In the immortal words of Whitney Houston, “I believe the children are our future… Teach them well and let them lead the way.” (I am letting my age shine through here)
We’ve made many wonderful advances to ensure the safety of our youth and address their material needs. But it’s worth considering if our culture has become so centered on what children want that we’ve become too overprotective and have lost sight of what our children really need.
Education + Work
Effective education must go beyond formal schooling to develop a child’s personality, talents, mental and physical abilities to their absolute fullest potential. Far from being in competition with education, work can and does contribute more broadly to education in its fullest sense by helping to bridge the gap between childhood and adulthood. Anthropological studies have shown that throughout the world work has always been integral to helping children learn and absorb the culture in which they are raised, teaching them as they approach adulthood how to relate to people and the environment.
At a time when the draw of the virtual world threatens to overwhelm the appeal of the physical world, and especially during these very trying moments when our children are socially distanced and taught virtually, the benefits of working outside away from electronic distractions are vast. Working on projects, supporting a community and supporting physical recreational activities that our youth can participate in themselves creates a sense of accomplishment and purpose that can fundamentally alter the course of one’s life.
Over the past three years, One Track Mind (OTM) has provided nearly 60,000 hours of paid summer employment for youth to help build and maintain singletrack mountain bike trails. The goal is for the youth participating in OTM-sponsored projects to come to understand the dignity of hard work. Our hope is that youth participating in OTM programs gain leadership skills and come to understand the power of teamwork and creative problem solving, and that they are moved by a sense of pride and accomplishment in seeing large projects through to completion. The blisters, scrapes, honest sweat, and exhaustion are badges of honor that they carry forward to overcome obstacles the rest of their lives.
Youth who participate in OTM programs become stronger, more self-reliant and determined. They gain confidence that they carry with them long after they return home. In the process of working on trails in some of the most beautiful wilderness in the country, they come to understand and value the outdoors, the materials and artistry that goes into shaping landscapes into accessible amenities the community can share.
Finally, we hope that in building trails, OTM program participants learn to appreciate the sport of mountain biking in a unique way. After building beautiful trails themselves, they’re able to leave their devices at home and enjoy the trails with pride, fostering a lifelong passion for the outdoors.