National Outdoor Leadership School (NOLS)
We sent our 15 year old son on a NOLS backpacking trip in Wyoming and I absolutely can't say enough good things about them. It was truly transformative for him - changed all of our lives really. Looks like their youngest program is 14 so maybe keep them in mind for the future.
Our son also did a program with Spencer and he is great - I'm not sure what he is offering now. https://elementalnature.org/
This program also was highly recommended to us https://www.backtoearth.org/
Lastly - try getting in touch with the folks who run this program - I think they might know other options: https://www.vildanature.org/
Archived Q&A and Reviews
I am looking for discussion about NOLES courses- which my son wants to do during his GAP year. He wants to do rock climbing, back packing and kayaking. W
It is NOLS, National Outdoor Leadership School. It is top notch and rigorous beyond Outward Bound. On the pack trips, people carry 70 pounds on some trips. I have heard their Kenya program is great. I have taken their Wilderness First Responder class. It was a great course and I shared the class with Yosemite guides, raft guides and a guide for Nepal trips. Your teen would have a very active time and would come out with some great skills. kl
Hi, I did a NOLS course when i was 17. I did the semester in Kenya which included hiking Mt. Kenya, spending time with he Maasai while hiking through eh Rift Valley, and then ending with time sailing off the coast of Lamu. It was an amazing experience, and if i could afford to send my own teen i would! Without a doubt! We followed a curriculum, and i took advantage of the opportunity to receive college credit for certain ''courses''. So, i'm not sure what particular questions you had, but you are welcome to contact me further if you would like. Your son will learn skills and become more confident being a leader. cris b
I believe you are asking about NOLS, the National Outdoor Leadership School, based in Wyoming, with outdoor leadership courses all over the world. My daughter took a semester-long, Western USA class after finishing college and financed the $12,000 on her own, with 1/3 scholarship, 1/3 loan and 1/3 cash she had saved. She loved most of the course, but the last two weeks snow and camping at 20 degrees below 0, Fahrenheit, in quigloos they built for themselves was a little intense. Everyone had to be very disciplined about daily life to stay safe. She felt that most of the students in the course were economically privileged and not used to being on their own. Most were financed by their families. A friend of one person in her group air-dropped ice-cream to the whole group, after a long day's climb. NOLS does a very professional and structured program. The kids are safe and well cared for. They do amazing things in the outdoors and go to amazing places, though not entirely remote ones. This could be a good gap program, depending on your young person's interests, skills and discipline. Graduates of the semester leadership program can get jobs with camps and outdoor tour groups. Our daughter thought she wanted to pursue this sort of career, but changed her mind after the course. - Glad she did it
Re: Kayak, canoe or rafting summer programs
My daughter had a fantastic life-changing 4 weeks kayaking around southern Alaska with NOLS (National Outdoor Leadership School) last summer. They learn so much more than just kayaking. See www.nols.edu. Anna
Re: 14-y-o has no social life, mostly TV & video games
I really feel for you and your son, and I know there are not any easy solutions. However, I just wanted to comment on one thing you mentioned in your posting: ''One of his therapists strongly recommended NOLS but the kid refuses to go.'' I am a graduate of NOLS (National Outdoor Leadership School). NOLS is specifically *not* a place for a troubled teen. Instead, it is a place for (in their words) ''highly motivated students''. It is an outdoor wilderness skills and leadership development program. Teens can attend, but it is very important that they want to be there and participate willingly, or they could jeopardize the safety of the rest of the group. NOLS is intended for the type of person who reads their catalog and *begs* their parents to send them to NOLS! - NOLS Wind River Wilderness graduate
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