UTEC young adults, staff, and AmeriCorps members joined the Appalachian Mountain Club’s Youth Opportunities Program (YOP) for a mid day hike on a Workforce Retreat.
YOP focuses on providing opportunities for proven and at-risk youth to get outdoors — a model that encourages positive development and leadership. As a benefit of UTEC’s long-term partnership with their Lowell and Lawrence Summit Project, YOP generously brought along all of the gear needed for our young adults to participate in the hike – hiking boots, pants, winter jackets, hats, and gloves. Once everyone was geared up, seven young adults and eight staff and AmeriCorps members loaded into the vans, and drove just 10 minutes down the road to the trail at the base of Mount Watatic in Ashburnham, MA.
The group decided to hike the 3-mile-long Wapack Trail, lucky to have unseasonal 50 degree weather, and a shining sun. Along the route, there were some well-needed snack breaks, as young adults learned from YOP’s instructors about navigation tactics, group dynamics, and how to respect the environment around us.
This was the first time ever hiking for many of UTEC’s young adults. Despite a very muddy ascent, we had a worthy reward to view at the top. The hike ended with a closing circle at the bottom of the mountain. Per UTEC tradition, everyone was asked to rate their mood on a scale of 1 to 10, and fortunately, there were many 10s! Everyone also shared one word to describe how they were feeling after their hiking experience. Some words shared included “accomplished,” “inspired,” “relaxed,” “fulfilled,” and of course, “tired.”
That night, everyone gathered together in the retreat center’s meeting room for a Peace Circle, a restorative justice practice that has become a part of UTEC tradition. Peace Circles can be used for many different purposes, but their primary goal is to promote healing, community, and problem solving. This Circle focused on recognizing the struggles that UTEC’s young adults face on a daily basis and the strong influences that they must fight in order to make the right choices. Peace Circles can often get emotional, but it’s important that every person gets a chance to share, and UTEC always follows the “Vegas rule” — “What happens here, stays here. What’s learned here, leaves here.”
The night ended with some well-needed time to relax and connect with others. Staff, AmeriCorps members, and young adults alike participated in a variety of activities, including board games, karaoke, and a campfire, perfect for roasting s’mores.
Source: Lowell Sun