Summer Leadership Camps: Living Local Camp 2017!

Youth Odyssey recently completed its’ 3rd Living Local Camp! The campers spent time on the beach and did a boatload of fun activities with our Coastal Bend partners . They learned a variety of new skills and gained new experiences in addition to the basic life skills our programs teach. The youth learned how to work as a team when they rode horses and went fishing. They also worked on leadership and communication while they cooked yummy meals, played with farm animals, learned how to compost, harvest crops, and helped local farmers at the Downtown Farmers Market.

The weather was perfect for camping on the beach at Mustang Island State Park. The campers were excited to be out near the water; and wanted to be in or near the water every chance they had. During the week it was great to see the different interactions in the group. Some of the campers attended Delta Camp the previous week, and already developed friendships. However, it did not take long for the Living Local group to bond as well. The campers continuously were helping each other, laughing and having fun together, and creating memories! Their teamwork really blossomed when they cooked together and helped with camp chores (so we could have more time for activities). The campers also showed us how to play a fun game called ‘The Floor is Lava!”; we played it just about anywhere we went!

“I want to thank you (my sponsor) for helping me come to this fun camp. This is my third year here, and I love helping the others learn new experiences. This camp gets better every year. I love how this camp is so close to the water, how we get to play with animals, and learn about healthy cooking.”14 year old female

To begin the week, we headed to River Ranch for the first set of activities. There we rode horses, and super fun barn games with Independence Equine. Some of us even braided the horse’s hair! Later in the day, we went fishing at the ponds located in River Ranch owned by James, of Gourley Contracting. There the group caught large catfish; and for some, it was their first fish catch ever! It was so awesome to be there for their first catch! We took pictures with the fish so we could save those memories!

The next day was jam-packed full of fun! We spent the day at the Grow Local Learning Garden. We got our hands dirty by harvested crops and prepping crops for the Corpus Christi Downtown Farmers Market. Our favorite crop was moringa because of its’ flavor, versatility, nutritional value, and of course its’ awesomeness. After the Learning Garden, we prepped our own meal at the Corpus Christi Food Bank. We made delicious baked flaked chicken along with northwest apple salad. We enjoyed making it, but enjoyed eating even more! To end the day, we spent a few hours helping different distributors at the Farmers Market. The youth met some awesome local farmers, and did some really cool things such as making freshly squeezed lemonades!

The following day we spent several hours at Freedom Harvest Farms. At the farm we learned about owning a small farm. We were able to pet and feed donkeys, chickens, and pigs! The pigs would eat literally anything! We fed two pigs about twenty small pears each, and they still wanted more! To finish the last day of activities, we had to spend a whole day at the beach! We buried each other in the sand, made sand castles, ate snow cones, and of course rode the waves!

“The hobby farm was so interesting, we ate homemade ice cream and it was completely organic. Wow, I just had so much fun this week.”13 year old female

To conclude camp, we held a graduation where campers received completion certificates and honorary camp name awards. We felt the awards were not enough so we also had a cookout! We ate burgers, and we performed a grand skit for the parents talking about the fun week! Graduation was full of memories, laughter, and good times! “It was such an awesome week. I went horseback riding, fishing, helped at the farmers market, and ate homemade ice cream. I really enjoyed this camp, and will come again.” – 12 year old female

Living Local: the Tradition Continues:

Every year Youth Odyssey strives to make a difference in the lives of youth through this camp. The impact is seen by the interactions between the youth, the community, and their desire to be apart of our camps! The goal of this Living Local Camp is to help youth learn vital skills for living a healthier life within their communities. Many of our partners helped teach and educate the youth on the impact of supporting local organizations and businesses, and how this helps grow the local economy. Our community provides opportunities for campers that their families are not able to do so themselves.

Without the help from our community through sponsorships, our youth will not have these great experiences. The continued support from our community and sponsors helps us make a bigger and more lasting impact on youth in the Coastal Bend!

Living Local campers on horseback holding flags
Living Local campers harvesting at the learning garden
Living Local tiny girl with large catfish
Living Local girl making a silly face

Summer Leadership Camps: Nueces Delta

Last week, we had our first of six Summer Leadership Camps of the 2017 season, thanks to our sponsors! Our Nueces Delta Adventure Camp was a total success! We did a lot of really cool things and made new friends along the way. Our motto is “Opening Minds and Expanding Horizons”, which means on any given adventure, there is bound to be growth; this camp was no different. They learned teambuilding, leadership, problem-solving, and so many other skills that we know that having this experience has changed our campers for the better.

