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Wilderness Youth Challenge Program (WYCP) Description

High Risk Youth aged 12 to 18 years, referred by the youth’s support persons, are accepted into the Wilderness Challenge program by using the “40 Developmental Assets” plan as our guide. The youth are subject to an application process which does not decide who can or cannot participate but more so how can we adapt our Risk management Plan to meet their personal needs for a successful solo camping experience.

Groups are kept small, 4 to 6 youth, and gender specific. We also go to great lengths to avoid accepting youth who are familiar to each other as we want to introduce positive peer bonding. Both supported and unsupported youth are accepted into the Challenge and groups are formed according to the level of at risk behaviour we are willing to accept for each Challenge.

Risk Management is a our main focus and youth not compliant to our efforts in keeping them safe are taken out of the program and returned to Base camp until graduation day. Their individual accomplishments are still acknowledged along with the rest of the group and they are always eligible to return and try again.

Program Description

To provide an opportunity for high risk youth of varying ethnic and religious backgrounds to experience body management, self awareness and self reliance through participation in a unique life changing experience incorporating a back country environment with a four day solo camping experiance. To develop a 15 month follow up Relapse Prevention program targeting high risk youth using Positive Mentoring and Positive Peer Bonding to impart skills sets that will support their self-esteem, cultural awareness and leadership skills as tools for success in recovery and life. Through mentored one on one workshops combined with Partner agencies providing follow up treatment over 12 months, we will improve these high risk youths' rates of recovery success and successful reintegration of these youth into their communities as productive members.

Our program promotes and supports recovery from high risk behaviour as root causes of youth marginalization, detachment and radicalization. Through teaching self sufficiency and establishing self esteem, we address the underlying issues that often prevent recovery and re-integration with family and community. We also provide local youth at risk with opportunities to partner with their peers, adults and community leaders in a series of mentor relationships to gain practical learning experience and develop the skills necessary to contribute to the economic, social and cultural life of their communities. By so empowering these youth to re-integrate with their communities as productive and valued members, we support their ability to develop cultural sensitivity and appropriate and responses to racism and hate-motivated activities.

To educate involved parties (parents, teachers, etc.) communities and society with regard to the root causes of drug use and adiction as well as providing them with strategies for recovery support.

Issue or Need:

The three founding Directors have worked for several years as frontline street workers with various agencies, in particular with homeless and 'street' youth. As front line workers, they have come to be aware of how quickly a disenchanted youth becomes involved in the high risk lifestyle associated with today’s drug culture, in particular after they have experienced a relapse while attempting to access treatment or support programs.

Usually, they are able to avoid this while attached to a support base such as parents or social workers but all too often lose these supports when a relapse occurs. This relapse usually happens shortly before a major change in their recovery plan.

High Risk Youth 12 to 18 years of age are the target group, particularly those youth from cultural minorities, who are currently engaged in a recovery plan. Conventional programs are struggling against today’s high risk youth culture, resulting in a very high relapse rate. WYCP is not structured as a treatment program but more so an experience to embolden the client to succeed in a recovery program after completing their challenge experience. Personal growth and success achieved during their challenge easily transfers to growth and success in society through positive mentorship like our Tomorrows Youth Today initiative. A solo living challenge experience presents opportunity for positive ‘body management’ and is life altering. Mentoring of these youth as well as educating their involved parties and the public facilitates the support necessary for their successful reintegration as productive members of the populace while avoiding a relapse into their former state.

For High Risk Youth

• A successful experience of communication, respecting personal boundaries, taking personal accountability and self-reliance (Establishment of Self-esteem)

• The ability to enter into positive mentorship relationships with people of the community who are in position to assist them in the acquisition of the skills and resources they need.

• Increased personal accountability, self reliance and social/cultural responsibility.

• Long term support in their recovery process.

For Support People for the High Risk Youth

• A respite from the demands of dealing with youth at risk over a long term period.

• The opportunity to attend workshops with individuals in similar circumstances and to understand the causes of drug use/addiction as well as strategies for supporting their youth through successful recovery plans.

For the Community

• Reduced drug use and addictive behaviors, including racial intolerance and crime.

• Increased numbers of culturally aware, socially conscious youth.

• Increased positive involvement of youth in society – across cultures.

• The opportunity to learn more about the core causes of drug use/ addiction and strategies for supporting these youth to and through recovery through workshops and mentoring partnerships.

What is the definition of relapse?

Dictionary: re-lapse (ri-laps’) n.

1. To fall or slide back into a former state.

2. To regress after partial recovery from illness.

3. To slip back into bad ways; backslide.

A falling back into a former state, especially after apparent improvement.

Once young people become involved in high risk behaviour, the cost to them as individuals is enormous: they suffer the loss of the social, emotional and physical support of families, friends, school and community. More frightening is the fact that they most often replace those losses with addictions to drugs and/or alcohol, prostitution, prison sentences and oft times, premature, violent death. In the wake of such destruction, families are left to mourn, communities grieve the loss of potentially contributing citizens, and society as a whole loses its icons of hope for tomorrow,

The Alberta Children's Services report ' THE WORD ON THE STREET' by their High Risk Youth Task Force clearly identifies the potential re-entry into this negative lifestyle and supports relapse prevention for youth in various stages of recovery and provided the inspiration for WYCP.

