“I was afraid and scared to take on a new challenge. The WI staff put my mind at ease,” shared Tony, a Project WILD participant.
Supported by Mitsubishi Electric America Foundation, Wilderness Inquiry prepared 126 youth and young adults with disabilities for competitive employment through Project WILD (Wilderness Inquiry Leadership Development).
Project WILD is a unique program that enhances work readiness skills such as teamwork, self-confidence, self-determination, social skills, leadership, and communication for youth with disabilities through outdoor adventures such as canoeing, camping, and hiking. Project WILD partners with Project SEARCH, a program providing real-life work experience to help youth with significant disabilities make successful transitions from school to adult life. In 2014, Project WILD served youth in Ohio, New York, Georgia, Minnesota, and Washington, DC. This fall, Project WILD will visit Troy, OH, and Savannah, GA, to continue our mission of helping prepare and integrate transition-age youth with disabilities into community life.
Patti Moore, a Project SEARCH leader with Troy, Ohio’s Upper Valley Medical Center said, “Our Upper Valley interns, their parents, our staff, and community have been forever changed because of these experiences. Wilderness Inquiry has taken Project SEARCH’s goal of community competitive employment and independence for people with disabilities to a new level.”
Patti outlined Project WILD’s impact on the youth with disabilities and overall community in Troy, Ohio:
- A part-time job in nutrition services in a hospital setting secured after discovering a passion for cooking on the WI camping trip.
- An individual developed a soap making business and landed five venues to sell her product after a brainstorm around a WI campfire.
- Two interns now live on their own; confidence gained through WI experiences fed into this success.
- Parents empowered to allow their 18-22 year olds to spend the night away from home for the first time.
- The experienced WI team, providing access to canoeing has opened doors to parents allowing their son or daughter with a disability to try more activities in the community.
- Community members and business owners experience what people with disabilities CAN DO, resulting in greater community access and dignity for SEARCH interns.
- Discovery of how to utilize local parks, campgrounds, and nature.
On behalf of Wilderness Inquiry, a huge thank you to all our partners in making a difference in the lives of youth with disabilities as they transition into adulthood. This includes all Project SEARCH and program leaders such as Patti Moore, funders and supporters such as Mitsubishi Electric America Foundation, community leaders, potential employers, and of course program participants such as Project SEARCH interns!
Wilderness Inquiry continues to build on success from past years, connecting youth to employment training and opportunities.