By Natalie Hausman-Weiss
It was day 4 of post “Harvey” cleanup. Just shy of a week since the Hurricane blew through Houston demolishing so many homes, including my own. There was 3 feet of water throughout my house and despite having tried to put up as much as possible, the place was trashed. On days 1-3 our amazing friends, co-workers and religious community came out in spades to help clean up. We removed everything, dragging furniture, walls, floors, our most cherished possessions across the lawn to the curb… Everything! But we weren’t done and on day 4, Saturday, September 2, it felt like we were moving at a snail’s pace. And then, there it was! A text from a volunteer leader and teacher at one of our partner schools, asking for my address! Minutes later over twenty students and teachers from Spring Woods High School came walking up our driveway to see how they could help.
My husband, thrilled that he and his buddy were not going to have to rearrange the already packed garage themselves, started directing these truly phenomenal young men and women. They were remarkable. Their readiness to get the job done and their kindness along with their strength, grit and real desire to help, made all the difference!
As I worked alongside these students I considered the sentence which for the past 18 months has so easily rolled off my tongue whenever I’ve been asked what The Woods Project does.
“TWP programs are designed to teach skills and provide students with the additional help they need to develop positive behaviors that will enable them to persevere even in the face of considerable obstacles.”
One month post Harvey, our city is most certainly facing considerable obstacles. I don’t imagine there are many Houstonians whose lives haven’t been affected by this catastrophic event. I do, however, wonder how many TWP alumni are utilizing the skills and behaviors they developed through participating in TWP, to respond to these challenges. Are they able to adapt? Will they choose to persevere? Are they using their critical thinking skills and social intelligence to help themselves, their families and their communities?
There are many things high school teachers choose to do on weekends – bringing themselves and their students to sweat, carry, organize, clean, only to do it all over again, is not typical. It is an example of why The Woods Project is so very blessed. TWP teachers and students learn through experience that life cannot be successfully lived without the character traits we stress so greatly. But even more so, none of it matters if we don’t learn early on what it means to be a part of a community, and what it means to then support that community by lending a helping hand.
I couldn’t have been prouder of this organization than on our 4th day of post Harvey cleanup. Thank you to the entire TWP family and especially to the students and teachers of Spring Woods High School. You made all the difference just by showing up.
The summer trip is the flagship program of The Woods Project. On these two-week journeys spent in wilderness areas across the country, students spend one week in a traditional camp setting, sleeping in bunks, taking day hikes, and participating in lessons about the environment. During the second week, adult volunteers lead students on a 6-day, 5-night backpacking trip where all food and equipment must be carried between the group members. Students learn to work as a team to backpack more than 30 miles, sharing responsibilities and taking care of each other. Individually, students push themselves to their physical, mental, and emotional limits to accomplish goals they never thought imaginable. It’s the confidence gained and the other lessons students learn on these summer trips that set them on the path to success. Besides expanding their worldview by traveling across the country, students see what they are truly capable of, learning that anything is possible.
This summer, 152 students and 47 leaders participated in summer trips in 4 wilderness areas:
- Apostle Islands (Lake Superior)
- Donner Pass (Lake Tahoe/Desloation Wilderness)
- Glacier National Park
- Yosemite National Park
Our inaugural Alumni Leadership Program in the Apostle Islands was a great success! Instead of backpacking for 6 days, the students, all of whom had participated in our traditional summer program in previous summer, spent 6 days sea kayaking on Lake Superior!
The Woods Project offers our summer program alumni a plethora of opportunities of which to take advantage. From volunteer events to college scholarships to more advanced summer wilderness programs, alumni can find ways to stay on the path to greatness.
Now that you’ve completed a summer trip, you can still stay involved with The Woods Project at your school. Stay engaged by helping to recruit students for club programming at your school and help facilitate club programming in more of a leadership role.
Junior Leaders Program
TWP alumni students who are seeking more leadership opportunities with The Woods Project are encouraged to apply for our Junior Leaders Program, formerly known as JAB. Through this program, students have the chance to further develop their leadership skills through weekend trainings and activities. Participants in this program have a chance to be eligible for the Apostle Islands Alumni Summer Trip.
TWP Essay Contest
This is your chance to tell us how much your experience with The Woods Project has impacted your leadership capabilities. If you’ve participated in a weekend trip, club programming, or a summer trip you can submit a 1,200 word essay for a chance to win cool prizes and be featured on our social media.
If you enjoy public speaking and would like the opportunity to share your experiences with others, this is for you. Join us at various community events, fundraising events and volunteer events and help us spread the word about The Woods Project.
The Woods Project partners with other organizations, like The Posse Foundation, Texas Parks and Wildlife, and YMCA Seattle, to help provide scholarship and internship opportunities for our students. Stay in touch with upcoming events, dates and deadlines by visiting and liking our social media pages.
For more information about these and other opportunities, contact Kirsten Bryant, School Year and Alumni Program Manager, at email@example.com.