“Community Outreach workers with various agencies have come to be aware of how quickly an addicted youth becomes involved in the high risk lifestyle associated with today’s drug culture, in particular after they have experienced a relapse while attempting to access treatment or manage a change in their Recovery Plan. Usually, they are able to avoid a relapse while attached to a support base such as parents or social workers but all too often lose these supports when a relapse does occur. A relapse usually happens shortly before entry into treatment or a major life change.”

(Please note Appendix I)

A large number of community crimes are committed by at risk youth within a Systemic model where drug associated crime occurs as a function of the drug seeking culture and lifestyle (PASCAL report pg. 10). Property crimes like break and enter are the most recognized types of criminal behavior associated with this target group while those accustomed to cocaine or crack cocaine use are most likely to commit crimes involving violence. Ecstacy or Meth users tend to focus more on property or fraudulent criminal activity. Recidivism is disrupted from this style of relapse prevention while the criminal activity mentioned above is reduced accordingly (PASCAL report pg.14).

(Please note Appendix II)

Appendix I

Peter Smyth BA, BSW, RSW; Arlene Eaton Erickson MSW, RSW. March, 2004.

The Word On The Street, How youth view services aimed at them, study completed by the High Risk Youth Task Force, Edmonton, Alberta.

Appendix II

J. Short, Edmonton Police Service

Project Pascal: Examining the Crime/Drugs Nexus, completed by the Intelligence Analysis Unit.

Project Beneficiaries


The 'Tommorows Youth Today' program will impact communities, parents, support persons and at risk youth, preventing the youth from engaging in addictive and criminal behaviour that creates stresses on support persons such as parents, social workers, teachers, police, employers and the communities of which they are part but will instead foster the accountability, responsibility, respect and self-esteem that will enable them to embrace positive diversity and change. This in turn will support their continued success - both as members of their communities and as future leaders of them.


At- risk youth from both Urban and Rural communities will be the target group. Challenge program’s using public access land can reach local youth in their own areas. The program costs are sponsored to avoid a financial burden to the youth or their support person’s effectively avoiding income disparity. Presently registered to operate in Alberta WYCP is structured to deliver this initiative nationally. To date calls for programming have been received from Maple ridge, BC; Winnipeg, Manitoba; Perry Sound, Ontario and Seattle, Washington.

Parents and the youth’s support persons are encouraged to use their ‘respite’ time while the ten day personal living Challenge is in progress by sourcing community supports and prepare for the youths return. This is a voluntary measure or in some cases required before the youth is accepted into WYCP. The support person is then required to participate in the ongoing Tomorrows Youth Today workshops designed to informed and equip them for their youth’s recovery success. Through monthly reports they have an opportunity to participate in our evaluation process while maintaining continuity in their youth’s recovery plan. The main benefit will be in keeping the safe home the safe home as long as possible effectively reducing the need for community resources.

Communities supporting their youth to avoid a relapse back into a high risk lifestyle realise both shot term and long term benefits. The opportunity to actively be involved in a youth’s recovery through financial sponsorship lends growth and stability to the community as a whole while affording individual community members an opportunity to invest in their own youth directly. The youth becomes aware of this caring and concern when acknowledging their sponsors with a letter of appreciation and has an opportunity to re-enter their community in a positive manner through a newfound positive community contact. The community realizes less vandalism, petty crime and truancy rates perpetrated by youth in a high risk lifestyle.


Communities actively identifying and acting upon their own high risk youth initiatives will be most likely to benefit from WYCP. Structured as a ‘Support Agency’ delivering a non treatment program, Tomorrows Youth Today, WYCP requires youth actively in recovery, who have already detoxified and are supported by existing recovery programs. Our practise of accepting referred youth only as opposed to direct recruitment requires an active youth recovery network within the community for identifier purposes and community members willing to financially support the individual youth for funding purposes. Follow up resources are also required from the community or established youth agencies in the near proximity. Rural communities with limited resources can easily access WYCP’s Partner Agencies to provide services for their youth’s ongoing recovery beyond what the community has to offer. This initiative cannot be successful without the host community providing wrap around supports for graduating youth, effectively making the community a major player in their recovery. Communities willing to provide these supports are most likely to benefit from this initiative.

Expected Results (short/mid/long term)

YOUTH AT RISK will experience a short term benefit of ten days relapse free while experiencing their personal challenge program and the introduction to positive mentors. Positive peer bonding and positive body management skills will be developed. The mid-term Tomorrows Youth Today program will see their self esteem and self confidence improve while re-bonding with positive peers and mentors and continuing relapse free. We expect the long-term results to be ongoing relapse free growth with a greater degree of positive community involvement and positive peer bonding resulting in the youth taking their place as a contributing member of the community. One out of five youth participating in WYCP are expected to produce these results, this being our success rate achieved to date.

PARENTS OR SUPPORT PERSONS enjoy a short term ten day respite while the youth is on their personal challenge. They are encouraged to seek outside support measures so in the mid term they can participate in our Partnered Workshops and Information Sessions to effectively continue supporting their youth through the various stages of their recovery plan. The long term result will be keeping the youth’s safe home intact and available to support a healthy, contributing youth no longer deemed “At-risk”.

COMMUNITIES realize an immediate short term reduction in services for the youth like Police services or youth agencies due to risky behavior. Upon the youths return a mid-term result in the form of renewed interest on the part of the community and positive behavior on the part of the youth will lay the foundation for the youth’s successful reintegration back into the community through positive community connections like their Sponsor. The long-term results we expect for the community are a decrease in truancy rates, lower youth crime rates, less youth unemployment and positive youth led initiatives too better the community as a whole.

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