I have been working for InnerRoads Wilderness Program for the past three months. InnerRoads was founded in 2001 and operated on its own before partnering with the Youth Homes in 2005. The purpose of InnerRoads, as outlined in its mission statement, is to help teenagers “change direction, find motivation, build self-worth and insight, develop interpersonal skills, and better understand the connection between their actions and consequences.” Struggling teens are often offered a variety of therapy choices that might resemble a visit to the doctor. However, in this program students have the opportunity to go on a backpacking trip for about a month! During an InnerRoads trip students are exposed to many backcountry living skills while simultaneously being challenged to reflect on where they’ve come from and see what changes need to be made in their habits or actions to take them where they want to go in life.
My main task this semester was to put together a field guide for InnerRoads students. Up until this April, there were a series of handouts and loose papers that were given to students upon their arrival in the program. First, I complied the documents containing the field activities and journal prompts. After formatting and arranging them in one document, I was tasked with writing a narrative to help guide students through the four main phases of the program. This was the most fun and difficult piece of my work because I had to translate directions meant for instructors into something that would make sense to students. Aside from putting together the field guide, myself and the two other interns worked on organizing logistics for InnerRoads. This would usually entail cleaning and fixing packs, organizing the gear shed, and I also had the opportunity to help with a gear fitting for one of this year’s students.
Over the past couple years I’ve been trying to figure out what kind of work I want to be doing after I graduate. I am obviously interested in being outside as much as possible, but it has been a challenge to decide exactly what I want to be doing. At this point I’m settled on outdoor education or wilderness therapy. I’ve participated in several field courses as a student and an intern, but working behind the scenes for a program that focuses only on wilderness therapy was new to me. I think the most important part of this experience for me was learning about what kind of language to use with kids who are struggling. Some students may have not even traveled into Wilderness before, so it is challenging to be clear about Leave No Trace philosophy or safety procedures without being too commanding or overbearing in a way that might cause students to ignore you.
This internship was a great way to finish Wilderness and Civ. After learning so much about Wilderness travel, philosophy, policy, and management, my internship with InnerRoads provided me with an excellent environment for applying what I had learned and allowed me to practice teaching these ideas to others. I am excited to continue developing my own Wilderness skills as well as continue teaching others about how to take care of Wilderness and themselves.