North Carolina Wilderness Programs Uplift Struggling Teens


Published:

Baptist Children's Homes camps combine wilderness camp with private school. Students live in groups in the wilderness, create their own shelters, prepare their own meals and chart their own expeditions.

Photo courtesy of Baptist Children's Homes of North Carolina

Behm Williams is now a middle school teacher at Just Right Academy in Durham, but a few years ago he was a teenager whose life was spinning out of control. Williams’ mother sent him to camp at SUWS Carolinas, a school of urban wilderness survival.

“I feel a bond with the students who have attended a wilderness program,” Williams says. “‘I survived wilderness camp.’ You share an experience that other people really can’t understand.”

Williams describes learning to shelter himself and his possessions by tying plastic into a tarp-covered hammock when it rained. He explains how he rationed his supplies and oriented his days around learning to set campfires with stones and sticks.

Williams says it instilled a sense of adult responsibility in him. “It feels like that sort of missing rite-of-passage that tells you, ‘You’re not a child. You can do this.’”

Wilderness camps like SUWS Carolinas target adolescents who may have emotional or behavioral problems such as depression, anxiety, low self-esteem and trauma. Participants may have engaged in troubling behaviors — truancy, drugs, defiance or poor school performance, for example. Trained leaders bring small groups of these students into the wilderness, where they travel, learn skills to keep themselves warm and dry, prepare food and make decisions about how to work together to achieve their goals.

Why the Wilderness?

Wilderness programs work on the premise that experiencing a significant period of time in the wilds of nature can help struggling kids adopt skills they need to manage life at home and school. Exercise and exposure to nature have proven physical and mental health benefits, which include reducing stress, depression, aggression and anxiety.

The down-to-basics lifestyle offers participants space to focus. “You take the student away from all other distractions and focus on the present” says Kristen Koch, an administrator at North Carolina Outward Bound School, which offers locations in the Blue Ridge Mountains and Outer Banks, and uses outdoor adventure programs to challenge participants to safely and confidently step outside their comfort zones.

Wilderness life is tough, and the relationship between actions and results is very stripped-down and direct.

“We have to live with our results,” says Steve Ashton, director of Cameron Boys Camp, which is located in Cameron on 902 wooded acres. “People don’t need to make natural consequences artificially. We need to solve the leaky roof problem, or we get wet.”

Learning to regulate emotional responses, treat property with respect and work effectively with others take on clear importance in such a setting, while learning survival skills builds strength and self-confidence.

Emotional Healing

Each wilderness program’s application includes an assessment of the campers’ needs. Most programs employ trained therapists who meet regularly with participants. All utilize highly structured schedules and adults trained to work with struggling teenagers.

Many program instructors also train the participants’ families about how to offer productive support and interact with the participating family member. “It’s not just the kid that comes to camp, it’s the family,” says Linda Barber, a case manager at Camp Duncan for Girls, which is located near Aberdeen.

These programs aren’t designed to cover everything. Admissions officers work with parents to decide whether the program can serve their family’s needs — and families must consider whether the program’s benefits are worth the fees. After the wilderness experience, depending on the program and the student, some participants return home, while others go on to therapeutic boarding schools.

“I had a lot of work to do when I got home,” Williams says. “I used the confidence and strength I gained (at SUWS) to help me handle my problems.”

Look Before You Leap

None of the programs mentioned here are wilderness “boot camps” (extreme wilderness programs with military-style discipline techniques), and all but Outward Bound (because it is a national program) are licensed by the state of North Carolina, which reviews them periodically.

Parents should, however, meet in person with program administrators, ask questions and research the programs before entrusting any wilderness program their child. The Federal Trade Commission is a good place to start. Visit consumer.ftc.gov/articles/0185-residential-treatment-programs-teens for sample questions you can ask representatives to ensure a positive experience for your child. Also, talk to your child’s school counselor to get a sense of the program’s reputation, and ask other families who have used the program about their experiences.

Elizabeth Brignac is a freelance writer in Cary.


