Quarterly Communiqué – February 2018

A Message From Our Executive Director


By Natalie Hausman-Weiss

It takes three hours by plane for a TWP student to travel from Houston to Yosemite National Park, it’s 148 miles by bus for a TWP student to travel from Houston to Sam Houston National Forest, and it’s on average, let’s say, 15 minutes for a TWP student to travel from their home to their school.  However, the most important journey of their life isn’t measured in hours, miles, minutes or even seconds, but milliseconds.  For that’s the amount of time it takes for the brain of a TWP student to experience what we’re all about.  That’s the amount of time it takes for our students to realize that these paths, these roads, these experiences will change their lives forever.  The impact of a TWP trip is difficult to measure but phenomenal to witness.  From inexperienced eyes to embracing hands.  From faulty judgment to observable wisdom.  From naïve discernment to meaningful analysis, the impact of The Woods Project on our students’ hearts, minds and souls changes their world forever and for better.

This year at Walk for the Woods Project, our biggest fundraiser of the year, we will walk a short distance through Houston’s historic East End where many of our students live and play.  We will have the opportunity to meet TWP students and briefly hear their stories of how their lives changed as a result of participating in The Woods Project wilderness immersion experiences.  I invite you to walk with me, Saturday, February 24 at 8:00am on this meaningful and inspiring Walk for The Woods Project.  I hope we can count on your support and look forward to seeing you there!

Click here to register today for the 2018 Walk for the Woods Project!

Junior Leaders Program

The Woods Project is excited to announce the launch of our Junior Leaders Program! This new program combines our former Junior Advisory Board with our Apostle Islands summer trip to offer our high school alumni students a comprehensive, year-long leadership development opportunity. Our 2018 JLP includes 30 students who represent 11 of our partner schools.

This spring, the JLP students will engage in community service projects, rock climbing, a “Mission to the Moon” team building challenge at the Houston Museum of Natural Science, and a weekend-long kayaking and camping trip. Through these activities, our Junior Leaders will further develop their leadership, communication, and team-building skills in preparation for their summer trip. In June, the JLP students will travel to the Apostle Islands in Wisconsin for two weeks of paddling, back country camping, and learning!

Here are a few photos of our kick-off meeting on January 20th:

Photo Jan 20, 1 27 39 PM Photo Jan 20, 1 30 38 PMPhoto Jan 20, 2 44 50 PM (1) Photo Jan 20, 2 42 13 PM

Student Spotlight

While applying for the Junior Leaders Program this fall, our students provided us with some extraordinary reflections on their experiences with TWP. Here are a few of those reflections:

Why do you want to be a part of The Woods Project’s Junior Leaders Program and what makes you a good fit?

“I have grown a lot over the past summer, both as a person and as a leader. I think I can say that The Woods Project helped me find my voice. I’d like to join the Junior Leaders Program because I really want to see the transformation that I went through, happen in other people as well. I feel that I could help others find their voice, achieve the goal they want to achieve, or help them obtain something they might be looking for through The Woods Project. Since my summer trip with The Woods Project, I am a lot more open and am willing to take command of a situation when needed, something I was completely incapable of prior to the trip. Ever since then, my life this school year is probably already my best. The way I feel right now, is something I want everyone to be able to experience.”

 – Robert Gutierrez, 12th grade, Heights High School

“The Woods Project had tested my interaction skills,my willingness, and my commitment, along with many other things to say the least. Going camping and backpack climbing for the first time was difficult for me in many ways but it’s still something that i am most proud and grateful to The Woods Project for. They in many ways pushed my belief of never giving up. Being in The Woods Project helped me break out of shell and be more open with others and learn how to not only hear everyone’s voice but to listen to them also. They showed me how to interact and work with different types of people, to take a step back and see the problem from a different standing point and many other thing.”

– Daniel Flores, 12th grade, YES Prep 5th Ward

“During my trip in Yosemite I realized that I truly love helping people and love being part of something bigger than myself. I loved being pushed out of my comfort zone, thanks to The Woods Project I’m a completely improved version of my freshman year self. I’ve slowly broken my shell piece by piece during my high school career and none of this would have of ever of been possible without The Woods Project. I consider myself as a curious one, that one spontaneous friend who doesn’t care about where or what time I’m always looking for something to keep me busy. To have the opportunity to once again explore this summer would be an opportunity to keep growing. I can’t possibly pass this chance to grow as a leader.”

 Maria Gutierrez, 12th Grade, Northbrook High School

“Being a member of The Junior Leaders program would have a positive impact on my life. This organization would not only help me evolve as a leader, but also aid me in gaining crucial life skills that I may need for my future. I use the skills I have acquired from experiences the Woods Project has presented me with to help my friends and family when they are in need of a hand. I consider myself to be a good leader because I have a knowledgeable understanding in concern to organizing different kinds of teams with my classmates, friends, neighbors, and family.”

– Mariela Aviles Lopez, 11th grade, George I. Sanchez/AAMA

What makes you a good fit for the Apostle Islands Summer Alumni trip?

“My friend was fortunate enough to attend this trip last year, and the way she talks about it makes me want to experience this for myself even more. She talks about how it was more than backpacking and kayaking. She is so fond of the experience she had trouble putting it into words. I feel like this about the Donner Pass trip I attended. I have yet to experience something that has come anywhere close to that level excitement and joy. The amount of memories I made on the Donner Pass trip are almost too many to count, and the Apostle Islands is my way of making even more. I originally wanted to join The Woods Project because I saw pictures of the views and the landscape and I had to see that for myself. This feeling has returned when I think of the Apostle Islands and the joy it brought my peers who attended the trip. I also want to attend this trip because I know this will give me another unforgettable experience that I will carry with me for the rest of my life. But, most importantly, I really want to attend this trip because I know it will make me a better leader, and will help me lead in more areas of my life as I get ready to move on from high school. Getting to say that I am an Alumni of The Woods Project will be a surreal experience, something that I’ve been looking forward to for a long time.”

– Robert Gutierrez, 12th grade, Heights High School

“Being in The Woods Project has helped me realize that I can help nature and also have a fun time with it. I had never gone canoeing, backpack climbing, kayaking and hiking before but The Woods Project took me and now I love doing so many activities in the outdoors. I feel like it is absolutely ideal for me because of not only all the activities we are doing but also the amazing views and adventure that awaits.”

– Daniel Flores, 12th grade, YES Prep 5th Ward

“The Woods Project Is an amazing opportunity for any student to experience. There are many adults that never get to realize how great nature is and for high school students to get this experience at such a young age is truly astonishing. When I first heard of The Woods project my sophomore year I wanted to stay away from it. My parents would always brag about my older brother and how great he is. One of the organizations he was involved in was The Woods Project. I hated the idea of not showering and sleeping in a tent with strangers yet I joined club anyways not knowing I would create many lifelong friendships and overcome my fears.”

Maria Gutierrez, 12th Grade, Northbrook High School

“The experiences that I got from the last summer trips were satisfying to me because I learned to be more independent and I became more confident in myself. The woods project trip makes me grow more as a person and human each time I go. It helps me to stay in contact with the nature and appreciate my position in life more.”

– Mariela Aviles Lopez, 11th grade, George I. Sanchez/AAMA