They are victims of physical or sexual abuse, forced starvation, fetal alcohol syndrome and fetal drug abuse. Some have witnessed murders or the aftermath of suicide; while others are battling addictions of their own. The team at Alaska Crossings use the power of nature to help them cope.
"There are deep lessons in the text nature renders," wrote Robert Service in his classic poem The Call of the Wild. Alaska Crossings take this literally. The education takes place in southwest Alaska and western British Columbia; a rugged but beautiful landscape teaching the participants a thing or two about themselves.
Im from Palmer, Alaska and I love to snowboard. I was sent here for bad choices like smoking, drinking, and skipping school," said a 15-year old, adding, "at home I usually woke up and didnt feel like working but during this program I learned to make myself do jobs and work that I didnt want to do." As for his proudest moment, "completing our canoeing from Boulder Creek to the float house (14 miles), he reckoned.
It's do or bust in a 100 mile journey. The summer expedition involved canoeing around Dear Island to climbing Eve Cone (1,702m) and Mount Edziza (2,787m) in British Columbia. Entertainment involved watching a coyote having its dinner and killer whales swimming 25 feet from their canoes.
Running up to 10 expeditions at a time, keeping track of the wild bunch can be pretty daunting though. Alaska Crossings use a custom version of CONTACT with passwords on different levels to organize teams' whereabouts and logistics, and as a tool in helping parents and others share with them in their journey along the way. GPS satellites pinpoint their location about every ten minutes and there is an emergency setting either for calling 911 or to get in touch with the home team immediately. The participants get to handle much of the tech work which adds yet another dimension to their journey.
The "lost" kids learn how to trust others again and work as a team. The hope is that they will return to expand their role in the world, with other people and themselves. And it seems to be working. Announced the 15-year old boy during the graduation ceremony held this past autumn at the Nolan Center in Wrangell, Alaska: I made a few goals for when I get home, including quitting smoking, graduating high school with at least a 3.0 GPA, and get some better friends to hang out with.
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