Wilderness Programs to Check Out

Outward Bound Intercept Program
Outward Bound is a nonprofit wilderness adventure program that offers many kinds of outdoor expeditions across the world. Intercept is a four-week adventure expedition designed specifically for teens with behavior concerns. It is a structured adventure program, not wilderness therapy. In groups, participants spend their days setting up campsites and traveling across the state or country.
Program details: In 2017, Outward Bound will offer two summer Intercept expeditions in North Carolina for ages 14-17.
Educational component: Some schools offer independent study credits for Outward Bound programs.

Trails Carolina

Trails Carolina is a for-profit wilderness therapy program based at Lake Toxaway that combines wilderness experience, education and therapy. Participants spend half their time on wilderness expeditions and the other half at base camp practicing their skills. Family education and communication are emphasized.
Program details: An average stay lasts 70-80 days. Designed for ages 10-17. Participants are grouped by age, gender and emotional/behavioral issue.
Educational component: At base camp, students participate in an education program with a North Carolina-accredited teacher and can earn school credit.

SUWS Carolinas

SUWS Carolinas is a for-profit wilderness therapy program in Old Fort, which is near the Pisgah National Forest. About 60 percent of participants’ time is spent in the woods hiking and learning wilderness skills. Students spend the rest of the time at base camp undergoing different kinds of therapies and attending behavioral education classes.
Program details: An average stay is 58 days. Designed for ages 10-17. Participants are grouped by age, gender and emotional/behavioral issue.
Educational component: Students can earn partial school credits in science, English and P.E.

Baptist Children’s Home Wilderness Camps

Camp Duncan (for girls) and Cameron Boys Camp

BCH camps are nonprofit programs based in Aberdeen and Cameron that combine wilderness camp with private school. Students live in groups in the wilderness, create their own shelters, prepare their own meals and chart their own expeditions. Family training is emphasized.
Program details: Length of stay varies widely. Some students stay for months, or even years. Designed for ages 11-15. Students must want to participate. Participants are grouped by age but also with an eye toward balancing different kinds of students into effective groups.
Educational component: Both camps are North Carolina-licensed private schools.


Summer Day Camp Options for Struggling Teens

Just Right Academy

The Boys and Girls Clubs of Wake County

The Boys and Girls Clubs of Durham and Orange Counties:

The Trilogy School

The Life House

 

 

Edit ModuleShow Tags

Related Content

Don’t Cry Over Spilled Grits

Health scare adds perspective and gratitude for simple acts such as walking the dog.

Parental Obesity Associated With Early Childhood Development Delays

Findings based on study that analyzed the data based on screenings of more than 4,800 children.

Tips for Pregnant and New Moms

Advice for maintaining a healthy pregnancy
Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit ModuleShow Tags

Calendar

February 2017

Join park staff in collecting data for the 20th annual Great Backyard Bird Count. We will look and listen for birds in a variety of habitats, and keep track of how many individuals of each species...

Cost: Free

Where:
Lake Crabtree County Park
1400 Aviation Pkwy.
Morrisville, NC  27560
View map »


Sponsor: Lake Crabtree County Park
Telephone: 919-460-3355
Contact Name: Carol Cunningham
Website »

More information

Take part in a class that teaches individualized ways to foster motor development for your child. Learn about tummy time alternatives, best positions for your baby, how to help your child learn to...

Cost: $18

Where:
Open Arts
1222 Copeland Oaks Dr.
Morrisville, NC  27560
View map »


Sponsor: Babies On The MOVE
Contact Name: Rebecca Quinones
Website »

More information

Families celebrate Purim with bagels, fruit and Hamantaschen. Kids enjoy Purim-related activities,  music and more. Costumes encouraged.

Cost: $8/family, member; $12/family, nonmember

Where:
Raleigh-Cary Jewish Community Center
12804 Norwood Rd.
Raleigh, NC  27613
View map »


Sponsor: Raleigh-Cary Jewish Community Center
Telephone: 919-676-6170
Contact Name: Jill Lokitz
Website »

More information

Take part in a class that teaches individualized ways to foster motor development for your child. Learn about carry positions, best positions for your baby, how to help your child learn to crawl,...

Cost: $18

Where:
Open Arts
1222 Copeland Oaks Dr.
Morrisville, NC  27560
View map »


Sponsor: Babies On The MOVE
Contact Name: Rebecca Quinones
Website »

More information

Learn how to creatively attach air plants to scrap wood. Combine reuse and living art and learn about how to care for air plants. All materials are provided, including plants. Register online....

