The Yellowstone Adventure and Service Program gives teens the opportunity to explore Gallatin National Forest, the Grand Tetons, and Yellowstone National Park. Each night the group will put their "leave no trace" ethics into practice as they set up their tent sites and prepare group meals on camping stoves. During the day the group will work with service partners to complete various hands-on projects in national and state parks and forests. In addition, participants will have the opportunity to join in adventure field trips including day hikes, white-water rafting, rock climbing, a rodeo, and guided tours to explore the geology and wildlife in Yellowstone.
Most of the service work on YAS is physical in nature. Volunteer coordinators from local communities and national or state parks will arrange work projects that may include trail work, harvesting produce for local food banks, campground restoration, historical building preservation, helping to control invasive plant species, or assisting with a Citizen Science Project. Program participants will also have the opportunity to experience the dramatic natural features of the world's very first national park. On guided tours in Yellowstone they will be able to watch eruptions at geyser basins and view wildlife through spotting scopes as they learn about the park's successful wolf restoration program. Throughout the trip the group will gain a deeper understanding of the American West's rugged landscape, while learning what it means to be good stewards of the land.
The YAS Program is designed around service work and camping, taking advantage of the facilities at the State and National Parks and Forests. The group will be transported from site to site in a bus driven by trip leaders. Participants will be responsible for organizing their own gear and assisting with the group equipment, such as tents, stoves and program supplies. Group members will sleep in tents or under the starry summer skies. Each YAS participant will share in the responsibilities of food preparation, site set-up and pick-up, and performing community service projects.
All YAS participants will take part in two days of orientation at the Becket-Chimney Corners YMCA in the Berkshires prior to departing on their journey. During this time, YAS participants will develop group-building skills and learn how to be ambassadors for the YMCA. The group will discuss the basics of travel, as well as other safety guidelines relating to camping and outdoor activities on the program. They will become acquainted with fellow group members and discuss program goals and regulations, thus setting the standards for the success of their adventure. Participants will review how to set up tents, develop outdoor cooking skills, lead cabin chat, and effectively participate in community service projects.
Due to the expanse of the wilderness out West, participants will be in isolated areas at times. The group will have an itinerary, with scheduled nights at established campgrounds. Our leaders carry cell phones for emergencies. It is important to remember that this does not guarantee immediate communication from the field to our office. Radio and cell phone transmission can be unpredictable and dependent on terrain, atmospheric conditions and other variables. There may be occasions when we have no phone access with our group for over 24 hours. However, we require all YAS leaders to call the Travel and Service Program Director at the Becket-Chimney Corners YMCA office a minimum of once a week.
The service work our teens take part in on YAS is primarily focused on physical service in the outdoors. We partner with State and National park rangers in Wyoming and Montana who arrange projects for our groups. Participants will help build fences to assist with wildlife migration, restore pioneer cabins from the early 1900s with White Grass Dude Ranch, build fences to discourage ATV access, and remove invasive plants on park land. In addition to physical projects, participants will have the opportunity to run day camp activities at a YMCA camp in Bozeman.
The TSP summer is about helping participants transition from the role of camper into the role of leader. It is our hope that while on TSP, participants learn to identify their own personal leadership strengths and work to develop skills that will help them in their futures. During orientation, participants will meet with their trip leaders to discuss their strengths and weaknesses and set goals for the program. Each participant will be given the opportunity to serve as Leader of the Day at some point during their trip, where they will be responsible for leading the group with the guidance of their trip leaders. Outside of Leader of the Day, participants will consistently be asked to step up and support their group. Opportunities may include helping to prepare a meal, setting up camp, making sure the group is on time to a service project, and showing general active follower-ship.
Each program is led by two caring and competent adults (21 years or older) who are certified in CPR, Wilderness First Aid and Life guarding (if there is swimming on the program). We look for leaders who have demonstrated that they are positive role models for young teens, are mature, responsible, and able to problem-solve effectively and make decisions particularly in an off-site setting without the additional staff support that is available in a traditional camp setting. About half of our leaders typically come from within our camps. In addition, we also recruit individuals who have experience as teachers or with programs such as NOLS and Outward Bound. TSP leader candidates complete a written application, submitted three references, and are interviewed by the Travel & Service Programs Directors. Each leader is required to participate in a 9 day training program prior to the beginning of their assignment.
YAS participants will have the opportunity to gain a deeper understanding of the natural world as they explore diverse ecosystems out West. Participants will explore the geothermal features of Yellowstone, experience wilderness on a grand scale in the Grand Tetons and Gallatin National Forest, and develop camping skills. The group will also help to preserve the environment by completing meaningful service projects. Good physical health and a positive attitude are essential for this leadership program. Independence, responsibility, achievement, fun - these qualities, and more, are the essence of the YAS Program.