What does this look like? Nobody knows for sure, but Robin would like to see SOAP continue to create access to programming with youth who wouldn’t otherwise be able to participate in these courses without the referral and the scholarship.
“I would like for our mountain resort community to embrace the homegrown, tried and true programming that has worked for our mountain youth for years,” she says.
Desrosiers adds, “I couldn’t be more grateful to Robin, Jillian (Palacio), and the rest of the team. I admire them all for being able to arrange a trip like that. I can tell it took a massive amount of effort to be able to take a bunch of teenagers to places like that and have everything planned out step-by-step. They did a really great job of talking to us and helping us confront our issues, as well as just being friends with us and making us feel like we were in a safe place.”
While it is still too early to tell what the future holds for SOAP, one thing is for sure, evidence-based or not, this program changes lives. It changes the lives of its participants and staff alike, and that is what makes this program so special. It’s prototypical BOEC in so many ways.
“The people who are drawn to work there (BOEC) are special,” says Robin. “The places you go are special and the skills and opportunities each participant receives are special. But, the best part is the participants’ connections to the people, places, and things that BOEC connects them to their own selves and builds up their hopes and confidence in themselves.”
If Robin had her druthers, she would hire Harrison Ford to endorse SOAP because according to her, “there’s a little bit of Indiana Jones and Han Solo in each of the kids that have attended the course.” This manifests itself in the adventure-seeking, problem creating and solving, and the “joie de vivre” (joy of life) in each of them. But it’s the connections that ultimately matter in the end. The connection between youth and adult and the connection between the other participants on the course. These ever-changing adolescents spend 24 hours a day together with no safety net except for each other. They don’t have any rigid schedules to follow or books to learn from, just the day-to-day adventures as their teacher. It has worked wonders for 27 years, and Robin has been a part of it from the very beginning.
“What has kept me doing this for so long is the amazing transformation that happens to people when they are out in the wilderness,” she says. Nature is an amazing teacher that provides so many natural and timely consequences for our human actions. The impact it has on youth and the staff and the way it supports the building of relationships is just incredible and “life-changing”. What a gift it has been to me personally and professionally.”
“It will be one of those experiences that will stick with me forever,” says Desrosiers. “It taught me how to connect with my peers and I really saw myself come out of my shell and relearn how to communicate my feelings and ask for help. But most importantly, it reconnected me with nature and really made me appreciate how healing it could be.”
As we said in the beginning, nature heals.