Cost: $25

Where:
The Scrap Exchange
2050 Chapel Hill Rd.
Durham, NC  27707
View map »


Sponsor: The Scrap Exchange
Telephone: 919-213-1278
Contact Name: Anna Graves
Website »

More information

Join a park naturalist on a one-mile hike around Yates Mill Pond and help to identify and count the birds that we see along the way. Learn how to identify backyard birds by sight, sound and other...

Cost: Free

Where:
Historic Yates Mill County Park
4620 Lake Wheeler Rd.
Raleigh, NC
View map »


Telephone: 919-856-6675
Website »

More information

Enjoy the tale of a young mermaid with the dulcet voice who risks it all for love in a daring deal with a vengeful sea witch. Purchase tickets online.

Cost: $30-$89

Where:
Fletcher Theater
2 E. South St.
Raleigh, NC  27601
View map »


Sponsor: Carolina Ballet
Telephone: 919-719-0900
Website »

More information

Discover birds along the trails and pond. All ages. Meet at the Longleaf Shelter. Registration required.

Cost: $1/person

Where:
Harris Lake County Park
2112 County Park Dr.
New Hill, NC
View map »


Telephone: 919-387-4342
Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

Join park staff in collecting data for the 20th annual Great Backyard Bird Count. We will look and listen for birds in a variety of habitats, and keep track of how many individuals of each species...

Cost: Free

Where:
Lake Crabtree County Park
1400 Aviation Pkwy.
Morrisville, NC  27560
View map »


Sponsor: Lake Crabtree County Park
Telephone: 919-460-3355
Contact Name: Carol Cunningham
Website »

More information

Learn about the bald eagle and hike to the fishing pier to view eagles soaring high. All ages. Meet at the Longleaf Shelter. Registration required.

Cost: $1/person

Where:
Harris Lake County Park
2112 County Park Dr.
New Hill, NC
View map »


Telephone: 919-387-4342
Website »

More information

Ages 3-5 enjoy stories.

Cost: Free

Where:
Quail Ridge Books
4209-100 Lassiter Mill Rd.
Raleigh, NC  27609
View map »


Website »

More information

Enjoy games, crafts and hikes. Take a picnic lunch. All ages. Dress for outdoor fun. Meet at the Longleaf Shelter. Registration required.

Cost: Free

Where:
Harris Lake County Park
2112 County Park Dr.
New Hill, NC
View map »


Telephone: 919-387-4342
Website »

More information

Spend the afternoon learning all about birds. Go on a bird behavior scavenger hunt, play a migration game, and learn how to identify common species on the lake and at the feeder. Make suet. Ages...

Cost: Free

Where:
Lake Crabtree County Park
1400 Aviation Parkway
Morrisville, NC  27560
View map »


Sponsor: Lake Crabtree County Park
Telephone: 919-460-3355
Contact Name: Carol Cunningham
Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

Toddlers enjoy stories.

Cost: Free

Where:
East Regional Library
946 Steeple Square Ct.
Knightdale, NC  27545
View map »


Website »

More information

Mr. Panda is making a surprise. What is it? The animals must wait and see. But waiting is boring. Mr. Panda shows that good things come to those who wait. Read the story about patience.

Cost: Free

Where:
Barnes & Noble
760 S.E Maynard Rd.
Cary, NC  27511
View map »


Website »

More information

Babies enjoy stories.

Cost: Free

Where:
East Regional Library
946 Steeple Square Ct.
Knightdale, NC  27545
View map »


Website »

More information

Kids ages 12-18 interested in learning about the sport can get into boats and learn how to row. Students and parents can also meet the club's rowers and coaches. Novice and experienced...

Cost: Free

Where:
Lake Wheeler Park
6404 Lake Wheeler Rd.
Raleigh, NC  27603
View map »


Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

Toddlers enjoy stories.

Cost: Free

Where:
East Regional Library
946 Steeple Square Ct.
Knightdale, NC  27545
View map »


Website »

More information

Babies enjoy stories.

Cost: Free

Where:
East Regional Library
946 Steeple Square Ct.
Knightdale, NC  27545
View map »


Website »

More information

Kids ages 12-18 interested in learning about the sport can get into boats and learn how to row. Students and parents can also meet the club's rowers and coaches. Novice and experienced...

