CMC Leadville Wilderness Experience Class

Students in the Leadville Wilderness Experience class put their backcountry skills to work on a recent hut trip.
Students in the Leadville Wilderness Experience class put their backcountry skills to work on a recent hut trip.

Youth Learn Outdoor Skills in CMC Leadville Wilderness Experience Class

Experiencing the wilderness can be an amazing opportunity – but this opportunity is not always accessible to all. For some, there are obstacles that stand between them and the natural world; lack of knowledge and experience, costly gear, motivation and encouragement to get out there and explore. Colorado Mountain College Leadville, Lake County School District, and Get Outdoors Leadville! are working to break down these barriers for Lake County High School students with the revitalized Wilderness Experience class.

The Wilderness Experience (WE), taught by Becca Katz (Lake County School District/ Get Outdoors Leadville!) and Cooper Mallozzi (CMC Leadville), is a course for Lake County High school students participating in the dual enrollment program at CMC. Eleven students, mostly juniors and seniors at LCHS, are enrolled in the program.

Wilderness Experience is designed to encourage students to become sound backcountry campers, while building leadership and communications skills, and connecting high school students to the natural world. The group recently spent a day doing service work for the 10th Mountain Division Hut Association, as a way to give back for the Hut Association’s generosity in providing a free night’s stay in a hut to the whole class, coming up in late October.

Students in the Wilderness Experience Class practice backcountry skills, learning to make mac and cheese using a whisperlite grill.
Students in the Wilderness Experience Class practice backcountry skills, learning to make mac and cheese using a whisperlite grill.

Students participate in outdoor activities and adventures, that focus on building leadership and communication skills, team-building exercises, backcountry cooking, shelter set-up, navigation and more. Currently, students are taking Outdoor Leadership (REC 211) to prepare for a 6-day Canyon Orientation course (OUT 114), which involves backpacking in the Cedar Mesa area of Utah.

“The Wilderness Experience is a re-invigoration of a similar class offered at the high school in the 80’s and 90’s,” says Cooper Mallozzi. “Community members and current students wanted to see it brought back.”

Though the program has history in Leadville, the GOL! partnership with CMC to offer this course is new as of last spring – and allows for the dual enrollment benefits.

“With funding from Great Outdoors Colorado and momentum built during a year-long community planning process, this seemed like an opportune time to re-invigorate a class that had lots of support and interest in the past,” says Becca Katz.

GOL! is able to support this course by providing individual gear like boots and puffy jackets to the students. And, it’s part of Becca’s job to co-teach this course in her role as Community Learning Director for Lake County School District — a position funded by Great Outdoors Colorado’s grant to GOL!.

“The most rewarding part is working with Lake County students and being able to share with them outdoor adventure and experiences,” says Katz, “We help them grow as leaders and community members and support them in realizing that the outdoors is for them and for everyone.”

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