Day 1: Orientation

On Sunday, campers and parents arrived at noon so we could get to know our team for this week long adventure! After going over what to expect for the week, rules and expectations, parents and campers said their goodbyes. Brian and myself (Micaela), wanted to get to know our campers better so we played teambuilding games and then proceeded to set up camp. After our tents were beautifully placed and secured and all our personal belongings inside, we got started on dinner. We ate so much pasta all we could do afterwards was enjoy a nice campfire and some s’mores.

Summer leaderships camps setting up tents
Summer leaderships camps girls getting ready to zipline

Day 2: Ropes Course

We rose bright and early on Monday morning to get ready for our ropes course day. It’s important to build trust and communication when embarking on an adventure. We started with low elements: we traveled on the Texas Skis, balance on a log while trading places with each other, and played human skeeball! As you can imagine, we worked up a appetite with all that playing so we stopped for a lunch break. Once we regained our energy, we harnessed up to climb the two line bridge, zip line and the rock wall. Our team meshed like never before; pushing themselves outside their comfort zone and encouraging each other! When we got back to camp we played a game called werewolves and had dinner! Afterwards we journalled and reflected on our day, the new experiences we had, and what we were looking forward to the next day!

Day 3: SCUBA/Mustang Island State Park

Tuesday came quickly and we hopped out of bed, ate breakfast, and headed to SCUBA at the Aransas Pass Aquatic Center! After a video/equipment tutorial, the kiddos got in the pool to try out the SCUBA gear with James Gourley (a fantastic board member)! They quickly got the hang of it and were down in the deep end of the pool in no time. Some of the kids even got to play with an underwater scooter (see picture to the right). Around noon they got out and dried off and thanked our SCUBA instructor then got back in the van bound for Mustang Island State Park to enjoy the beach. It was a blast playing in the waves and the sand! We even made friends with a beach rat! We headed back to camp for dinner around 4:30 and then after some journal time, got some much deserved sleep.

Summer leaderships camps young man scuba diving

Day 4: Kayaking

Summer leaderships camps youth kayaking on the nueces river

On Wednesday, we set out to kayak down the Nueces River. We went over the equipment, safety rules and set off on our adventure. There were lots of wildlife along the way like jumping fish, hawks, pelicans, cranes and even an owl! We eventually came to a spot that was good for resting point, so we stopped for lunch. Afterwards, we went for a swim before heading back. On our way back to the boat launch, our competitive sides emerged, thus a game of kayak basketball ensued! I think we may have had a few future kayak basketball professionals in our midst because things got real. It was lots of fun but by the time we got back to camp we were all ready to relax and enjoy dinner. After dinner, we had more journal time and then we hit the hay!

Day 5: CPR & First Aid Training

Thursday morning we slowed down our pace a bit. We had been constantly busy all week and we thought that the kids deserved to sleep in and relax. After we got up we ate, played games, and then headed to Mr. James Gourley’s for some CPR and first aid training. The kids enjoyed learning a new skill that we all agreed was very useful. We laughed a lot at the silly moments that arose in the process! The campers all passed their certification test and we traveled back to camp for our last dinner and journal time together. Things may have gotten a little cheesy and emotional because we had a fantastic week together and we weren’t quite ready for it to be over.

Summer leaderships camps young girl learning CPR

Day 6: Graduation

Summer leaderships camps laughing campers eating smores

Friday morning was all business! We packed up camp and worked on a few skits for graduation before the parents arrived. Once parents arrived they put on a great performance and ended it with the “Campfire Song Song” made popular by SpongeBob SquarePants of course. Then, Brian and I handed out all the certifications and awards the campers had earned over the course of camp and we all enjoyed an amazing lunch of hot dogs and hamburgers grilled by our one and only Executive Director, Becky! It was a great day but a sad one too! We had a such a great week together and we didn’t want it to end. But nonetheless, good-byes were said, hugs were given and the ultimate question was asked “I’ll see you at camp again, right?” What a great way to end our first of six, Summer Leadership Camps!

School’s Out & The Numbers Are In

Summer’s here, school’s out and the reports are in. Youth Odyssey had another very successful school year with Corpus Christi Independent School District (CCISD). This year we had programs at Baker, Cunningham, Haas, Hamlin, Martin, and South Park middle schools. Not only did our youth prove that they had gained new skills this year, we all had a lot of fun along the way.

