Take a Hike is a full-time alternative education program that engages at-risk youth through a unique combination of adventure-based learning, academics, therapy, and community involvement.
Not every student fits into the mainstream school system. Students in the Take a Hike program often struggle with issues that have inhibited their success in the mainstream school system such as drug and alcohol addiction, physical and mental abuse, criminal activity, low self-esteem, depression, and/or trauma.
Most students are referred to the program by school counselors or social workers for an opportunity to make lasting change in their lives.
Last September, a new student joined the Take a Hike program in the grade 10/11 class.
“I had to take care of my two little brothers. My parents would have people over all day and be doing drugs all day. The only time they stopped was to go out and get food and then come back to the house to use with all these strange people again. When I turned 11 I was very sick of my life, I hated having to see my brothers go through this with me. I kind of felt alone though, because I had no adults in my life. So basically, I said to myself, “screw it, I don’t want to keep trying so hard anymore…”
She began using drugs when she was 11 years old.
“When I came to Take a Hike in September 2011, I was a wreck. I looked terrible, felt terrible and didn’t care about anything at all except me and drugs. I could be half dead but I still needed something. So I got in trouble for being under the influence at school one time, and my mother was really ashamed. But I didn’t care. One day, I decided to use drugs at school, and I thought “man, I’m using needles at school… something is seriously wrong here.” That was 2 days before my first 3 day kayaking trip.
On the 3 day trip I was detoxing from heroin. My bones felt stiff, my jaw ached, I scratched like mad on my chin, and thought that there was something crawling on my face. It was crazy and I hated this feeling. I just wanted to go home and use whatever I could find to make this stop. I didn’t want to be a part of the group so I sat thinking long and hard about what I was doing and how I got here. Finally I spoke to my teacher Nick about the whole situation and basically told him that hey I need some help with getting my life back on track. Once we returned to Vancouver I spoke to the Take a Hike therapist Pete and asked him how I can get some help. We found a place in Vancouver where I could go to for rehab and I was admitted into that place in November 2011 for three months.
I just celebrated 1 year clean, living drug free and happy all thanks to that one 3 day trip. I honestly don’t think I would have been able to realize this kind of thing on my own. I wanted to change but I didn’t realize how serious recovery was. If it wasn’t for the 3 days that we were out of the city and getting to know ourselves and how we handle life without being under the influence of anything, whether it be drugs, alcohol, video games, peers and such, I don’t think I would have come to realize that life is so much more than just that little bubble of sorrow and resentment I was living in.
Adventure-based learning is a critical component of the Take a Hike program. It is a time that students can get away from their situation in the city. Teaching staff guide at-risk youth through outdoor adventures that require increasingly complex skills. Adventure-based learning uses physical activities to help youth develop self-directed goals, trust, communication, teamwork and problem-solving skills. It also provides a safe and supportive environment for building self-esteem and self-motivation, and is instrumental to the successful turnaround of students’ lives.
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