Braving Connection

Building Trust

“I don’t trust anyone,” report many students entering Youth Odyssey.  Students hold this sentiment for reasons as varied and complex as the students themselves. From influences like social media to situations like teen pregnancy, poverty, and being victims of violence and abuse, students at Youth Odyssey face many challenges to building healthy relationships. But no matter where students start on the spectrum of trust, they can begin to build trust at Youth Odyssey.

Of course, the journey starts with self-trust. So the first step in the process is always begins there. The reason, according to Brene Brown, is that “we can’t ask people to give to us something that we do not believe we’re worthy of receiving. And you will know you are worthy of receiving it when you trust yourself above everyone else.”

Brown calls trust “braving connection.” It is the connection you have with yourself, the connection you have with others, and the connection you have with the environment. It takes bravery to build those connections.


That’s Boundaries.
Reliability. Accountability.
The Vault. Integrity.
Non-Judgment. And Generosity.
This is the anatomy of trust.
Brene Brown

Braving ConnectionBuilding TrustChallenge By Choice

Challenge By Choice

Youth Odyssey works to teach and promote trust (and other life skills) through an adventure programming model called “challenge by choice.” Challenge by choice gives students the responsibility for setting their own goals and boundaries within the structure of the program. It also allows students to move through the program at their own pace.

Youth Odyssey uses challenge by choice because we recognize that building trust doesn’t happen all at once. As Brown says, it’s “built in very small moments.”

Building trust starts with small, routine gestures like showing up to weekly team challenges. Smiling and making eye contact are great first steps. Participation and engagement in group activities and games come next.

Over time, students prepare to take on even larger challenges at Youth Odyssey, like our Ropes Course Challenge and Adventure Wilderness Trips. Some students who demonstrate readiness may even be invited to join our Youth Leadership Program.

At Youth Odyssey, Youth Leaders are students who role model trust. Youth Leaders have overcome the challenge of trusting themselves. They continuously work to build trust with others. And they are ready to return to program events as leaders who have earned Youth Odyssey’s trust.

Developing New Life Skills

Of course, the ultimate goal is not only for students to succeed at Youth Odyssey, but to be able to return to their home communities with new life skills, ready to connect and share.

As staff, we know we’ve done our jobs and that the students have done theirs when they leave the program with reports like this one: “Before Youth Odyssey, I was quiet, anxious, and unsure. I had low self-esteem. After Youth Odyssey, I am communicative, confident, and self-accepting. I have high self-worth. I’m happy!”

We hope that more youth will join our growing community in the New Year. It’s the perfect time to start, as Brene Brown says, “braving connection.”

I am communicative, confident, and self-accepting. I have high self-worth. I’m happy!
Youth Odyssey Student