Our youth’s biggest improvement was in self-confidence. From all the kids we see, 86% of them said that they gained more self-confidence by participating in our program! This outcome makes us so thrilled because after youth gain self-confidence, it makes it so much easier for them to pick up the other life skills we teach! Confidence bleeds into every other aspect of life and Youth Odyssey believes that it is a highly important characteristic to have and to instill in our youth.

“I like Youth Odyssey because through games and fun exercises, I learn teamwork, trust, leadership, and other important life skills. And in addition to learning about the skills, we go to the ropes course and on camping trips so we have a chance to use and practice these skills in a real-world setting.”15 year old girl

Teamwork skills and trust came tied in second at 85% improvement. Teamwork and trust go hand in hand. To have great teamwork, you must also have a good amount of trust in your teammates. In order to build trust, you must show an effort to work together. When we take our youth to the ropes course, this is the perfect setting for them to polish their collaboration skills and build trust amongst each other. At the ropes course, they fail and succeed together and watch each other struggle and overcome. This type of bonding creates a special level of intimacy and trust among participants. As program facilitators, it’s an amazing thing to watch and experience with them!

Problem solving, communication and leadership skills all showed improvements above 80%, which is fantastic and well above our goal of 75%. When kids can learn these skills and use them in tandem they can be more successful in school and resilient in all aspects of life.

Youth Odyssey has been partnered with CCISD since 2002. We have always seen positive outcomes from our programs at the schools. So much so, that in 2010 when CCISD had to make program budget cuts, we were the only after school program they kept. CCISD reports show that kids who participate in our programs have lower drop out rates and disciplinary problems, and increased grades, attendance and standardized test scores! It’s clear that Youth Odyssey programs make an impact in our community. While summer is great, we are ready for fall so we can go back to school and continue to make a difference!

Thank you for helping us make a HUGE impact this past school year! To find out how you can help us make an even BIGGER impact, please call 361-946-6016 and tell us “I want to help make a bigger difference!”Becky Meyer, Executive Director

Get To Know Our Board Member Mark

Youth Odyssey always has our antennae up for new candidates for our Board of Directors. If selected, we give them a few months to get acquainted with being on the board and seeing all that Youth Odyssey entails, at which point, I get the privilege to interview them. The goal is to get to know them better and see what brought them to Youth Odyssey and hear their ideas for our organizations future.

This time I got to interview Mark Silva, our newest board member and a Kiwanis board member as well. Mark was “born and raised in Corpus Christi with a modest upbringing.” In 1988, Mark decided to join Navy where he traveled all over the world (including Antarctica) working in the Oceanography and Meteorology fields. He chose to end his military career in 1992 to start his professional career in hospitality, working with tourism here in Corpus Christi. From there Mark branched out into management in the wireless industry and stuck with it for about 20 years, gaining the title of Regional Manager for South Texas (San Antonio all the way down to the border). Because of his job, Mark was on the road a lot and that didn’t allow him the chance to get involved with the community. Due to his desire to travel less and be more involved with the Corpus Christi community, five-years ago, Mark opened up a State Farm agency and has been actively involved with the Corpus community ever since. Having older kids (17 and 20) of his own, and having been involved with them as their soccer and baseball coaches, Mark wanted to focus his attentions on working with youth again in some aspect. That is how he came to be a part of the Kiwanis Club Board of Directors. Interestingly enough, that’s where Youth Odyssey comes into play.

Mark was (and is) enjoying his time working with Kiwanis but still had the desire to get even more involved and to do even more. One day, at one of Kiwanis’ meetings, Becky, Youth Odyssey’s Executive Director, came to share Youth Odyssey’s mission, impact, and to see if they’d be interested in working with us on various projects/missions. Mark “was inspired.” Mark expressed to me that he “knew [Youth Odyssey] was out there but had no idea how many kids hadn’t seen the beach or been to the bay of Corpus Christi, or even seen a cow.” That’s what hit a nerve with Mark because he said that he and his friends “used to joke about that growing up; that our furthest vacation spot was Robstown but it was kind of a reality which is why we joked about it. When Becky mentioned (those statistics) it really triggered a lot of memories for me and I wanted to see what I could do to get involved.” Mark told me that what Youth Odyssey is currently doing, is more than he was actually aware of.

He then reflected on a story from his youth of when he was in high school and went to Leakey, Texas, near Concan, with his family and family friends. While they were there, along the Frio River, they shared with Mark that that trip was the first time they’d been outside of Corpus Christi and the first time they had seen water like that in nature (they had never been to the local beach here either). After the Kiwanis meeting, Mark talked to Becky and said he’d love to help out in any way he could. Since we were (and are) looking for more board members she threw out the idea and, after working around each others schedules, Mark became an official board member in August of 2016!

