Power To Be provides adventure-based programs designed for youth and families in need of support.  Through a collaborative approach and caring staff, Power To Be inspires connections with nature and the discovery of limitless ability.  They provide a unique and year-round outdoor education program that promotes physical health and emotional well-being, develops interpersonal and leadership skills, teaches environmental and social stewardship, offers peer mentoring, and supports community engagement and family connectedness.

Miles Takacs was pleased to introduce Jennifer Garrett, Director of Operations for Power To Be.

Jennifer graduated from the University of Ottawa with a B Comm (honours) summa cum laude and then earned a certificate in European Management in France. She's worked in construction, high tech, outdoor recreation and the charitable sector and has earned a reputation for being a tenacious, solutions-oriented and people-focused business leader. Jennifer joined Power To Be in 2009 and has embarked on double-digit growth serving youth and families in need of their support. Jennifer says she works with a team that shares her passion for adventures in nature and making a difference in the community.

Jennifer started her talk by showing a 'bomber' shovel that she was about to pass on to their senior field instructor as part of the safety kit. She said she was also pleased to pass on the lessons she learned from using the shovel when she went winter camping: winter camping is better than summer camping; you can use the shovel to build a shelter from snow, which is better protection than a tent; you can use it to build a round kitchen, which is better for communication in the group; and you can use it to build a fridge, which gives you amazing food because nothing spoils. One tool, lots of uses.

Jennifer said that she and Power To Be have much in common with Rotary, particularly the emphasis on education, youth and community enhancement. Jennifer's grandfather was a member of the Victoria Rotary Club for more than 25 years and her mother is a Rotarian in the Port McNeil Club. Both have been very keen on the Youth Exchange program and Jennifer recalled a stream of exchange students coming through her home. From her family, and from a very young age, she learned the importance of service to the community - Service Above Self.

Recently Jennifer gave a talk to a Rotary Club in Vancouver about Power To Be's program for youth who are deaf or hard of hearing. After the meeting, she called her grandfather to tell him about her speech and how proud she is of the impact that this work is having in the community. She thought that that was the moment her grandfather was most proud of her.

There are other connections between Rotary and Power To Be: their first van came from Rotary. Now they have three vans.

In looking at why the need for Power To Be, Jennifer said that long before Richard Louv coined the term 'Nature Deficit Disorder', their facilitators had been working with youth in group homes and as outdoor guides. From 1998 when Power To Be started, they looked at other programs and at access to quality outdoor activities. Now, 15 years later, addressing the significant gaps in education, health care and recreation sectors is more relevant than ever in light of decreasing funding and increasing costs. The incidence of autism, obesity, diabetes, and ADHD continue to increase. Power To Be addresses these and other concerns by creating programs using nature as a 'co-facilitator'. They use kayaking, hiking, climbing, snowshoeing, skiing and more. Their own as well as research in the wider academic community shows that their programs bring about marked improvements in health and well-being, family connectedness, life skills and connection to nature.

They have served more than 6,000 youth and families.

Jennifer closed with a story about a young woman, Heather, who has significant cognitive challenges. She and Heather recently climbed Mount Bluff near Sooke. This proved to be an incredibly difficult climb, taking them more than 2 1/2 hours. The journey down took even longer. Heather doesn't have a lot of verbal skills so there was no immediate feedback - until the next day. That day, Jennifer was doing her grocery shopping and heard a very loud yell, "JEN!!!". And there was Heather at the end of the aisle - super excited and just grinning. Heather is employed by the store under their program of employing persons with disabilities. Heather gave Jennifer a huge hug and could not stop grinning. Jennifer introduced herself to the man with Heather. He was Heather's father; he told Jennifer that she and Power To Be have changed their family life.

Jennifer then answered questions:

93% of their funding comes from private sources, individuals and funders. About five years ago, they moved away from government funding as it was not reliable.

Fees are never a barrier. Many of the individuals and families they serve face socio-economic barriers. However, they often want to contribute so the fees are set at a symbolic rate.

Many of their referrals come through the three local school districts. Most of the youth are recommended on a pre-emptive basis to help steer them on a positive path.

These are not court-mandated programs. Some of the programs are open enrolment so they deal with a wide range of abilities. They have a three-year program for 'at risk' youth who are struggling in school. This program works with the whole family. The youth are usually in grades 11 and 12 and meet once a week. Three years seems to be the 'sweet spot' with teens.

Michele Winson thanked Jennifer. With the kids of her own, Michele appreciates the value of the life skills that Power To Be teaches.

President Paul related a story of when he and friends went winter camping on Mount Arrowsmith. They hiked in with very little but did have a new tent (passing snowmobilers who had everything including beer). The tent was a three-season tent and one of their friends quipped that he hoped one of those was winter. It wasn't - talk about being at risk!