Teens prepare for immediate leadership roles at Outdoor Education Center
LARKSPUR – A group of high school students are setting an impressive example of what Douglas County School District’s tagline (Learn Today, Lead Tomorrow) means. The group is now prepared to assist with hundreds of sixth graders at the Douglas County Outdoor Education Center (DCOEC).
Recently, 75 Douglas County teens, representing every high school in Douglas County, gave up one of the last Saturdays of summer break to go through leadership training at the DCOEC.
DCSD Student Wellness Coordinator Staci McCormack says it’s a day that the Center’s staff looks forward to all year long. “This day is a day that so many of us truly live for. It’s life changing for the kids,” McCormack said.
In a few short weeks, training participants will play a key role at the Center, supporting the younger students, some of whom have never been away from home before.
The High School Leads will act as mentors, nurturing the younger kids so they can focus on the many academic lessons to be learned.
During the daylong training, the Leads went to several sessions, learning everything from how the bunkhouses will work, to discussions on the many issues that adolescents may be facing, to games that keep the attention of a sixth-grader. Throughout the day the focus was either on safety, or how students will utilize the 4 C’s (Critical Thinking, Creativity, Communication and Collaboration).
For instance, each of the high school students had the opportunity to experience the Center’s zip line and learn the required safety protocol. The zip line is one of several activities that allow students to experience things they can’t do in the classroom—like facing physical fear or taking measured risks, all in a safe environment.
All high school students were invited to apply for these positions, which will provide invaluable leadership experience, as well as community service hours. McCormack says participation in the program is not limited to teens with prior leadership or community service experience.
“We have so many students that are already in leadership roles. They’re really, really achieving at high levels. We also have a lot of developmentally appropriate students who are trying to find their way in the world. We are intentionally recruiting those kids as well—kids who have never been recognized as a leader, who have never had the opportunity to step into that position, and kids who aren’t really sure what their passions and talents are.”
McCormack says they have intentionally worked to bring a group of high school students together that reflects a variety of personality types and skills, as well as the entire school community they represent.
“It’s so important to have an eclectic representation, because this is representative of what our society looks like,” McCormack said. “We are not all gifted in the same areas. We do not all bring the same backgrounds; we do not all have the same struggles. This is like a real mini-society. When they’re out here they learn that it takes all types of us to be leaders, so we can lean on one another, so we can support one another and we can learn from each other.”
“What’s so beautiful about this is that the kids walk away at the end of the day being connected to other students that they would have never even met,” she added. “Their circles don’t cross on a typical day. We’ll have students, maybe the kid that’s thinking about dropping out of high school, playing games and developing a team with a student who is looking at scholarships. At the end of the day, the one that said they thought they were going to drop out, says ‘I’m a leader, I’m going to hang in there.’ It’s really powerful.”
It is only appropriate that after such a big day of learning and new experiences that the entire staff and the new High School Leads gather for a big celebration.
“The adrenaline is through the roof until 8:30 p.m. when we’re singing and dancing and celebrating around campfire,” McCormack said.
High school students interested in volunteering at the Outdoor Education Center should contact Staci McCormack, (303) 387-0087, and request an application form.