Summary & Purpose of Event

A generous grant from the North Face Foundation allowed Heritage Trails Partnership of the Mississippi Gulf Coast (HTP) to continue to develop a long term, sustainable Jr. Trails Partnership (JTP) that seeks to get local young people connected and active on community trail projects along the Mississippi Gulf Coast.

On March 25, 2013, HTP in partnership with Community Collaboration International (CCI, an alternative spring break service learning program), implemented its first Outdoor Recreation Leadership Training (ORLT).

This training provided an opportunity to get students from different universities from other regions of the country with very diverse backgrounds to interact with local students from Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College (MGCCC), to address trail related issues. The universities that were represented from other regions of the country were: University of Hartford Connecticut, University of Delaware, and Missouri School of Science & Technology.

Outdoor Recreation Leadership Training allowed HTP to continue to develop new, hands-on, experiential education based curriculum that is designed to engage students in team-building activities that develop problem solving skills, leadership skills, and build self-confidence.

Every student that participated in ORLT was given the opportunity to challenge themselves to overcome fears, work with a team to solve problems, engage in physical activity, and learn new skills, most of which were trying these things for the very first time. The “cross pollination” between the three out of state universities and the students from MGCCC, helped the local students hone their own leadership skills, while receiving feedback from their out of state peers, as they were the leaders and facilitators of both the Ropes Course and Kayak segments.

Before implementing the program, there had been no peer to peer communication between MGCCC and the three universities that participated.  Before and after surveys showed that students had substantially increased their knowledge of the Mississippi Coastal ecosystem, the importance of trails to a community and that getting outside can “actually be fun” and exciting. This last point is important since most students had not ever kayaked before. Post surveys indicated that many participants planned to return to their universities to pursue gathering like-minded students to start “outdoor clubs” and some indicated that they would return to Mississippi to participate in the future Youth Trail Stewardship Summit.