Youth Challenge Program

This story was written for my JRN 300 class in October 2009.

It’s Friday afternoon at MSU and, instead of getting ready for a party or checking out the movies at Wells Hall, Biological Science senior Amy Ostroski is heading away for the weekend. After a 40-minute drive to nearby Howell, Michigan, Ostroski is excited for her part-time job.

Ostroski works once or twice a month for the Youth Challenge Course program at Wildwood Ranch Camp. As part of her job, Ostroski mentors, entertains, teaches and sometimes discipline children for inner-city Detroit schools. She started working at the camp when she was 12, as part of a leadership program, and is now assistant  program director of the YCC.

“I love that I get to work with the same kids every month and be a mentor to them,” said Ostroski. “Most of them need someone consistent in their lives.”

Ostroski started going to the camp when she was nine as part of their summer ministry program. She said she loves the dynamics of the camp and has always known she wanted to work there. Helping inner-city children is what keeps her loving her job.

Wildwood runs a weekly youth development program throughout the school year. Originally intended as a place to teach homeless men new skills, Wildwood has been offering youth programs since 1974. The program is meant to prevent Detroit youth from becoming homeless and committing crimes, said Wildwood Ranch Camp director David Long.

“The Youth Challenge Course is a prevention program that aims to foster the development of positive life skills, personal responsibility and problem solving strategies in the youth of Detroit and Highland Park,” said Long.

Long said evaluations from the camp last year were extremely positive. Parents said the children now have a more positive view on substance abuse, family and responsibility in their community. Each week, the camp has a different theme to promote things like leadership, trust and community.

Wildwood is affiliated with Detroit Rescue Mission Ministries, which works with the homeless and substance abusers. The non-profit is based in Detroit  and is one of the largest organizations of its kind in the country, said a DRMM spokesperson. The organization is currently celebrating its 100 year anniversary helping the Detroit area.

That is why MSU sophomore Lynette Score likes the camp. Score has roots in Detroit, since her paternal family lives there. She first heard about Wildwood through a Google search and was thrilled when they offered her the job as nature director.

“The camp combines two of my favorite things: helping kids and working with nature,” said Score.

The parks and recreation major also loves the job experience she gets from the camp. Since her dream job is to be a park ranger, Score is getting a taste of what her future may hold. For the YCC program, Score leads ropes courses and teaches the campers about nature.

Long, Score and Ostroski think the camp is a benefit to both students and the Detroit community. It is raising up a future generation who have the skills and desire to change the city they live in.

“Wildwood is a positive outlet for kids in Detroit,” said Ostroski. “It serves the city well.”

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