Buddy Program expands LEAD classes to Rifle
The Buddy Program’s LEAD classes, known in the Roaring Fork Valley for getting kids out of the classroom and into the back country for group leadership experiences, recently began a three-year journey as part of the Rifle schools curriculum.
At the end of 2017, the Great Outdoors Colorado Inspire Initiative awarded over $14 million to nine communities, including $1,570,541 over the next three years to the Get Outdoors Garfield County Coalition.
While the funding will go to various educational and outdoor pilot programs in communities across Garfield County, $85,000 a year will be used to bring Buddy’s unique LEAD program to Rifle.
Buddy Program Executive Director Lindsay Lofaro said the $85,000 will be used to fund the LEAD instructor at both Rifle Middle School and Rifle High School, pay for the equipment and provide a program at no cost to the youth.
The Buddy Program, based in Carbondale and Aspen, offers a variety of both community- and school-based adult-youth and student-to-student mentoring programs. Among its offerings is the Leadership through Exploration, Action and Development experiential program, or LEAD.
“We understand the need in western Garfield County for youth to have outdoor and group mentoring experiences, and our LEAD Outdoor Leadership Program at the high school and middle school are designed to do just that,” Lofaro said.
LEAD program coordinator for RHS and RMS, Nathan Perrault, said the goal is to grow the program over the next three years, so when the three-year grant ends the community can see the benefit to keep it going.
“We have to prove it’s a program worth having,” he said.
While the RMS-based program is a yearlong extracurricular opportunity for seventh- and eighth-grade participants for nearly 100 hours a year, the RHS program is a 300-hour, year-long course offered to sophomore, junior and senior students.
In addition to teaching students valuable life skills, the course teaches wilderness first aid, back country trip planning, navigation, camping, backpacking and more, Lofaro added.
Students participate in single and multi-day trips including hikes, camping trips and rock climbing, as both the RHS and RMS groups have gone on excursions this fall. RMS students went to the Colorado National Monument and RHS students went to the Hunter-Frying Pan Wilderness.
“It’s a different dynamic when you are in the back country for three days rather than an hour of class time,” Perrault added.
Steven Fuller, who was part of the GOCO team that brought the class to Rifle High School and works with the Rifle Middle School students, said the excursions allow students who don’t have access to outdoor programs to get out of their comfort zone.
Perrault said the activities give students the chance to learn new skills, like how to use a map or compass and teaches them risk analysis and risk assessment.
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