Project Venture

Project Venture provides 150-200 program hours annually and is implemented sequentially, from classroom settings to afterschool experiential activities, to weekend outdoor activities, to intensive camps that occur in a peaceful, safe wilderness location and provide a positive and healthy experience. Project Venture delivers 20 to 26 school-based classroom sessions over a school year, during which youth engage in the structured curriculum led by an experiential mentor that includes experiential games and activities. Through these classroom-based sessions, interested youth are enrolled into the program's 22 after school and 12 weekend outdoor structured experiential activities and 2 multiday wilderness events that include increasingly challenging games and activities such as team- and trust-building, hiking, bicycling, climbing, and rappelling delivered to groups of 7 to 15 youth per experiential and peer mentor teams. Youth reconnect with the natural world and engage all their senses as they learn and experience, while at the same time challenging themselves mentally and physically. Middle school youth and adult and peer mentors become bonded as a clan or kinship group throughout the year's activities.

Community-based, service-learning activities occur over 12 weekends and include two to four service-learning projects per year designed to engage youth in their communities. Our service-learning work—in which we partner with the nonprofit environmental organization Trees People Water—focuses on conservation, tree planting, low-cost solar energy projects and other activities to help address global warming/climate change. At the start of programming, NYLP experiential educators and peer mentors guide students toward pre-planned projects. As the year moves on, youth are encouraged to propose and plan their own service-learning projects. Service learning is a valued tradition in American Indian communities.

Project Venture's peer mentoring program offers high school students the opportunity to become peer mentors, where they serve as mentors to younger students and are mentored to become peer role models and leaders in positive youth development. Peer mentors receive extensive training to cultivate facilitation and leadership skills and build self-esteem as participants become role models. Project Venture peer mentors support afterschool and weekend program activities as well as the summer camp.

Project Venture Summer Camp is a five to seven-day, intensive summer immersion camp that takes place in a wilderness location with a campsite that provides a peaceful and safe place for students to participate in outdoor adventure-based activities. These activities and experiential games teach group harmony and problem-solving skills and provide a positive and healthy experience that impacts youth in ways that change their lives for the better. Multigenerational mentors, including NIYLP experiential educators, peer mentors, American Indian elders, and AmeriCorps and Teach for America volunteers, facilitate activities with youth, which allows for a "cascading" role-modeling effect.

During day-long outdoor events lasting about 8 hours, NIYLP provides youth with healthy snacks and lunch. At multiday camp events, NIYLP provides youth with breakfast, lunch and dinner, and snacks during the day. NIYLP has a food and nutrition policy that informs food provision. We do more than just provide healthy food. We also teach participating youth about eating well and healthy, which is especially critical due to the prevalence of obesity and diabetes among Native youth. NIYLP's food and nutrition policy is as follows:

NIYLP staff must maintain physical health and proper nutrition as a way of honoring self, family, and community. NIYLP staff will accept the responsibility to increase awareness of proper nutrition in its youth participants and their families and will be responsible for promoting personal wellness. The focus is to dramatically improve the physical well-being of the NIYLP community. The guiding principle is this: If the food/product does not positively contribute to the cultural well-being, nutritional needs, and the health of the members of the NIYLP community it is not permitted on NIYLP activities. Examples of products not permitted include food and drink high in refined sugars, fructose or corn syrup, food and drink with high preservatives, foods high in saturated fats and sodium, and artificial food products, including energy drinks.

Download the Project Venture Brochure