St. Paul students traded-in their spring break plans to camp, paddle, and expand their career options. From day one of Outdoor Career Academy (OCA), they demonstrated teamwork and leadership as they climbed into Voyageur canoes and paddled Lake Phalen. The curriculum was packed with sessions taught by industry professionals offering certificates in First Aid, CPR, Leave No Trace, and included a visit to the University of Minnesota Recreation Administration department.
After a couple days of getting to know each other, Audrey, a senior at Avalon High School, said she finally felt her “voice can matter” when participating in team activities. Other participants shared similar experiences of growing self-confidence throughout the week.
It was incredible to see students realize their value as leaders among peers. Gwen Wilson, director of Outdoor Career Academy, was thrilled when students took initiative and set up their tents with no instruction from staff and assisting peers who found the task more challenging. This demonstrated the exact result that Gwen was hoping for: young people leading the way, regardless of background or experience.
After earning her certifications and listening to professionals from outdoor industry, Te’Lisa, a senior at Face to Face Academy shared, “I’m really surprised by all that this field has to offer, and I’m excited about jobs that can support my love for nature.” After spending a few days with WI trail staff, many participants said they are interested in leading WI trips while in college (yes, please!).
Outdoor Career Academy, in partnership with the St. Paul Right Track program, exposes youth to employment opportunities and job training. After participating in OCA these same youth gained a greater understanding of the outdoor industry and are ready for outdoor jobs – hire them!
Special thanks to Bryan Refsland for reporting from the field.