Carson City teens complete wilderness program |

Carson City teens complete wilderness program

Juvenile Probation Officer Ali Banister speaks to the crowd at JPO Wilderness Program graduation Wednesday evening at the Plaza Hotel.
Brad Coman/Nevada Appeal |

While some Carson City kids spent their summer traveling, tanning or binge watching Netflix, 16 teens spent their summer with nature.

These teens were a part of the Leadership and Resiliency Wilderness program through Juvenile Probation. The teens were court ordered to attend the 10-week summer program, where they learned about leadership, positive choices and health and fitness.

“It has been a long journey, but it has been a great one,” said Chief Deputy Director of Juvenile Probation Ali Banister.

Banister and the other probation officers held a graduation ceremony for the teens to celebrate the completion of the program Wednesday night. The teens’ loved ones joined them at the dinner and presentation to share in the excitement of the night.

“Here is a great example kids, as you look around the room at everyone in front of you, beside you and behind you, just remember they are all here for you,” Banister said.

As a part of the Wilderness program, the teens had to attend all day, four days a week and completed a number of activities including training and weight lifting at a gym, ropes courses, hikes, community service and white water rafting trips. The activities were grueling at times, pushing the teens past their mental and physical comfort zones.

“Overall you spent 236 hours, hiked 50 miles and after 300 burpees and pushups, I stopped counting,” Banister told the teens.

The purpose of the program is to provide a different outlet for the teens than the negative choices they had made that put them into the probation system. It’s meant to show the teens there are positive activities they can participate in as well as investing in the community and building leadership qualities.

“During the 10 weeks, I questioned at times if we were making an impact with the kids if we were making a difference,” Banister said.

But she said over the course of the program, she saw different examples of the kids improving and growing throughout the summer. She told the audience there was one father who approached one of the other officers and thanked them for giving him his son back.

The teens also expressed their gratitude for the program, saying it helped them find a new outlook on life.

“At times it was hard and at times it was easy, but here we are as a team,” said one of the participants.

She said going through the program helped her get through some hard times.

“I learned that I can have fun without being under the influence,” she said. “The program helped me work out my problems and it is nice to have a real smile on my face.”

One teen shared how the program helped him turn his life around. He said he used to be passionate about sports but once he turned to drugs, he was missing school, flunking classes and headed down a bad path.

“I had lost my passion in sports, I was never home and I was almost never sober,” he said.

He said he wasn’t happy about being put into the program at first, but at the end he was thankful. At the end, he was one of the leaders of the group and succeeding, learning about how to take the lessons learned in the Wilderness program to the real world.

“I learned that being a leader is helping others becoming leaders too,” he said.

Each teen received a certificate of completion with a parting sentiment from Probation Officer Matt Clapham. Clapham described the kids as inspirational, passionate, compassionate, positive and motivated.

“Thank you for spending your summer with us and finishing what you thought was impossible,” Clapham said.

Carson City Judge James Wilson also attended the celebration as their guest speaker. Wilson, who’s an avid outdoorsman, had spoken to the teens earlier in the summer before one of their overnight hiking trips.

“I want to start by saying how proud of I am of you for completing (the program) because it is not an easy task,” Wilson said.

He talked to the teens about the importance of perseverance and hard work for their goals. Wilson talked to the kids about how he was an average student throughout high school, college and law school but how he pushed himself and tried his hardest to get where he is today.

“This is hopefully a building block for you so you can know you can do difficult things,” Wilson said. “…Hopefully one of the things you learned is that sometimes you have to sacrifice and suffer and do things that you may not want to do for a goal that is worthwhile.”