YAB Members Take to the Mountains for Leadership Development and Team Building

Funding provided by State Farm YAB, thank you!

On Monday, June 13th, the Friends of Deckers Creek (FODC) Youth Advisory Board (YAB) departed on a four night, five day backpacking trip through the Monongahela National Forest backcountry hosted and guided by educators with The Mountain Institute (TMI). YAB is a group of dedicated youth ages 18 and younger interested in clean water and helping the community. Their mission is to increase youth participation in helping clean up the Deckers Creek watershed for conservation, preservation, and recreation through youth-led projects and research. Their trip with TMI was organized in order to facilitate leadership development, promote group working skills, and allow for personal growth, through participation in team building exercises, daily challenges, private journal writings and reflections, and environmental education.

Eight members of YAB left that Monday, carrying all of their food, shelter, and necessities for 5 days of team building, physical activity, and living away from the comforts of home. All meals, clothing, and shelters for the week were carried miles on backcountry trails on the backs of eight, 12 – 18 year olds.

TMI and FODC staff led outdoor and environmentally based activities and lessons to encourage YAB to work as a team and develop leadership traits and qualities personally. In the beginning, a few stars took to leadership naturally but as the days passed those who took a background role began to step up and demonstrate leadership capabilities, bringing out the potential in those who didn’t know they could demonstrate such traits, which was a major goal for the entire experience.

In conclusion, YAB utilized their time in some of the most pristine landscapes of West Virginia to reflect on how they can be more effective at achieving their mission and operating as a youth organization, how they can work as a team to improve their community, and how they can continue to become strong leaders and demonstrate traits of a leader. The skills developed on this trip are intended to provide YAB with the experience and tools needed to be the great decision makers and leaders of tomorrow.

YAB read select journal entries from their trip with TMI to an audience at the Morgantown High School Library on Thursday, June 23rd. The presentation highlighted some of YAB’s favorite moments from the trip as well as the feelings and thoughts which were provoked from being in such a beautiful environment and natural landscape. The presentation was part of a community outreach meeting where YAB also recognized all of their community recycling partners and hosted a panel discussion on how youth and community members can be more involved with their local and state governments. Participants in the panel were Morgantown Mayor Bill Byrne, Morgantown City Council members Jenny Selin and John Gaddis, and State House Delegate Barbara Fleischauer. YAB and community members were very concerned, among other current topics, with the abundant presence of litter within Morgantown and the absence of effective legislation and education to mitigate the problem. Citizens and panel members discussed the benefits of proper education on the harms of litter on communities, and also the outcomes and results of cities and states that have incorporated “bottle bills” into their communities, where residents can receive monetary compensation for the return of spent cans and bottles. YAB also discussed the path to create a partnership between The Mountain Institute and public schools in the area with the panel. They feel other youth should experience the wild landscapes of West Virginia with the educational resources The Mountain Institute has to offer. The presentation was part of FODC’s outreach board meeting in which they invite the public to enjoy a presentation, movie, or discussion on a certain topic of interest to FODC, Morgantown, and the rest of the watershed community.

“The Mountain Institute always offers an incredible experience. You journey to beautiful places in Appalachia that not many people get to experience. My peers and I participated in many leadership excerises which built great team work between us all and enhanced our self confidence when taking a leadership role,” YAB co-chair, Tristan Dennis said.

YAB’s Chair/President, Evan Lintz had this to say about the experience,

Going to TMI and backpacking in the Monongahela National Forest has been an incredible experience. Standing on top of Spruce Knob gave me a new perspective on our state because I could see its miles upon miles of natural beauty. Anyone who could witness what I saw would understand that such beauty is worth protecting.