If you’ve been following the news of our education program expansions, then you’ll likely recall that earlier this year Colorado Canyons Association launched a fundraising effort known as The Expedition Fund in order for participants in Hilltop’s Residential Youth Services (RYS) program to experience the best of Colorado's outdoors through programs developed by CCA.
Through the generosity of many individual donors and ANB Bank, as well as a significant portion of our proceeds from the Grand Junction Rotary Club sponsored 2017 Banff Mountain Film Festival, we’ve been able to provide RYS students with three outstanding outdoors experiences over the past few months.
The first two, in May and June, were hikes led by CCA's NCA Stewardship Coordinator, Ryan McConnell and Education Director, Rob Gay. These hikes took students into the McInnis Canyons National Conservation Area at Devil’s Canyon and Pollock Bench, where students learned about native plants, geology, map-reading skills, and fossils.
In July, students joined Ryan, Rob, and AmeriCorps VISTA, Killian Rush, on a day-long rafting adventure down the Gunnison River through the Dominguez-Escalante National Conservation Area. For some students, this was their first experience on a river, and the day could not have been better. Clear blue skies greeted the rafters at the Escalante boat ramp, and throughout the float, professional guides from Rimrock Adventures, as well as BLM employees and CCA staffers, helped the students to better understand the natural and human history of the canyon through which they were floating.
The placid Gunnison River was punctuated by occasional drops and some slight whitewater, which allowed the crew to get good and wet before resuming their paddling down the river. When the boats finally came to rest at the Bridgeport boat ramp, the students were thoroughly exhausted, and happily working together as a team!
All in all, CCA’s partnership with Hilltop has been a great success and shows youths who are in a tough place in their life that the outdoors are there for them, whether for pure adventure or as a pathway to professional opportunities.
This work would not be possible without the generous support of individual Expedition Fund donors, ANB Bank and the Rotary Club of Grand Junction who are all committed to helping get at-risk and under-served youth out into the outdoors.