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August 21, 2018

Summertime with Friends

More than just fun in the sun.

With the start of the school year soon upon us, Friends and youth are fervently filling their final days of summer with bike rides, beach trips and hikes in the gorge.

Summer at Friends of the Children officially kicked-off in true Pacific Northwest fashion, with Friends (Professional Mentors) and their youth going berry picking at a local farm. Bright and early, the youth and their Friends got straight to work, picking buckets full of blueberries, raspberries and blackberries! After making it back to our Rockwood program site, the youth prepped the berries and challenged themselves to calculate the perfect measurement for a jam recipe. In the end, a lot of mason jars, filled with freshly made jam, went home to families.

For years, Friends have held summer outings for everyone in the program from group hikes, bike rides, beach trips, camps and the list goes on! Aside from solely being great opportunities to have fun, these outings have shown to have other positive outcomes for both the Children and their Friend.

“It is a great way to be able to connect with youth without the stress of homework or school requirements. The outings are much more centered on youth spark and positive relationship building which, in my opinion, is like a reset button after a busy school year and helps both the youth and the mentor prepare to enter the next school year with a level mind,” explained Brittany, a Friend to nine youth who extend across the full range of 1st through 12th grade. Brittany is very goal-oriented with her youth. In fact, all of her youth have set goals around self-improvement and skill-building, and they actively make progress each week toward reaching those goals.

The freedom of not having to be at school five days a week is one of the big reasons why our youth often look forward to summer outings. To them, it means having the opportunity to try new things they normally would not have the resources to try, often times sparking new passions within them. A perfect example of this is Emily*, a program youth, who hiked for the first time in her life during one of the summer outings at Latourell Falls. Prior to the hike, she was extremely nervous and didn’t know what to expect. A couple of miles into the hike, she was literally chasing waterfalls! Instances like these are what make our summer outings more fun–seeing our program youth realize their love for new things.

In addition to being perfect opportunities to explore new hobbies, summer outings also strengthen the youth/mentor relationship. “Summer outings are really important for building and maintaining relationships with our youth. A youth who might have been pulling away from the program often re-engages,” said Brittany.

Many of our youth do not have a strong support system at home, so exposure to other Friends within Friends of the Children, through summer group outings, offers further support and stability in the youth’s lives and solidifies their involvement in the program. Overall, our wonderful team has gone above and beyond when it comes to considering all aspects of our youth’s lives. From social skill development, passion-finding, to even being a nice mental break from everyday stressors, these outings benefit the youth in so many positive ways than being just fun in the sun.

*Youth's name changed to protect their identity

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