Summer in Telluride is fast becoming a fond memory of sunlit adventures with friends and family, BBQs and bare feet. For most people, summer in the region is a great time to be outdoors doing the things we love every year. But I am program director for the Telluride Academy. My summer looks a little different than most.

My summer is a pile of lists of logistical concerns and mountains of material goods needed to create unique and personalized enrichment outdoor experiences for local and visiting youth. Summer 2012 was a huge family affair with over 500 families sending over 800 students through our doors to discover a new talent or sport, challenge themselves, and meet new people in a variety of unique environments. This past season, the Academy ran over 100 programs requiring the passion and energy of close to 50 amazing instructors and specialists.

Pulling off a safe and successful summer on that level requires planning, preparation, time, energy and tangible goods.

The Academy operates a fleet of leased vans. Then there’s the avalanche of tents, stoves, and roll tables. Add staff meetings, staff trainings, curveballs in the field, homesickness, fire bans, parent concerns (“Aren’t there bears out there?”) to the list.

Having once been an instructor myself, I can easily and fondly reminisce about the universe I was able to create for my group of 12 students and my co-instructor. Through quality face time with these kids over the course of two weeks, I was able to witness the challenges, struggles and successes each one experienced during our time together. It was always so rewarding to see the growth that happened when kids stepped outside their boxes and bubbles. Their willingness to get beyond their fears and inhibitions was the part of what kept me returnin season after season. Transitioning into a year-round administrative role brings with it another package of rewards and challenges.

I am blessed to have the opportunity to take my passion for outdoor adventures on to a much bigger stage. I have the privilege each year of working with a bright and energetic community of new and returning instructors eager to share their own passions with Academy kids. However, due to the realities of navigating a million moving parts during the summer months, the usual reminders of the Why We’re Here become vicarious experiences that I obtain from second-hand accounts relayed to me by instructors and kids as they return from afield.

Summer for me became a blur of dirty and tired kids returning from a mountain bike ride, the collective laughter and nervous energy from a group of teenagers loading their van for a two week surfing trip to California. There were endearing performances by Flower Fairies and Native Girls, rocket launches on the soccer field, My First Camp parent overnights, first time paddlers on the Valley Floor and countless other experiences that now blend together in a symphony of youthful energetic experiences that serve to shape childhoods in positive and healthy ways. Add them up and they shape me too.

With the changing of the leaves comes the wrapping up of yet another safe and successful Telluride Academy summer. Kids return to school and families return to the daily routines of slightly more structured and predictable realities. But those memories of the summer serve to remind us all of the many wonderful outside experiences that should carry us through the long winter soon to come. We will call upon those memories until the time comes we can shed layers and again burst into the backyard for more exploration.

The change from summer to fall is the literal and figurative boxing up of all the necessary components of running one of Colorado’s largest and best youth enrichment programs. A highlight of that process is reading staff evaluations. The final question on the evaluation asks staff to share a particular moment that made a major impression on them. I love reading their replies, which feed the passion I have for continuing to bring energy and creativity Academy programs.

I end this reflection the same way I officially end my summer, sharing some of those memories. They offer insights into the workings of a million moving parts and paint a picture of what truly makes the Academy a special place for kids, parents, staff and the administration alike.
“During the Sol Cycle Camp, the kids were faced with some pretty challenging trails with very steep and super technical sections, not to mention the rain.

‘My co-instructor and I were doing what we could to keep the kids pumped and motivated to ride as many were being pushed out of their comfort zones. We just finished this really tough section of the trail. I was sweeping in the back and came up to one of our kids sitting on a log off to the side with his bike resting on the ground. He had a look of anger and frustration on his face, unusual to see as this was the jokester of our group.

“I pulled over and had some of the other kids ride ahead to meet up with the rest of the waiting cyclers. The first question in my head was if had he fallen and was he alright. ‘Hey bud everything ok?’ I started. ‘,Yea, I’m just really frustrated,’ he replied. A moment of relief swept over me: no broken bones or bikes. The conversation proceeded and I could tell what it came down to was this guy was giving it all he had but was simply new to biking compared to the others. I could completely relate. Growing up by the ocean didn’t offer many mountain experiences, so biking was something I recently came into and I was familiar with the frustrations in learning the sport. I shared my personal biking experience with him and offered a few words of motivation. Then we took off on our bikes again and headed down the trail.

“A few days later into the camp, this awesome and determined kiddo approached me, ‘Hey I just wanted to say thanks again for talking to me. It really helped me out a lot.’ My heart filled with warmth from the kindness of his words. Once again I was reminded of the impact we have as outdoor educators and the importance in how we treat and teach children.”

“I had one kid who was addicted to video games. He loved his screen time. The first couple of days he kept relating everything back to some video game or TV show. When not talking about video games he would be complaining about outdoor activities. He was very fast paced and constantly needed motivation and encouragement. My co-instructor and I kept pushing him and made sure to point out all the times we saw him smile and having fun outside. Over the two weeks he became much more comfortable being outside and even started to relax a bit. My highlight was when he was climbing this crack in Paradox and yelled out half way up: ‘Patrick, this is better than video games!!'”

No Comments

Sorry, the comment form is closed at this time.