Many young people in Boston have little or no access to the outdoors. For youth of color or low socioeconomic status, access is even more limited with additional hurdles such as a lack of diversity in the outdoors, expensive equipment, and a scarcity of affordable transportation to green spaces.
Youth Enrichment Services (YES), a Boston non-profit, helps level the playing field by giving urban youth the opportunity to experience new outdoor activities in a safe, supportive environment. In the Outdoor Adventure program, youth gain a new set of skills in the outdoors, increase their self-confidence, and acquire a life-long appreciation of outdoor physical activity.
This year, an exciting new component was added to the Outdoor Adventure summer program. In the week-long Berkshire Explorers session, youth spend five days at YES’s historic Swann Lodge in the Berkshire Mountains. “My favorite part of the summer is going to Swann Lodge in the Berkshires with YES,” says 10-year-old Dorchester youth, Selena. Throughout the week, youth learn how to read maps, navigate trail systems, and work together as a team. Youth also experience new outdoor activities such as fly-fishing and zip lining. At the end of the week, young people are tested with a series of outdoor challenges.
10-year-old Ciaran participated in the Berkshire Explorers program this summer. “I did a lot of things I didn’t think I could do because I thought they were too hard or too scary,” he said. “It was super fun and all the staff were really helpful in helping me do hard things.”
For urban youth like Selena and Ciaran, their week at Swann Lodge is the first time they had traveled away from home. After their time in the great outdoors, youth return to Boston with the skills and confidence to overcome any challenge they face – whether it’s in the woods or in the city.