How a Southern Utah Man Tries to ‘Carry Out the Child’ Through Outdoor Tours

A group of trip participants pose for a photo on a Youth Wilderness Experiences trip. (Glen Andersen, Wilderness Experiences for Youth)

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CEDAR CITY – Glen Andersen has always had a passion for working with young people, especially working with young people in the outdoors.

After earning a bachelor’s degree from Southern Utah University in leadership and group dynamics, he completed his master’s degree at the University of Utah in outdoor adventure programming. Initially, he planned to work at a college as an outdoor program director before embarking on seminary teaching in 2011.

Over the years as a seminar teacher, he saw the impacts that instant gratification from social media and the lack of connection with their own peers had on children.

“I loved my job but I missed being outside – deep in my head there was this idea that if I could just get the teenagers out, a little bit away from it all, they could really get away from it all. connect with other teens, ”Andersen said.

Then, in 2017, Andersen ran a pilot program where he took 18 kids on a backpacking trip.

“I wasn’t sure if I was going to keep doing it, but the results were so powerful and the kids had such a great time,” he said.

With this first trip to the books, Andersen quit his seminary teaching job and Youth Wilderness Experiences was born. Since 2017, Andersen has been taking children and adolescents from all over the world on national and international outdoor trips and fostering experiences that he believes have a huge impact on the lives of those who participate.

“I firmly believe in the power that comes when you take a child out of their comfort zone, put them out where they need to live right now and they are with other children who go on an adventure for the first time – he There is a power to help a child reset their mind (and) realize that they can do difficult things, ”he said.

Ask someone who’s been on a Youth Wilderness Experiences trip and they’ll reiterate Andersen’s feelings.

Kaylee Hillyard has participated in two Youth Wilderness Experiences trips, one to Chiapas, Mexico, and another to Antigua, Guatemala. Both trips have been amazing experiences, she said.

“I don’t think there was ever a time when I was in my comfort zone like ever before,” Hillyard said. “The things we would do – hike, cliff jump, zip line – are all fun, but they also require stepping out of your comfort zone and not being afraid of what’s going to happen.”

Hillyard, 20, of Cedar City, said stepping out of her comfort zone is something she loves about Youth Wilderness Experience travel.

“Being uncomfortable is becoming your new normal and it’s really interesting how people react to that,” she added. “A lot of people really thrive there, it’s pretty cool.”

Two participants overlook a volcano in Guatemala on a wilderness experience trip for young people.
Two participants overlook a volcano in Guatemala on a wilderness experience trip for young people. (Photo: Glen Andersen, Wilderness Youth Experience)

When asked if she would recommend a Youth Wilderness Experiences trip to someone else, Hillyard didn’t hesitate.

“Absolutely,” she said. “You’re really going to grow up from this.”

For Andersen, the most rewarding aspects of Youth Wilderness Experiences are the times he sees “the joy and satisfaction that comes with (children) putting in a lot of effort and it pays off,” he said.

“Those moments after (a trip), when the trip is over, when the connections have been made and we still keep in touch and they just talk about how their life has improved because of the trip that they did.”

Andersen, who has led around 50 trips since 2017, said he has big plans for the future of Youth Wilderness Experiences. These plans include collecting donations so that children can participate in trips at a free or reduced cost.

“We want to be able to have kids who couldn’t necessarily afford these kinds of trips ahead – that’s kind of what we’re working on right now,” Andersen said.

While Andersen tries to make travel more accessible and affordable, he doesn’t want to lose the integrity of what makes Youth Wilderness Experiences special.

“We want to be able to organize these trips in front of more young people, but we don’t want them to lose what they care about – small group trips into nature that push children out of their comfort zone and help them. to connect, “Andersen said.

“I really want this program to be able to influence as many people as possible and I want to be able to do some of the best outdoor activities in the world for young people and help them grow,” he added. “We want to bring the child back to life.”

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