During our conversation, Mark told me what he loves most about our program is how it’s progressive and set up like “a little teaser. Where, if you do a small part, you get to a bigger ‘prize’ and, if you get to that point, you can get to a yet bigger ‘prize’ and that the ‘prizes’ are still a task that needs to be performed and are looked forward to by our participants.” In program terms, the work starts at PTC’s (Portable Team Challenges a.k.a. on-site programs) and if they do well on that level they get invited to the attend our ropes courses and, if they do well on the ropes course, they get invited to go on our AWT’s (Adventure Wilderness Trips a.k.a. our camping trips). Every step in Youth Odyssey builds upon the next step, and the better our participants grasp the concepts the more opportunities they have, which is an area of passion for Mark.

He let me know that, earlier that day, he completed a presentation at the Early Educational School at Texas A&M- Corpus Christi, through Kiwanis, who sponsors the Terrific Kids. The presentation was held for age groups pre K-5th grade and he asked them all “what does it take to be a Terrific Kid?” After they answered the question he followed up by saying “when you’re a terrific kid and, if you keep it up, you’ll become a terrific adult and the world needs a lot of terrific adults.” Mark believes that’s what Youth Odyssey is doing, helping to equip kids with the tools they need to become “terrific”. Afterwards Mark explained “There are so many people who want to leave Corpus Christi and I think that we lose a lot of good people here because of it. I feel we need to create more good kids and students because that creates more young adults who will create more young professionals who will create a better society for us here in Corpus Christi.”

Mark had mentioned that he enjoys being on the board but wants to get more involved, physically, with our programming process, actually seeing how things are run instead of just hearing about it. When I asked him to elaborate on what he meant by that, Mark told me that he’d “love to see a program in person.” But Mark doesn’t want to jump in and see ropes courses before he sees the on-site teambuilding sessions because, in his opinion, “it’d be cheating to only show up to the bigger, more ‘cool’ stuff like a camping trip or ropes course because that’s something that the youth work towards and is a step further than the on-site programs.” Mark wants to see the progression from step one all the way to the camping trips so he can “really see what’s going on at each level; start with [PTC’s], then go to a ropes course, then attend/observe how our camps work.” When Mark expressed that thought process to me it made a lot of sense and I appreciated that he had put in that much thought into how he could get more hands-on with Youth Odyssey.

It was at that time where Mark asked when and where we do our after school programs. When I told him, Mark started looking at his schedule and was determined to find a date that would allow him to visit a program. After a few minutes of double checking, we decided he would attend my Martin Middle School program the week after Spring Break. As instructed by Mark, I “hassled” him with reminders so he wouldn’t forget. Sure enough, on Wednesday, Mark showed up to the program and was able to see the groups progress during a communication and teamwork game. He enjoyed the experience and liked how you could see the progression in behavior just through witnessing one activity. At the start of the activity that Mark saw, the youth were being more silly and not focusing but, after they gained a better understanding of the activity, at the end they were more focused and were communicating better as a team. Mark was “impressed” with the program and is eager to come to more programs and other Youth Odyssey activities.

After we nailed down a the date for the Martin visit, I asked him where he would like to see Youth Odyssey going in the future. Mark explained to me that he likes our partnership with CCISD (Corpus Christi Independent School District) but he would like us to have more staff so we can expand into other districts as well “who are asking, if not begging, us to go to their schools.” We, as an organization, agree with Mark and have actually hired two more full time staff to help with the growing demand for our programs. We are also renovating our ropes course which will allow us to generate more revenue that we can use to further our reach and mission. Ultimately, Mark would love us to become a large enough operation to expand into Kingsville and Alice but understands that we have to meet the need here first.

Mark also has a goal of each staff member having one title and one job. As anyone who has worked for or in a small company would know, each member of the company (or organization) wears many different hats. Mark pointed out that I serve as Events/Media Director but I still run programs and, to that he said “let’s manage Youth Odyssey like a large business and departmentalize jobs. The bulk of the staff are running programs and let’s do that and have someone in charge of it. Someone who is doing marketing, which includes a host of things, but at the end of the day they are the ones who are asking for money and getting donors and going to events so they can be present in the community.” He’d also be happy if we could secure a full time grant writer, but followed up by stating “that these things take time” and he understands it can’t all happen over night.

