Quarterly Communiqué - August 2021

We just loved our weeks with you, at ONSC (Ozark Natural Science Center) and on the BRT (Buffalo River Trail). You were exceptional: mentally and physically strong; full of zest and curiosity; and especially fun-loving and witty.You adapted to our new environment quickly and hopefully learned more than you realize about nature, the Ozark mountain flora and fauna, and how to survive with everything on your back.Thanks for coming together as a team and making this a great trip for all of us. – Jessica and Vean Gregg, summer 2021 backpack leaders, excerpt from their note to the students in their backpack group

From Our Executive Director

Towards the end of summer trip, while still in the mountains, our students write thank you notes to The Woods Project’s many supporters. Lucky enough, my husband, Scott and I received one of these thank you notes and I know that I am not alone when I say that reading it was an incredibly gratifying experience. So much so that I would like to write a thank you note to them. For this newsletter, this thank you is written to our TWP students, all of them, without whose trust, faith, and resolve The Woods Project wouldn’t even get off the ground. Dear TWP Summer 2021 Students, They say that you can lead a horse to water but you can’t make her drink. Thank you for drinking from the fresh and inspiring pools of tenacity and curiosity; your willingness and ability to adapt to often fluid and evolving situations made it possible for this premiere summer in the Ozarks to be a huge success. Thank you for enduring new trails, new partners, two 10-hour bus rides, masks, Covid testing, sleeping and eating outdoors, and ticks so common you began to name them. Being together, in person made it all worth it which is what you proved…to us, but so much more importantly, to yourselves.  Thank you for your interest in snakes including Cornelia, the pet Corn snake, as well as the many other less desirable snakes you came upon, for hiking to waterfalls, paddling the Kings River, playing disc golf, and for learning how to make camp fires. Thank you for your interest in the environment, botany, ornithology, entomology, and herpetology. Thank you for caring about the rare native Ozark chinquapin trees in the glade, crawfish in the creek, the many birds of the Ozarks (Red Tanagers, Cardinals, Carolina Chickadees, Indigo Buntings, Ruby-Throated Hummingbirds, Turkey Vultures), and, of course, “Lucky” the rehabilitated squirrel. Thank you for your eagerness to backpack and hike along the Buffalo National River Trail, for crossing rivers, playing in the water, cooking your own meals, for camping in the rain, and for navigating the trail. And thank you for realizing your incredible potential! This past year and a half has shown us that while so much of life operates outside of our control, if we approach it with a balance of preparation and an openness to adapt as needed, this is when the greatest learning of all occurs. Thank you, students, for your passion, dedication and commitment and for being the best part of The Woods Project. You are change agents. You are our future leaders. You are the ones in whose hands the future lies… and we are so proud. With gratitude, Natalie Hausman-Weiss

Student Spotlight

Kam’rin Christal – Summer ’21 participant

Kam’rin (pictured left, with Volunteer Leader Vean Gregg) stepped outside of his comfort zone to particpate in TWP’s inaugural summer trip to the Ozark Mountains region of Arkansas.

Kam’rin quickly earned the trail name “Mayor” because he was not shy at introducing himself and make new friends with other campers along the trail.

Kam’rin is one of six students TWP has nominated for the 2021 Posse Houston scholarship, due in part to the impressive leaderships skills he has shown on and off the trails. Best of luck Kam’rin!! What is the most important thing you learned about yourself this summer? I learned how to disconnect from my phone. The first day, all I could think about was my phone. But by the second day, I had already made some friends which made me not even think about my phone. I learned how to connect with the world through nature. What is your best memory from summer trip? Best memory was going to the caves on a day hike with Brett from Ozark Natural Science Center. We had to crawl through a tight cave that eventually led to a nice waterfall. How can you take what you learned this summer and apply it to the upcoming school year or beyond? My leader Vean spent time teaching our group about budgeting. I know have tools that could help me save money to help pave the way for college and in the future. Anything else you’d like to share? I would like to thank Vean, Jessica, and Daniela for being such great leaders and just allowing us to express ourselves by letting us have fun!

Leader Highlight

Amy Robles (pictured center), is a College Counselor at KIPP Northeast College Prep and TWP Summer Leader 2019 & 2021. Below is just a snippet of some of her Ozark 2021 summer trip stories. A TWP summer trip is challenging and at the same time full of great experiences. Our first week in the Ozarks was filled with daily adventures and an abundance of knowledge shared by the teacher naturalist at Ozark Natural Science Center. Our backcountry experience started on a rainy day in the backcountry with me ‘getting to take a closer look at the rocks’ as I slipped and slid on the rocks. But as I shared with our students, the sun always comes up after the storm – my group had no choice but to step up their game so they could finish their first day of hiking strong. The resilience the ladies (yes, we had the first all female student backpack group) showed was incredible! Especially since this was, for the most of them, their very first-ever hiking trip. They took charge, became leaders, and navigated their way through their terrain. Along the trails, the students had plenty of time to talk through their differences, encourage each other and discuss how to better their camping community as a whole. These conversations made them a stronger team which allowed them to persevere far after they thought they could go no farther. In just a short amount of time, the girls learned that they were capable of overcoming obstacles, challenging themselves, proving others wrong, and created long-lasting friendships.

Thank You for a Great Summer

Summer 2021 could not happen without TWP’s generous supporters, talented education/wilderness partners, and so many dedicated volunteers. Thank you for changing the lives of TWP students!!! CADECO                                  Pinnacle Transportation Anna and Brad Eastman            REI Co-op Gateway Mountain Center         RigNet King’s River Outfitters               Sawyer Products Nuun                                      Villines Farm Ozark Natural Science Center    Warner College of Natural Resources -Colorado State University Pack Rat Outfitters                   Whitney Base Camp & Climbing School

Looking for a New Warehouse

The Woods Project needs your help as we are on the hunt for a new warehouse space to store the gear used to create life-changing experiences for nearly 600 Houston students each year. We need 1,500 sq ft of warehouse space where we can store camping supplies and gear.  Ideally this space will be centrally located, allow us access on nights and weekends, accommodate many volunteers managing gear, and be extremely affordable or free. Climate controlled preferred, but not essential. If you or someone you know may be able to help, please contact Natalie Hausman-Weiss, natalie@thewoodsproject.org, (205) 612-0773.

Walk With Us

WE’RE MOVING TO THE FALL! Walk for The Woods Project, presented by ENGIE Save the Date: Saturday, November 13, 2021  Traditionally held in the spring, we are excited to host this event in the FALL!  Make plans to join us for this scenic walking tour exploring the beautiful trail along the Buffalo Bayou and the historic East End community.  Start Line activities will take place at BakerRipley Ripley House. Join ENGIE by sponsoring the 2021 Walk for The Woods Project celebration. Contact Jessi Manley, jessi@thewoodsproject.org, with questions.