When Helen and I founded Wilderness Ventures in 1972, we had no notion that the program would grow to include 6 continents and over 70 independent program choices. Our vision was simply that of a problem and a solution. The problem: how to connect our country’s next generation of leaders with their environment, their peers and themselves while better preparing them for their important role in the world. The solution: our first, immersive leadership adventure in 1973, on which we led a fantastic group of young people across the Rocky Mountains and the Pacific Northwest on a magical, summer-long journey.
The tremendous growth we’ve seen in the breadth of our programming over the past four decades is a testament to the perennial applicability of our simple, initial vision. As passionate educators, we see Wilderness Ventures as our life’s work. We feel tremendously lucky to have impacted over 21,000 students who have benefited from our inspiring environments, nurturing lessons engaging activities. This past year marked our 40th summer season, which was certainly a tremendous milestone for us. However, as another wonderful summer season was progressing, we found ourselves growing evermore excited about the innovations we’d been planning for 2013.
For 40 years, our lives have literally revolved around our anticipation for the approaching summer season. When the summer itself passes in a flash of excitement, energy, emotional high points and the many long days and nights that go into delivering a Wilderness Ventures experience, we’re grateful for the fall as a time to reflect on both the previous and upcoming years.
In many ways, with the magical memories of the summer just passed, and a bit of breathing room before we begin visiting perspective students and their families during our winter slideshow presentations, the fall is the best time for us to connect the lessons and rewards of previous successful season with our program plans for the next upcoming summer. It takes years of planning, scrutiny, research and revisions to enact just one of our program offerings, and many of the well-conceived program plans that we’ve developed over the decades do not make the cut. As parents ourselves, we feel the tremendous burden of responsibility to offer only the most substantive, inspiring and meaningful adventure opportunities imaginable.
Like our first student adventure across the American West in 1973, each of our program offerings are in themselves a magical experience — carefully designed to teach interpersonal awareness, develop an appreciation for the environment and to prepare our students to thrive in the classroom and their daily lives by bridging the lessons learned in the most amazing environments on the planet with the skills necessary to succeed in the 21st Century. In 2013, we hope we can empower and inspire more great young people than ever before — enabling another generation of WV students to discover their peers, their surroundings and themselves while making the best memories of their lives.
Mike and Helen Cottingham
Founders and Program Directors