Because of his grand plan of being able to run Youth Odyssey as a large nonprofit, I was curious as to how long he envisioned himself being on the Youth Odyssey board. Without hesitation Mark said “I’d like to stay on the board for as long as they’d have me!” Since he plans on sticking around for the long haul, I was also wondering what he saw his role as within our Board of Directors. Mark said he adds “a different perspective, and more of a corporate mindset who tends to think big and aspire to growth.” He would be able to assist Youth Odyssey in setting up the parameters on how we need to grow. “A nonprofit doesn’t mean you don’t charge a premium price for a premium product and we have a premium product so let’s charge what we’re worth.” In summation, Mark brings his “business mindset and ability to acquire a mass amount of piñatas (for our 20th Birthday Fiesta)” to the table and we couldn’t be more excited about it.

For the last bit of my interview with Mark it turned into a sort of brainstorming session where we started spit balling ideas on what Youth Odyssey could get into down the road. We discussed getting programs back in to high schools, possibly partnering up with some private schools to gain more revenue. We even discussed a summer camp style camping trip for our Spring Break and Thanksgiving trips, where we open it up, not just our youth leaders but other youth as well that, like our summer camps, would be another way we can spread awareness within the community of our mission while also gaining more funds for program expansions.

It was already clear to me, but reinforced during my interview, that Mark has an amazing heart and passion for working with youth and wanting to propel them to being the best they can be. He had so many great ideas for where to take Youth Odyssey I couldn’t even list them all in this blog or it’d be much longer. It seems that Mark will be sticking around with Youth Odyssey for a good while longer and hopefully we will be able to see his ideas and vision become a reality. I know I can’t wait to find out and see where he helps propel Youth Odyssey into being the best nonprofit it can be!

Our Youth Leaders Give Back

When we first started our Youth Leader program in 2008, we asked them “What do you want to do in Youth Odyssey that we aren’t already doing?” We were so impressed to hear them say that they wanted to give back to the community that had given them so much (free programming and camps). After a little brainstorming session the Youth Leaders decided to adopt a park. In keeping with the adventure wilderness ideals of Youth Odyssey, the Youth Leaders opted to adopt a less manicured, more wild park. Thus our relationship with Blucher Park was born.

Blucher Park is located in Downtown Corpus Christi. Better known as THE birding hot spot of Corpus. Blucher Park is owned by the city and managed by the Audubon Outdoor Club. Our youth leaders regularly volunteer at the park by clearing away debris, trash and dead vegetation. While they are there, they usually get some lessons in local flora and bird species not to mention the occasional conservation lesson. This past Sunday, the Youth Leaders had a Blucher work day. They cleared away lots of fallen palm leaves and garbage in order to make their favorite park look spotless. It was super humid on Sunday and I know those kids worked up a sweat in no time. Not without reward however. Jersey Mikes so graciously feeds our crew when we have said work days and we appreciate them.

After all their hard work on Sunday, I asked our Youth Leaders why they love giving back at Blucher Park. Our Youth Leader Raina said, “I like helping out at Blucher Park because I get outside and get active. I also like helping keep the park clean so people can enjoy it without running into a trash bag or cigarette butt.” I think we can all agree that a nice day outdoors can be ruined very quickly by litter. Litter is a distraction from the natural beauty Blucher Park aims to provide. Because of our Youth Leaders, garbage and other litter is much less of an issue at Blucher. Some of our other Youth Leaders just genuinely enjoy helping out a cause they feel strongly about. Youth Odyssey is proud to instill a love of nature and the outdoors in our youth and teach them the importance of protecting it.

I like helping out at Blucher Park because I get outside and get active. I also like helping keep the park clean so people can enjoy it without running into a trash bag or cigarette butt.Raina Flores, Youth Leader

Our Youth Leader Donovan recalled his favorite Blucher memory with me. It was his first ever work day and he had never been to Blucher Park before. He immediately loved it and thought “Wow, this is the coolest park I’ve ever seen!” A former Youth Leader Devon, told me that he “missed those days”. Devon said he enjoyed getting to meet new people, experience the outdoors and all the learning that came with it! Devon also shared that “[he] even applies most of those things now in life.” An original Youth Leader, Alex, who was part of the decision to adopt Blucher said “Oh I loved everything about being out there with you guys. I loved the empowerment of knowing that we were just a few kids making a big difference to such an old park. I definitely miss being out there.”