Cost: Free

Where:
Lake Wheeler Park
6404 Lake Wheeler Rd.
Raleigh, NC  27603
View map »


Website »

More information

The library's Teen Leadership Corps hosts an opportunity for kids of all ages to come build something special with Lego and Duplo bricks, and play games to improve reading and math skills.

Cost: Free

Where:
East Regional Library
946 Steeple Square Ct.
Knightdale, NC  27545
View map »


Website »

More information

Listen to a story in English and Spanish and meet  animals.

Cost: Free

Where:
East Regional Library
946 Steeple Square Ct.
Knightdale, NC  27545
View map »


Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

Parent and child enjoy a craft, activity and guided walk along the greenway. Ages 2-6.  Register online. Choose course #199100.

Cost: $3

Where:
Walnut Creek Wetland Center
950 Peterson St.
Raleigh, NC  27610
View map »


Sponsor: City of Raleigh Parks, Recreation and Cultural Resources
Telephone: 919-996-2760
Contact Name: Stacie Hagwood
Website »

More information

Preschoolers enjoy stories.

Cost: Free

Where:
East Regional Library
946 Steeple Square Ct.
Knightdale, NC  27545
View map »


Website »

More information

Moms meet other moms for support and friendship. Drop-in program.

Cost: Free

Where:
Grow, The Family Boutique
2885 Jones Franklin Rd
Raleigh, NC  27606
View map »


Telephone: 919-803-3521
Contact Name: Heather Dickens
Website »

More information

Help park staff with citizen science projects. Take a water bottle and wear sturdy shoes. Ages 8-10 with adult; 11 years and older adult optional. Meet at the Cypress Shelter. Registration required.

Cost: Free

Where:
Harris Lake County Park
2112 County Park Dr.
New Hill, NC
View map »


Telephone: 919-387-4342
Website »

More information

Kids ages 12-18 interested in learning about the sport can get into boats and learn how to row. Students and parents can also meet the club's rowers and coaches. Novice and experienced...

Cost: Free

Where:
Lake Wheeler Park
6404 Lake Wheeler Rd.
Raleigh, NC  27603
View map »


Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

Chase away the winter blues with a hike through the winter garden. After the walk, warm up inside with a book and winter craft. Meet at the visitor center. Ages 3-12. Register online.

Cost: $5/child

Where:
JC Raulston Arboretum at NC State University
4415 Beryl Rd.
Raleigh, NC
View map »


Telephone: (919) 513-7011
Contact Name: Elizabeth Overcash
Website »

More information

Join others for an easy paced hike around the greenway. Ages 3 and younger; older siblings, strollers and leashed pets welcome. Register online. Choose course #199059.

Cost: Free

Where:
Walnut Creek Wetland Center
950 Peterson Street
Raleigh, NC  27610
View map »


Sponsor: City of Raleigh Parks, Recreation and Cultural Resources
Telephone: 919-996-2760
Contact Name: Stacie Hagwood
Website »

More information

A wonderfully kid-paced hour featuring music, play and dancing with toddler stars singing on the mic at Cotton's gently amplified & participatory music show. Children delight in...

Cost: Free with admission

Where:
Pump It Up Raleigh
10700 World Trade Blvd, #112
Raleigh, NC  27617
View map »


Sponsor: Pump it Up
Telephone: 919-828-3344
Contact Name: Owner/manager Kellie Paterson McHugh
Website »

More information

Learn about wolves, coyotes and foxes. Take a hike to look for tracks and signs. Make casts of canid feet to take home. Ages 9-13. Register online. Choose course #199997.

Cost: $5/child

Where:
Wilkerson Nature Preserve
11408 Raven Ridge Rd.
Raleigh, NC
View map »


Telephone: 919-996-6764
Website »

More information

Kids ages 12-18 interested in learning about the sport can get into boats and learn how to row. Students and parents can also meet the club's rowers and coaches. Novice and experienced...

Cost: Free

Where:
Lake Wheeler Park
6404 Lake Wheeler Rd.
Raleigh, NC  27603
View map »


Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

Kids can drive their futures at the fourth annual Marbles Future Me Kids Career Fair, which introduces children to real-life architects, bakers, dentists, engineers, news reporters,...

