Shelby Schroeter has accomplished a lot since going through a province-wide program designed to get kids outside, learning about the great outdoors.
The Okanagan youth, now graduated and working as a tour guide in Osoyoos, was one of the first Okanagan kids to take part in Get Outside B.C. a program sponsored by the Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society that combines leadership training with the outdoors.
The program begins with a four day leadership retreat in Squamish where kids not only learn outdoor skills but also meet mentors who work in the outdoors, giving them an idea of some career paths to take to work outside.
The youth are then tasked with going back to the community to plan and host a community event with their peers.
“I had done leadership camps before but this one was definitely the best I have taken,” said Schroeter, 19, who took part in the camp two years ago. “Before the program I didn’t have the confidence to go out on my own, take chances and really explore the area I live in but after I took the program I really had that confidence. It encouraged me to apply at our local desert center and now I’m employed as a tour guide.”
Back in her community following the camp, Schroeter organized a clean-up of the local ski hill and also pulled together a group of friends and went on a camping trip, utilizing her leadership skills to organize the trips, build fires, put up tents and run the camp stove among other things.
The Get Outside B.C. program will run July 12 to 17 in Squamish and for the past few years local organizers have struggled to find kids to register for the program. There will be 30 youth selected from around the province to take part in the July event which is completely funded through the Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society and is free for participants, including airfare to Squamish.
The program is a great chance to get kids outdoors and away from the many digital distractions that have begun to dominate their lives, said Regional District of Central Okanagan organizer Nicole Kittmer.
“It’s kind of scary that kids today can identify all these logos like Starbucks or McDonalds or Apple but if you take them outside and show them a tree in their neighborhood, most can’t tell you what it is,” said Kittmer. “There is a disconnect about information about our natural world. It’s not anyone’s fault but there is so much time being spent indoors that hopefully a program like this can help counter-balance that.”
Schroeter agrees that her generation needs to spend more time outside. Living in the Okanagan, with its multitude of outdoor opportunities, gives kids a great chance to leave the smart phone behind and get outside.
“In the Okanagan and in B.C. in general we have a lot of resources to get ourselves outside,” she said. “We have amazing ski hills and so many lakes and tons of great hiking areas. I think a lot of kids maybe weren’t into these things when they were young and it might be intimidating. So this program really opened my eyes to all the opportunities there are to incorporate the outdoors into my life.”