I got to ask Raina and Donovan how they think volunteering at Blucher Park has helped them grow as Youth Leaders. Donovan answered, “I think helping at Blucher has helped me grow an understanding of how important the park is to some people and find an appreciation for nature.” Raina said “It has helped me grow as a youth leader because at Blucher I have responsibilities and I feel like I have another chance to take charge and help the community.” Wow! Definitely wise and mature answers from both of them!

I think it’s safe to say that our partnership with Blucher Park is a mutually beneficial one. The park and the Audubon Outdoor Club gets some extra hands and a clean park as well as some opportunities to teach our Youth Leaders a thing or two about birds. Our Youth Leaders get to exercise some responsibility, take ownership of their community and give back. We really couldn’t ask for a better way for our Youth Leaders to get involved with their community. It’s been a great partnership for nine years now and we hope to continue working at Blucher for many years to come!

Camp Changes Lives! Get In On The Action!

We’re halfway through the month of May and summer will be upon us soon enough! We are so ready to get our summer camp on and give the youth of the Coastal Bend memories that will last a lifetime! We really could not make these camps a reality without the generosity of our community partners! The Coastal Bend Community Foundation, HEB, Navy Army Community Credit Union, United Healthcare and Whataburger have all been amazing supporters of Youth Odyssey and are some of our biggest camp sponsors this year! We have also been blessed with several in-kind services/donations from Coastal Bend Bays and Estuaries Program, Feeding America – Food Bank, Gourley Contracting, GROW Local South Texas and Majesty Outdoors. We are so thankful for all the charitableness we’ve been shown from our fellow South Texans. We’ve got a lot left to do before summer camps start and we’d love to add your name to our list of fabulous donors! Your donations really do make a difference in the lives of the youth in Corpus Christi.

Youth Odyssey is a local non-profit primarily funded by the community we serve. We are so grateful to the residents of the Coastal Bend and all the ways you’ve given back to Youth Odyssey. The goal of our youth development programs is to increase positive attitudes, confidence and resiliency while decreasing risk factors such as gang violence, drug abuse, and teen pregnancy through adventure challenges. The opportunity to attend a week long summer camp plays a big role in a developing youth’s life. Studies show that summer camps provide an environment that is ideal for youth to grow by providing opportunities to take risks and gain responsibility in a neutral location.

At summer camp, kids get to build new relationships, experience new things, gain confidence and find a sense of belonging amongst peers. We here at Youth Odyssey have a passion for fostering this type development and we selfishly love watching their progress along the way! By putting aside electronics, creating an environment of positive reinforcement and being a safe place to try new things we can encourage the best type of growth from our kids. We also believe it is our duty to provide services and programs regardless of the financial situation of the families we serve, and many of these kids who want to self-discover with us at summer camp will need a scholarship to attend. That’s where you come in!

There are so many ways to help send a kid to camp! First, you need to know that every dollar counts! We accept donations as big as thousands of dollars to as small as the leftover change in your pocket. Part of our job is to help you help us and the best place to start is by getting you involved in any capacity (or dollar amount). If you prefer a more personal touch, you can sponsor an individual child. For a local camp it’s $400 and for an East Texas camp, $500. Not only do you get warm fuzzies from this type of donation, you will receive a personalized letter from the camper who benefited from your generosity, which equals more warm fuzzies. You can also sponsor an entire camp for $5,000. In addition to a letter from a camper, your logo will be included on the back of our camp shirts and on our website. You’ll also get some special shout-outs on our social media pages and any press releases we may do. Title sponsorships are also available. Title sponsors get a personalized letter from a camper, their logo on the back of our camp T-Shirts and on our website, shout-outs on social media and press releases as well as up to 4 camp T-shirts to proudly wear around Corpus Christi (because who doesn’t love swag, right?).

This summer we have 6 week long overnight camps! We already have one camp that’s full. We are in for a busy summer and we are so grateful to have you supporting us along the way! Follow us on our official Facebook and Instagram pages to stay current on what we do everyday and to see how your donations directly impact the youth we work with!

Ropes Course Renovation Finally Underway!

This past week has been a whirlwind of exciting change for Youth Odyssey! Last fall, Youth Odyssey was fortunate enough to be selected as the Charity League of Corpus Christi’s designated recipient of funds for their 2017 season. This past Wednesday, they presented us with a check at our ropes course. Youth Odyssey is so thankful to the Charity League for all their hard work because it certainly paid off. They were able to collect $262,000 for our ropes course renovation project! That’s a serious chunk of change and we have wasted no time putting it to good use!

