LEAD (Group Mentoring for Teens)


The Nathan & Karen Sandler LEAD Programs: Leadership through Exploration, Action, and Discovery

Group, experiential mentoring programs that help teens develop life skills while exploring hands-on activities alongside peers and caring adults. Our LEAD programs are designed to help Aspen to Carbondale teens in grades 6-12 develop a sense of community engagement and the following life skills; teamwork, communication with peers and adults, decision-making, goal-setting, leadership, confidence, and trust. Youth commit to participating in a group setting where they achieve personal growth while supporting their peers to do the same. We prioritize serving youth who can benefit from extra support in home, community, or school environments.

For more information on this program please contact John Brasier, LEAD Program Director at [email protected]

LEAD programs include:

High School Outdoor Leadership classes:

Outdoor Leadership is a year-long, school-day course designed and taught by Buddy Program LEAD staff members at Basalt, Roaring Fork, and Rifle High Schools. This 300-hour-long course engages a dozen students, sophomores through seniors, at each school annually. Participating students develop leadership skills as well as skills for successful outdoor travel and exploration and participate in community service projects.  In addition to LEAD’s focused life skills instruction, students develop skills in the areas of wilderness ethics, wilderness first aid, backcountry trip planning, navigation, meal planning, camping, backpacking, non-technical climbing, mountain weather, local land features and management, and group dynamics.  Students participate in single and multi-day field trips including hikes, camping trips, hut trips, rock climbing, snowshoeing, and service projects.  Student participants earn dual high school and college credit via Colorado Mountain College as  Buddy Program course instructors are accredited CMC instructors.

Middle School Outdoor Leadership Classes:

Outdoor Leadership at Aspen, Basalt, Carbondale, and Rifle Middle Schools is a year-long, extracurricular opportunity where a dozen 7th and 8th grade participants at each school engage in nearly 100 hours of leadership skills development and outdoor activity.  Students participate in 3-day trips in the spring and fall to locations such as backcountry huts, the Colorado National Monument, and Sylvan Lake State Park.  Students focus on life skills development through the lens of backcountry travel, teamwork, and individual reflection (“solos”) while in the field, and stay connected between trips via monthly meetings at school.

Youth Camp (Grades 9-12):

Each June, Youth Camp engages 25 high school youth for 5 days and 4 nights in a journey to Moab, Utah. Participants camp overnight in the La Sal Mountains and experience “challenge by choice” via rock climbing, canyoneering, hiking, whitewater rafting, team building, and living in a respectful camp community.

Dream Day Camp (Grades 6-8)

Each August, Dream Day Camp engages 20 middle school youth for 5 days of exploration around the Roaring Fork Valley.  Activities vary from year to year and include environmental stewardship projects, art projects, outdoor activities such as rock climbing and low and high ropes course initiatives, team-building games, art projects, an overnight camping trip, river rafting, and participating in a respectful camp community.

School-Year Activities:

LEAD provides opportunities for teens to try new hands-on experiences and stay engaged across the school year via a variety of events.  Past activity offerings have included art classes, auto mechanics workshops, cooking workshops, camp reunions, outdoor excursions, and more.

Thanks to our LEAD Program Partners: Aspen Center for Environmental Studies, Aspen Expeditions, Basalt Middle School, Basalt High School, BLM Moab, Carbondale Middle School, Colorado Mountain College, Desert Mountain Medicine, EcoFlight, 5Point Film Festival, Elk Mountain Expeditions, Moab Desert Adventures, Roaring Fork High School, Roaring Fork Outdoor Volunteers, Roaring Fork School District, 10th Mountain Division Hut Association, USFS Manti-La Sal, Wilderness Workshop

Thanks to our LEAD Program Supporters: Nathan and Karen Sandler, John and Jessica Fullerton, Laurie Michaels and David Bonderman, Laura Welch, The Environment Foundation of the Aspen Skiing Company, Garfield County LiveWell,  Basalt Education Foundation, and Betty Jane Schuss Fund, Aspen Rotary

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