Big City Mountaineers instills critical life skills in under-resourced youth through transformative wilderness mentoring experiences.
Big City Mountaineers provides free, fully outfitted and professionally led, backpacking trips and overnight camps for under-resourced youth in Colorado. Heading into our 30th field season, BCM has served over 10,000 students, conducted over 800 expeditions, organized over 5,000 volunteers, led over 100 overnight camps, and provided over 45,000 nights under the stars for kids to get out and dream big.
We provide access to and opportunities in the outdoors for under-resourced youth so they can soak up all the benefits of being connected to the natural world. Moreover, we support them with a caring adult mentor. We use the power of the outdoors to help teach and uncover the critical life skills young people need. Through this discovery, we are able to help our students overcome challenges they may face back home and reveal the emotional intelligence they need to help them grow up to have positive and productive lives.
Since 1989, we have tailored our curriculum to ensure our unique outdoor programs have a net positive impact on young lives. Our program model relies on "People, Partnerships, and Places." Our first, and most important, point of difference is that our kids are paired in a 1:1 ratio with adult mentors. This model ensures that our participants receive the maximum support needed to achieve personal goals and gain the most they can throughout the experience. Our thorough vetting, recruiting and training process ensures that volunteer mentors are qualified and prepared to successfully mentor BCM youth participants. In addition, BCM hired over 30 professional trip instructors as guides for each expedition. Having a professional facilitator and outdoorist in the field with the kids ensures top notch curriculum delivery and safe execution of the course.
The second key component of our work is that BCM partners with community-based youth development agencies to identify and hand-select under-resourced youth that would benefit from the BCM experience. We have chosen this partnership model to maximize ongoing youth impact and to work alongside agency staff to reach out, recruit and prepare youth for the experience. In fact, a staff person from each agency joins us on expedition to ensure the needs and goals of each student are being met, that the youth feel comfortable on expedition, and to ensure the transference of lessons learned after expedition is over. To ensure we stay focused on students who need our services the most, BCM partners with agencies not often engaged in the outdoors such as organizations serving youth-at-risk, refugee placement groups, immigrant welcome centers, transitional housing communities, and youth development community centers. This way, the program reaches kids that would not otherwise connect with or have access to camps and outdoor activities. Because of this, the experience is profound. 90% of our students will have their first wilderness experience with Big City Mountaineers.
Finally, BCM prides itself on the inspirational places it conducts its trips. The journeys we take into the backcountry serve as a catalyst for change. On days 3-4 of our journey a shift in youth attitude and perspective is evident. The length and the depth of the experience is a key factor in our ability to effect positive change. We visit amazing places on our nation's public lands such as the Flat Tops Wilderness, the Holy Cross Wilderness, the Raggeds Wilderness, Rocky Mountain National Park, and the Rawahs in Colorado.
"I have made new goals to become a more understanding and friendly person. Lately I've been pretty shut out so I feel like this trip has allowed me to achieve these goals and I hope that I can carry them into my everyday life."
"I learned I am stronger than I think and can do whatever I set my mind to."
"If I can go up that mountain without dying, there's nothing I can't do back at home."
"Because of my race, people always expect me to do certain things. Out here, that doesn't matter, and I can do whatever I want."
"One of my biggest challenges is thinking that I can't do it. Out here, I learned to ignore those thoughts and do it anyway."
"Each step, each breath, it is the most memorable time of my life."
"I can't skip anymore, I have to be a better student."