The day after the Charity League check presentation, we started the demolition of our old shelter. It’s an old building, and to be honest it’s definitely time for an upgrade. Part of us was sad to see it go because of all the memories made under that awning. On the other hand, we are super excited to get a new building that we can actually be inside of! The plans for the new building include garage doors on both sides for a breeze way, an office, space for indoor programing when weather is bad, a bouldering wall and most importantly air-conditioned restrooms. This indoor area will be a fantastic place for gathering groups for debriefing, lunches or indoor games!

Renovating our ropes course buildings and the course itself has been a project on Youth Odyssey’s radar for a good five years or so. Now that we have doubled our full time program staff and through the hard work of the Corpus Christi Charity League, we are finally able to renovate and staff a new ropes course! In addition to the new, fancy building we’ll have, we plan on adding several new elements to the course. Nothing has been definitively decided but some elements like a giants ladder, vertical playground, a whale watch and a new spider’s web have been proposed. With all these new elements and with more staff we will be able to host more corporate teams, college groups, youth groups, parties, churches and sports teams. These groups can schedule a time to come out and play with us on the course for a small fee. All proceeds go back into our after-school programing for at-risk youth in Corpus Christi. So not only does your group get a day a fun and growth, you get to contribute to the growth of at-risk youth here in the costal bend. Sounds like a  win-win situation to me!

Our goal is to have the building completed and ready for use in September of this year! Needless to say, we are very much looking forward to our fall programs so we can break in our new home! As things continue to change with our growth here at Youth Odyssey we promise to keep you updated here and on our Facebook page!

Meet The Newest Addition To The Dream Team!

We’re so excited to introduce our newest team member Gabby! As we’ve mentioned before, our programs have been growing exponentially and we’ve been expanding our staff in order to continue to provide excellent programing to the youth of Corpus Christi. Gabby is the last addition to the Youth Odyssey staff for a while. The final piece to our Dream Team, if you will.

Growing up in a military family, Gabby has lived all over the world, primarily growing up in Hawaii, Japan, North Carolina and Texas. During her time in Hawaii, age 4-11 years old, is when Gabby began her love for the outdoors and started horseback riding. With this love, Gabby pursued employment at Heart’s Race Horse Rehabilitation Center as a horse trainer during her college years in North Carolina. Gabby also became a tutor for children with behavioral and mental disorders at this time, however, upon completion of her first year at the University of North Carolina at Pembroke, she enlisted in the United States Air Force as Security Forces (Military Police). During her enlistment, Gabby was stationed in Missouri, where she was trained in how to use a variety of tactical weapons and frequented the shooting range. This training inspired her to name her German Shepherd “Gunnery Sergeant,” whom she adopted during her time in Missouri. Gabby and “Gunny” enjoy hiking and hanging out at the lake and beach.

After finishing her enlistment, Gabby came back to Texas as fast as possible and began her work as a Private Investigator and Prisoner Transportation Officer. While she continuing her Private Investigator work, she started at the academy for the Texas Department of Criminal Justice, to be a Corrections Officer at a maximum-security penitentiary in Kennedy, Texas. Also, she began volunteering at her church with an organization called Majesty Outdoors (Interestingly enough, Majesty Outdoors is an organization that we, Youth Odyssey, are currently partnered with and their mission is to work with fatherless youth and propel them to success.) Upon being promoted in her Private Investigations Job to company Lieutenant, she left the penitentiary to pursue other opportunities. 

However, before she left, she was given the opportunity to hear the stories of inmates she worked with. Gabby began to notice a common factor between them. They all expressed a need for more programming and positive adult role models who expressed interest in them. It was the inmates stories, as well as continued volunteering with kids at church, that made her realize that she would rather be the person teaching and preventing children from going down the wrong path, than the person apprehending the individuals later on in life. Thus, she embarked on a search that lead her to Youth Odyssey!

Summer Program 2017 Schedule

As the school year is coming to a close and we are graduating our CCISD (Corpus Christi Independent School District) programs, Youth Odyssey is turning its focus to summer programs. This summer Youth Odyssey will be offering five full programs and five pilot programs to the youth of Corpus Christi.

Full programs meet Monday through Thursday for about three weeks. During this time, we work on building life skills such as leadership, communication, goal-setting, teamwork, trust and problem solving. At Youth Odyssey, we believe experience is the best teacher and our daily meeting times are filled with games and activities that are intentionally designed to promote these skills. As our students progress through the program and start to exhibit more leadership qualities we take them to our ropes course and on a weekend camping trip to flex their new leadership muscles.

