Youth Led Community Outreach
We’re excited to announce a new project – “Youth-Led Community Outreach,” funded by the Illinois Department of Natural Resources, Coastal Management Program. For me, this is one of the most exciting projects we’re working on – and I’ve been inspired by the way the leaders of this project have rolled with repeated challenges. Over a year ago, we submitted a grant proposal with a lot of inter-related parts – coach training for CAT youth and young adults; Water Safety Talks aimed at young Chicago audiences in communities that traditionally have limited access to the water-based resources in Chicago, presented by the new coaches; Paddling Extravaganzas open to the public and “walk-in” participation, led by our new coaches, where the general public can get a chance to try out a kayak, a canoe or a SUP board; 4-session on-the-water paddlesport classes led by our young coaches; community celebrations open to anyone who participated in any of these events, where we’ll also provide information and resources about ways and places in Chicago to stay involved in paddlesport and conservation activities.
We were so pleased to receive the grant. Just as we were supposed to start, a pandemic hit the world. The young adult leaders of this project had just started planning the Water Safety Talks, when they had to change gears and figure out how to take them online. So in addition to researching the content, they had to learn video editing platforms pretty quick and complete basically a self-taught crash course in PR 101.
They did all of that.
They’ve published a 5-part series of Water Safety Talks. You can watch them all right here.
As the Water Safety Talks were wrapping up, the team started working on a modified version of the Paddling Extravaganzas. Of course they couldn’t plan to bring together the crowds that would have been part of the initial plan – so instead they offered family paddles. They brainstormed where to share information with hard copy flyers and online, and worked on their Graphic Design skills to work up a flyer. The family paddles allowed for the same “intro to paddling” and “intro to Lake Michigan” that we planned with the Extravaganzas – but without the crowds, and without exposing these new paddlers to people outside their household. We were pleased with this way of getting people on the water and keeping the risk of transmission of coronavirus low. We had to cancel the coach training that was planned for June – we couldn’t bring in our Guest Coaches – so our young adult leaders of this project and some of our CAT staff worked together to make sure they got trained in the basics of leading people on the water.
It was another project that wasn’t what any of us expected. And another project that the team stepped up to admirably.
And then the City’s Re-Opening metric that measures new cases turned yellow in a green-yellow-red traffic-light-type system the City created. This was the benchmark that triggered an automatic pause in CAT programming.
So the team had to pivot again.
They were disappointed.
Really disappointed.But they brushed it off, and created a new plan. We’re creating an opportunity for a bit more informal coach training, and since staff events aren’t on pause, the team is planning to film some instructional paddlesport videos. They started filming yesterday evening.
I expect they’ll have to change up their plans again. And again.
I’m really proud of them – for their flexibility, the enthusiasm and the heart they bring to this project, their ability to keep changing plans instead of throwing up their hands in despair or frustration. They may be young – they have handled the frustration and the challenge admirably. They keep coming up with ways to meet the goals of this project.
I couldn’t be more proud of them.
Keep checking this page for updates about their project. We all need a little inspiration this summer – and I expect you’ll find it in this team.
Thanks so much!
Founder, Chicago Adventure Therapy