Our practice eases the acculturation transition of refugee youth by supporting them to build strong connections to their new homeland, while also providing them with opportunities to fortify their cultural identity and share their experiences with others. With the implementation of contextual learning programs that promote resilience, REACH helps integrate newcomers into the fabric of their new communities. Recurring shifts in refugee and immigrant policies and support make our efforts to address the integration needs of refugee youth and their families even more crucial. Our work focuses on developing social capital, which fosters a shift from the marginal status that is often held by refugee youth and their families.
REACH's model integrates experiential learning, positive youth development, ecotherapy, and outdoor education principles to inspire leadership, academic success, and connections among refugee youth.
REACH, at its core, is about connecting people to a broader network of support. We coordinate partnerships with local professionals in the fields of biology, botany, ecology, environmental conservation, geology, engineering, visual and performing arts, digital media, technology, and more, who share their expertise and facilitate broader connections. REACH participants apply their new skills and knowledge through youth-led community service projects and presentations to peers and the general public.
PROGRAMS & PROJECTS.
REACH offers youth between the age of 10 and 18 the opportunity to participate in fun and challenging outdoor adventures during out-of-school time throughout the year. Youth engage in weekly or monthly day-camps, overnight tent camping and extended sleep-away trips with adventure sports and place-based education activities such as: mountain biking, hiking, canoeing, kayaking, skiing, ice skating, snow tubing, climbing, archery, fishing, forest restora-tion, river clean-ups, and more. Youth participants develop technical skills as well as team building skills throughout the year and get to show off their new learning at our family picnics and award ceremonies.
Peer Mentor Leadership Training
REACH participants who demonstrate deeper interests in advancing their skill levels in our experiential learning activities can participate in more intensive leadership trainings and service-based projects. REACH motivates and encourages young people to pursue coaching, paddling, climbing, wilderness first aid, and CPR certification and helps them to define future academic and career goals. As these prospective leaders develop additional skills and technical expertise, they are invited to serve as Peer Mentors to new or struggling youth participants and/or to play roles in the recruitment of new participants, development of innovative programming, or marketing of REACH.
Peer Mentors meet monthly to identify and plan areas for personal and organizational growth through skills training, investigations, and service-learning projects.
REACH families, parents and siblings related to registered youth, engage in monthly ecotherapy and adventure sessions, including age-appropriate experiential learning activities focused on nature, the environment, and exploration. With this framework, REACH youth and their parents and siblings can discover the environment and explore their own play, with both nature and each other, and share information and connect with other parents of children in the refugee community. Parents are introduced to accessible locations where they can take their whole family, as particular emphasis is placed on the power of “exploring our own backyard” by visiting local parks and absorbing the different ecosystems that our local community offers.
Special Projects & Engagement Efforts
All refugee youth who participate in REACH receive support services to help them reach their potential and feel fully supported at home, at school, and in the community. A key component of REACH is to conduct home visits to meet with parents and participating youth and assess their progress in school, at home, and within their social networks.
As a growing youth-led organization, various mission-driven initiatives arise to address the immediate needs and interests of our participating families. During the COVID-19 pandemic, REACH has facilitated virtual adventure camps, bike give-aways, college-readiness advising, and garden-in-a-box or camp-in-a-box projects.