A Message From Our Executive Director

natalieBy Natalie Hausman-Weiss

As we quickly approach the third week of January, the week of Martin Luther King Jr’s birthday, I pause to recognize the impact Reverend King has had on our country, the sacrifices he made and the importance of honoring this sacred day.

The Revered Martin Luther King Jr. said,

“If you can’t fly, then run!
If you can’t run, then walk!
If you can’t walk, then crawl,
but whatever you do, you have to keep moving forward!”

I can’t imagine any words which better describe my first summer experience with The Woods Project.  This past July, I had the good fortune of spending two weeks with TWP students hiking, climbing, running, walking and sometimes even crawling through Donner Pass and “Desolation Wilderness.”  This, my first foray into the guts of The Woods Project, has had a profound impact on my understanding of exactly what it is that we do here at TWP.

For six of our 14 days together, I carried a 37lb backpack and hiked just over 40 miles of the Pacific Crest Trail.  Along with eight students and two co-leaders, our twelve-person backpack group walked over and around rocks and through streams.  We balanced ourselves with our packs, “tightrope style” on top of fallen tree trunks as we crossed several feet above the water.  We struggled, strayed off course, learned the hard way that our trail notes weren’t as accurate as we’d have liked and ultimately, made our way back to the trail. Together, we experienced the wilderness as a microcosm of the larger world and knew that the skills we mastered in the backcountry are the same skills we would rely upon throughout our lives.

This past summer, I slept with one eye open listening to coyotes, had a hair-raising encounter with snakes, taped countless blisters, treated sun burns and bug bites and so much more!  This past summer, along with our students, I practiced grit, perseverance and adaptability; I relied on my instincts and on my ability to think critically; I was forced by our circumstances to exercise self control and I experienced first hand, why the wilderness serves as the consummate backdrop for experiential learning – a place where you learn who you really are and who you can seek to become.

In addition to offering profound inspiration, Dr. King reminds us of a world in which dreams are squashed and undermined too often because of a young person’s happenstance of birth, race and access to opportunity.  Dr King had a dream and so do we at TWP.  That our children, as they grow into the future leaders of our society, are not only seeking to experience a world in which they are judged by the content of their character but are developing the skill set needed to ensure that our world is one where they can succeed.  At The Woods Project, we strive to empower our students so that they may choose their life trajectories and point their compasses towards success!

Since 2006, The Woods Project has been improving the life trajectories of economically disadvantaged students.  We do so with the help of hundreds of dedicated volunteers.  Everyone makes a difference!  If you would like to help our team, click here to learn how you can get involved.