Steamboat Springs Partners in Routt County and Grand Futures Prevention Coalition organized a retreat for Craig and Steamboat students ages 11 to 15 with the hope of developing ways to combat the social pressures of school during a four-day camp in June.
"The kids didn't think they were going to like each other but by the end took each other as they were," said Brooke Lachman of Grand Futures Coalition.
Students had both physical and mental challenges to complete during the camp. Climbing the high ropes 57 feet above the ground was one exercise used to boost the students' confidence.
"We learned how to get along with each other a little bit better," Nick Mosser said. "I learned a lot about leadership."
Mosser, 15, of Steamboat Springs said the high ropes course taught participants about teamwork.
Nick Tivas, 13, of Steamboat Springs said the high ropes course, climbing the rock wall and playing basketball were his favorite activities at the camp.
He said one of his biggest accomplishments was conquering his fear of heights.
Katie Howell of Partners in Routt County said basic norms for how people should be treated were set at the beginning of camp, but students were responsible for upholding those norms.
She said the counselors were available to listen and offer advice to students but wanted students to do their problem solving on their own.
The camp counselors "empower students to make good choices and empower them to make their own choice," Howell said.
Many students who attended the camp are part of the Partners in Routt County program and have adult mentors they spend time with outside of school.
Howell said students are grateful to have an adult mentor with whom they can discuss issues affecting their daily life, as well as to have fun.
"The kids talked a lot about senior partners. It's apparent that adults have (developed) trusting relationships," she said.
Grand Futures Prevention Coalition and Partners co-sponsored the camp with the intention of helping students feel more secure and less susceptible to the pressures of school life.
"They were a great group because they found out that they weren't alone," Lachman said.
Lachman said the best part of the camp was listening to the students.
Having formal discussions, she said, was avoided and the life lessons of confidence and self-esteem were gained through the students' interaction and activities.
"They were really good at understanding anything that we needed help with or needed to talk about," Mosser said.
Lachman said students learned to trust each other through camp activities and gained a sense of confidence by starting to address their feelings with their peers.
The experiential-based activities of the camp were centered on the risk and protective factor model by J. David Hawkins, Ph.D., Richard F. Catalano, Ph.D., and a team of researchers from the University of Washington in Seattle.
The education model promotes activities that increase a student's resiliency against the pressure to use alcohol and other substances.
Lachman said she is hoping to follow up with students to make sure the skills they learned will continue to be a part of their lives.
"It's neat to get to know kids on a different level," Lachman said. "They were at their best."