Summer 2017 Full Programs

  • La Armada: May 1st-22nd, 4:30pm-6pm
  • Lexington: May 1st-22nd, 4:30pm-6pm
  • Leeward: May 8th-28th, 4:30pm-6pm
  • Oso Recreation Center: June 19th-July 8th, 1pm-3pm
  • Lindale Recreation Center: July 3rd-23rd, 1pm-3pm

Pilot programs are condensed versions of our full programs. These mini programs usually run about a week long, meeting Monday through Thursday, and culminate in a day at our ropes course. Our goal is not only to reach new youth through the pilot programs, but to establish new connections in our community and hopefully return to these sites with a full program in the future.

This May, we are starting a very special pilot program called Farm to Fork. We’ve partnered with Grow Local South Texas to provide a unique program aimed at giving youth hands-on experience in planing local gardens, composting, the importance of pollinators, and companion planting. The program will meet at The Learning Garden in Tom Graham Park. At the end of the program, youth will come together to cook a meal made with ingredients from local farms.

Summer 2017 Pilot Programs:

  • Farm to Fork: Every Tuesday in May, 4:30pm-6:30pm & Saturday May 27th
  • The Palms: June 5th-9th, 2pm-4pm
  • Clairelaine Gardens: June 5th-9th, 1pm-3pm
  • Samuel Place: June 12th-16th, 4pm-6pm
  • Casa de Mañana: July 24th-August 4th, 2:30pm-4:30pm

If any of these programs sound like something your child would like to be involved in, please contact us for more information. The programs at housing developments and apartment complexes are closed to include only those who live on site. But never fear, our Recreation Center programs are open to anyone who would like to participate. For the Recreation Center programs, you will have to register through the specific center you wish to attend.

Youth Odyssey is so looking forward to seeing all of you come out this summer! We can’t wait to share our best summer ever with you!

Let’s Send a Kid to Camp!

All throughout my life I was involved with Girl Scouts and sports and, because of this, every summer I’d attend Girl Scout and sports camps. It was great! I was able to make new friends, try new things and grow as an individual. I was fortunate that my parents were able to support these experiences and give me a ton of fond, fun camp memories as well as good life skills.

I had friends who didn’t have these same opportunities and I’d always feel a little bad for them and awkward because I’d come back from camp, we’d hang out and all I would do was gush about my fun camp week; and then it’d be their turn to tell me about theirs. They would say that they’d hung out around the house, played with neighborhood kids, maybe saw a movie or went to the pool. Pretty typical summer time events for a young kid, but no summer camp experience to gush about. So, in normal kid fashion, you just kind of go, “oh, that’s cool, wanna play tag (or Barbie’s), or go swimming?” and the subject was changed and we moved on with our summer festivities.

I mention this because Youth Odyssey works hard to ensure that anyone who wants to attend our summer camps can, no matter their financial standing. I wish more summer camp programs had that same mindset because, if they did, more of my friends could have had the same opportunities I had to grow and create memories through new experiences.

This year we are in need of more sponsorships than ever because we have added two more camps to the schedule. Each of our camps has room for ten youth to participate and last year that wasn’t enough. All of our camps filled up within the first two months of opening registration and we had to create a waiting list for each camp in case someone dropped out. Thus, we have created more summer camps this year in order to shorten waiting lists and create more opportunities for youth to participate in these experiences. More camps equals more kids and more kids equals having a greater impact on young minds. That also means we need additional monetary support for those who can’t afford camps on their own.

Youth Odyssey is able to support those who need financial assistance by offering sponsorships to those in need. Each camp costs “X” amount of money and, based on how much money we are able to raise, will dictate how many sponsorships we can offer. Most years we are able to raise funds for all youth who are in need of them; and we hope to continue this level of support this year and every year.

The way we gain sponsorships is by approaching businesses and getting the word out that we are looking for donations to help us “send a kid to camp” (through Facebook, Instagram, blogs, our website, and word of mouth). Each camp has a set cost, either $400 or $500 for one youth to attend, depending on the camp. This allows individuals or companies the chance to sponsor a child and allow them to attend our camps free of cost. Our sponsorships range from sponsoring an individual (the above prices), to sponsoring an entire camp; $5,000, to sponsoring our entire summer camp season; $25,000. Obviously, anyone can donate any amount they would like towards our summer camp sponsorships because we know that every dollar counts.

We are currently looking to acquire more donations and sponsorships and we’d love for you all to share this information with friends, family, coworkers and bosses, and see if they’d be willing and able to help us give every kid the chance to experience one of our amazing summer camps!