At Discovering Choices (DC), the path to graduating high school is flexible to allow each student to find the best way to prioritize their education.  Classes happen in the evening, weekends, during summer, and sometimes even half way up a mountain.  A new initiative called the Outdoor Leadership program takes students outside of the classroom and into the wild to help learn practical skills while developing their resiliency, leadership skills, and communication skills.

With the help of EducationMatters’ donors, more than 20 DC students were able to take part in the Outdoor Leadership program.  The opportunity was one that simply would not have been an option without outside investment; DC students have all experienced significant challenges in their lives to date and none of them have the means to fund an educational enhancement like the Outdoor Leadership program.

In February, the students stayed at the Canadian Rockies Outdoor Learning Centre where they practiced their winter skills in record-breaking snowfall. Activities include downhill skiing, first aid, avalanche training, and much more. The spring semester saw the students visit Bow Valley Provincial Park to practice their wilderness skills outside in the lovely May weather. There, they set up their tents to learn about outdoor survival, wilderness navigation, and wildlife research.

“The skills I learned were so useful and I know that they will come handy in the future.”-Talia, student participant

Outside of having fun and earning a collective total of 84 credits towards their graduation, the students found something else during their time outside of the city: “I was able to experience peace”.  For students with limited support networks, who are often working at least one full time job and constantly struggling to complete the high school courses that will help them open doors to a better life, a chance to see the world through a different lens is incredibly meaningful.  The students are working hard to build a future for themselves, and this experience is a great reminder of all the opportunities awaiting them after graduation.

These trips created excitement in the school community when the students returned, and there are plans to expand the program to include more students, better equipment, and an even broader impact. DC’s students are eagerly awaiting the next adventure, and we can’t wait to hear their stories when they return.