The Cottonwood Public Library’s Get Out program, in partnership with the Cottonwood Parks and Recreation Department, took a group of teenagers to the top of the Mount Humphreys trail in Flagstaff on July 16.
Get Out is a grant-funded program that seeks to increase mental and physical resilience in teenagers through outdoor experiences. The library’s Youth Services Department received a grant from the American Library Association in conjunction with the Arizona Center for Rural Health to pilot the program. The program’s previous events this year included equine therapy, yoga, camping at Riverfront Park and a kayaking trip.
Elizabeth Hansen, the CPL’s teen library specialist, Parks and Recreation Director Jak Teel and Parks, Trails and Community Enrichment Coordinator Joe Sulfaro led the group of nine teenagers up nine miles of trail to an elevation of 11,800 feet.
“It was amazing,” Hansen said. “It was really challenging and it was supposed to be. A lot of the kids prepared ahead of time, but it was all theoretical.” She found it interesting to see what parts of the hike each participant found challenging while they were doing it.
“We all had some personalized, private obstacle, and that hike allowed us to climb over it,” Hansen said. “That was the most beautiful result of the whole thing. It was only in speaking about it afterwards that we heard some incredible stories.”
She mentioned that one hiker turned out to feel less prepared than they thought they were, but was determined to complete the hike on willpower and succeeded in making it to the top.
“It was really interesting to see that each person had this growth and development in the span of 10 hours,” Hansen said. “It was the most powerful thing we have done so far. It was so transformative for everyone.” She also felt that the altitude was an additional challenge.
Hansen said that each event they have hosted so far has helped the participants to realize that they can do something they didn’t previously believe they could, and then keep on doing it.
“It always goes deeper than I think it’s going to and every event has some incredible, profound epiphany around it,” Hansen said.
The previous Get Out event, a kayaking trip with Arizona Legend Adventures, was the best-attended event in the program so far. Hansen mentioned how one of the students who had been the most frightened at the beginning ended up leading the group, and how it brought participants’ attention to the condition of local waterways. The result was a request from the teenagers for another event that includes an element of community service.
The next Get Out event will be the Walkabout with Mwandani on Saturday, Aug. 26. The age requirement has been lowered from 13 to 11, allowing those ages 11 to 18 to participate in this event. Mwandani, a professional guide, will take teens on a two-hour nature walk from the Jail Trail to Dead Horse Ranch State Park, sharing facts about the Verde Valley along the way. Participants will also receive a reserved spot for the Wild in the City event on Saturday, Sept. 9.
The library is continuing to search for grant opportunities and other ways to make this program sustainable.
Several more events are scheduled through October, including geocaching, disc golf and a full-day survival skills camp on Saturday, Sept. 9. Events require no previous experience to participate.