creating a better, more sustainable future.
It was pretty much a no brainer for us to connect with Take a Hike Youth at Risk Foundation. Started in 2000 by teachers who saw the value of outdoor experiential learning, Take a Hike has been using a unique holistic approach—combining Adventure Based Learning (anything from multi-day canoe trips to snowshoe treks), community volunteering, counselling and academics—to engage marginalized youth who are struggling in the traditional classroom setting.
We participate in their annual Trees 4 Teens challenge and had the awesome experience of planting trees in the mud and rain with the students.
As Take a Hike continues to grow and empower more youth to pursue an education and make positive changes in their lives, we were excited to hear that they’re expanding into our community this September! We got the chance to chat with Take a Hike’s CEO, Matthew Coyne, about bringing the program to Burnaby:
LCN: Hi Matthew. Congratulations on launching Take a Hike in Burnaby! As the program seems to be finding success and branching out further, what is your vision for this growth?
MC: Thank you! Our mission is to enable at-risk youth to positively change their lives. And our long-term vision is to be the North American leader at enabling communities to empower at-risk youth to achieve their full potential. Really, it’s our program’s four pillars that enables us to do this: Adventure Based Learning, therapy, academics and volunteerism in the community.
LCN: And for those not familiar with who is participating in the program, what sorts of situations or struggles are the teens coming in with?
MC: It’s an educational program for youth that haven’t found success in the mainstream school system and are at risk of dropping out of school or already have. Some students deal with drug and alcohol dependencies, mental health issues, challenges at home or with the justice system…really it’s a variety of students that we work with. But what they all have in common is that they haven’t been able to succeed in the conventional system. We provide an avenue for them to pursue their education in a more conducive way.
LCN: For sure. We’ve read the great testimonials of teens who have really benefited from their Take a Hike experience. For the teens that complete the program, what positive changes have there been?
MC: The real change I see is the self-confidence and efficacy. The fact that they understand they’re capable and deserving, and that pursuing a career is realistic and achievable. You see a difference in everything. It instills values of community, giving back, overall accountability and responsibility that they take for themselves. It also gives a sense of self-worth and purpose. We really make the connection to academics and school, which is something that they’ve lost. Of course graduation is a metric for us with 80 percent plus graduating where typically many of them wouldn’t otherwise be able. Another thing we noticed is the low turnover rate. When students do enroll, typically they continue their participation.
LCN: It seems that Take a Hike has had some amazing results with high graduation rates and we’ve heard of the teens doing hundreds of extra volunteer hours out of their own initiative. What do you think the students identify with in the program? What about it seems to resonate with them?
MC: I think the key element is the Adventure Based Learning component. Time each week is dedicated to it, and in addition we do multi-day expeditions that really help with developing those life skills and understanding who they are and their circumstances. The therapists also attend and support them. But none of the pillars are mutually exclusive. The therapists, teachers and youth workers all help build the communication skills, positive self-esteem and efficacy. In Adventure Based Learning, the students get a peer support network and foster relationships. It helps remove some of the barriers the students have created in their past, especially when you’re dealing with relationships with adults or teacher vs. student. Trust is such huge element in all of this. Until they’re able to trust our program staff, that’s when you see a real difference.
LCN: Well, we can’t wait for Take a Hike to join our community and create a partnership with our school district! What are your hopes for the Burnaby launch?
MC: We hope that there’s a full group of 20 students in our first year. We hope for a successful school experience for our students so that they not only continue and graduate and we also hope to develop the foundation for a long term sustainable program to support Burnaby’s educational offerings. This has been instrumental in the Vancouver and Kootenay programs in spreading awareness, and from the community awareness comes community and corporate support of this program. It really takes a community to support it. It’s a partnership between the foundation and the school district. We offer a lot outside of the school system. But therapy, outdoor opportunities and meal programs come at a cost – one that we hopefully will look to our generous community partners to support.
LCN: And are there opportunities for people to get involved?
MC: Definitely. We need community champions to help develop lower mainland engagement and donate time to support the promotion and the awareness of the program. The program’s success also relies on the support of volunteers—mentors for Adventure Based Learning activities, tutoring and the academics side. Also because of our program’s volunteer component, we need places where the students can work to volunteer and be exposed to potential career opportunities. It can be a variety of things from working in an office to hiking trail maintenance. And of course another way to get involved is through corporate support, donations and giving. Anything from direct donations to budget relieving opportunities, such as outdoor equipment donations. To get involved in any of these, simply go to the website and express interest to volunteer or for more info.
LCN: Well, we are definitely looking forward to getting more involved with Take a Hike this fall. Thanks for taking the time to chat with us, Matthew, and we’ll see you in the neighbourhood soon!