Cost: $5 ages 1 and older

Where:
Marbles Kids Museum
201 E. Hargett St.
Raleigh, NC  27601
View map »


Website »

More information

Ages 3-5 enjoy play-based activities in English and Spanish to prepare for kindergarten.

Cost: Free

Where:
Athens Drive Community Library
1420 Athens Dr.
Raleigh, NC
View map »


Website »

More information

Kids ages 12-18 interested in learning about the sport can get into boats and learn how to row. Students and parents can also meet the club's rowers and coaches. Novice and experienced...

Cost: Free

Where:
Lake Wheeler Park
6404 Lake Wheeler Rd.
Raleigh, NC  27603
View map »


Website »

More information

Families enjoy stories.

Cost: Free

Where:
East Regional Library
946 Steeple Square Ct.
Knightdale, NC  27545
View map »


Website »

More information

Celebrate the magic of storytelling on Disney Reads Day. Read popular Disney stories and take part in fun activities to inspire your imagination. Enjoy giveaways, including stickers, bookmarks and...

Cost: Free

Where:
Barnes & Noble
760 S.E Maynard Rd.
Cary, NC  27511
View map »


Website »

More information

Celebrate Mardi Gras with a walking parade, children's activities and contests. All ages.

Cost: Free

Where:
Downtown Wake Forest
S. White St.
Wake Forest, NC  27587
View map »


Website »

More information

Join park staff and search the park for snowflakes and ice crystals. Explore the unique shapes of snowflakes and view ice crystals under microscopes, then construct your own paper snowflake or ice...

Cost: Free

Where:
Historic Yates Mill County Park
4620 Lake Wheeler Rd.
Raleigh, NC
View map »


Telephone: 919-856-6675
Website »

More information

Kids learn to code in a free workshop. Register online. Sign up for a summer camp during the event and save $100.

Cost: Free

Where:
theCoderSchool
201 Davis Grove Circle
Cary, NC  27519
View map »


Website »

More information

Take a magical journey through China's divine culture. Classical dance, music and storytelling highlight this live show.

Cost: $70-$150

Where:
Raleigh Memorial Auditorium
2 E. South St.
Raleigh, NC
View map »


Website »

More information

Delivered is a community workshop centered on educating, empowering and encouraging women to plan and achieve their most optimal birth plan. The workshop will introduce attendees to the benefits of...

Cost: Free

Where:
Davis Family Chiropractic
7901 Strickland Rd.
Ste 104
Raleigh, NC  27615
View map »


Sponsor: Davis Family Chiropractic
Telephone: 919-615-2257
Contact Name: Dr. Alisha Davis
Website »

More information

Raleigh Little Theatre's troupe performs the story of Cher Ami, a pigeon who saved American soldiers during World War 1 by carrying a message for help. Ages 5 and older.

Cost: Free

Where:
N.C. Museum of History
5 E. Edenton St.
Raleigh, NC  27601
View map »


Website »

More information

Enjoy a fast-paced and accessible introduction to many influential black Americans who have shaped the nation over the last 150 years. Grades pre-K-5.

Cost: Free

Where:
Chapel Hill Public Library
100 Library Dr.
Chapel Hill, NC  27514
View map »


Website »

More information

Take a magical journey through China's divine culture. Classical dance, music and storytelling highlight this live show. Purchase tickets online.

Cost: $70-$150

Where:
Raleigh Memorial Auditorium
2 E. South St.
Raleigh, NC
View map »


Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...
Edit Module

Magazine

Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit ModuleShow Tags

Directories

Edit ModuleShow Tags Edit ModuleShow Tags

Annual Guides

GPS [Go. Play. See]

GPS, soon to be replaced by The Triangle Go-To Guide, connects you to all the Triangle has to offer, from museum expansions to new parks and schools to youth sports and family fun. Plus, discover our 2016 Readers' Favorites.

Education Guide

The 2016-17 Education Guide offers 643 education resources in the Triangle, including area preschools, private schools, public school systems, charter schools, boarding schools and academic resources.

The Triangle Go-To Guide

The Triangle Go-To Guide will replace the GPS in 2017 and continue to connect you to family fun resources across the Triangle. Plus, find out who our 2017 Readers' Favorites are.