There’s a reason people flock to the mountain summits, wild rivers and rugged coastlines of the Pacific Northwest.
An outdoor adventure can be a transformative experience. But those excursions are often out of reach for people who might reap the biggest benefits from them. That’s where Post 58 steps in.
The Portland-based nonprofit recently launched an effort to get homeless youth, foster children and kids from underserved communities outdoors, taking them on trips that range from a simple hike to a trek to the summit of Mount St. Helens.
“These kids might not know what they can achieve; then they realize they can climb Mount St. Helens,” says Executive Director Peter Green. “The power of these opportunities for personal development and growth are limitless.
Post 58 is the recipient of the Multnomah Athletic Foundation’s 2018 Impact Award.
25 years of outdoor leadership
While helping underserved kids is an expanding part of Post 58’s mission, for the past 25 years they’ve been helping youth from all backgrounds get outside and learn leadership skills.
At first glance, the organization might look like a typical outdoor adventure club. It’s not. For one thing, it’s run by student members. There is exactly one paid employee, and 14- to 18-year olds from across the region make decisions on which trips to take while organizing their own fundraising efforts.
Post 58 is also, relatively speaking, affordable. Student members can summit Mount Hood under the tutelage of an experienced guide for the cost of food and gas, about $55. Outfitters charge as much as $800. That’s because the organization’s guides are all volunteers. About half of them are Post 58 alumni who come back as adults to guide trips. The organization is also inclusive. There are 120 students from 24 area high schools who are members, and scholarships are available to students who cannot afford the annual membership fee.
Once they join, students find a space where they’re encouraged to set challenging goals and push their limits, both outside and during monthly meetings. During a typical meeting, for example, a student might recite a poem or play music to build their confidence.
“High school can be tough. You’re often feeling a little vulnerable, and you’re always trying to protect yourself,” Green says. “We’ve had kids tell us that when they joined, it was the first time they’ve felt accepted for who they are.”
Getting underserved youth outside isn’t easy, but Post 58 makes it happen by partnering with nonprofit organizations like p:ear and Janus Youth Programs, which mentor homeless kids. Those hikers are not required to join Post 58 to participate.
“We meet them on their own turf,” Green says. “Our goal is to get them outdoors.”
For groups like p:ear, Post 58 offers a valuable experience with trained experts at no cost. That’s a rarity.
During those hikes with homeless youth, Post 58 always brings a few of its older members in the hopes of creating a positive connection. Green believes that putting kids from different backgrounds together in the outdoors levels the playing field, and might help a homeless kid realize her own potential.
“Post 58 collaborated with p:ear to climb Mt. St. Helens. There were both Post students and p:ear youth on the trip. On the way down from the summit, one of our guides had a chance to speak with one of the p:ear youth,” Green says. “He said his parents kicked him out of his home when he was 14. While they walked together, he expressed that because of the excitement, fear, joy and love he experienced on the mountain, he was planning on calling his mom with the hope of re-establishing a relationship with her.”