In 2013, Madison was introduced to the outdoors through her very first Big City Mountaineers trip. Her counselor had suggested it, and with some hesitation she and her sister signed up. Madison recalled, “It was a really, really tough trip for both of us. It was the first time we couldn’t have our phones and couldn’t contact our mom for so long…[that was] the hardest part.” Madison’s mom has raised her and her sister as a single-parent and they are a tight-knit family. She remembers returning to their apartment after the trip and immediately bursting into tears. They were so relieved to be back home!
Despite Madison’s emotional return, she told us “when my mom saw me after the trip she said, ‘I know you – you’re going to go back next year.’ I told her I definitely wasn’t.” But as the school year came and went, Madison was offered the opportunity to participate in another trip the following summer and accepted the offer. This was one of Madison’s first experiences with Type II fun in the outdoors (something many of us have become very familiar with – miserable when it’s happening, but fun in retrospect). She recalled how much she loved being surrounded by nature, and the feeling of putting her feet in the river after a long day of backpacking.
Most of the time, students only participate on one BCM expedition. However, some students return on a second trip as peer leaders. Madison decided to take advantage of the leadership opportunity when she accepted the offer to return. In fact, she excelled so much on that next trip that she continued with BCM expeditions for her entire high school career – taking on additional leadership every year! While it is rare for a student to go on so many trips, it has been incredible to watch Madison grow and mature over the years. Reflecting back on her leadership role, she said, “I needed that, because after those trips I immediately buckled down in school. I used to be lazy. But after BCM I got everything done before it was due and was able to actually graduate a year early. Now I’m headed off to college.”
Not only did Madison’s teachers notice her transformation but her family did as well. “My mom said that every time I came back [from expedition] I was a different kid. I was more mature. I think it’s because on expedition you HAD to do your job – if I didn’t, it affected the whole team. The experience changes your mindset into something more of an adult. You have a job for a week, you have to do that job otherwise something negative might happen and if that happens out there you can be in real danger. I realized it was similar at home too – if I helped out around the house my mom and sister were happier.”
Along with an increased sense of responsibility, Madison also learned about her capabilities and how to address a set back. Unfortunately, on her last trip she suffered an injury that ended her trip early. But when she reflected on it, she was able to see how that experience helped her cope when she was rejected from her top choice for college. She described the understanding of “needing to make plans, even though things are going to happen to derail them.” When she wasn’t accepted to her first choice of college, she told herself it was okay, and started focusing on her second choice, which she was ultimately accepted to. “Just like I wasn’t prepared to fall and hurt my shoulder on the trip, you have to plan still, but then adjust and keep going.”
When reflecting back on her 5 years with BCM, Madison described “it was so important to me because it was an opportunity for me to go out and explore the outdoors without having to worry about financial problems. I’ve been worrying about money since I was 10. I wasn’t able to go on a school trip because it cost $500 and we didn’t have it.” She realizes the impact the expeditions had on her life and hopes to one day pay it forward! “Hopefully when I’m older I can help provide these opportunities for kids too. I want to give them time to experience things they wouldn’t have gotten to because of finances.” Before BCM Madison describes herself as “a shy little girl who loved the outdoors, now I’m an adult who is ready to take on anything.”
Thank you BCM supporters for giving Madison the courage to chase her dreams and teaching her that she has the ability to achieve them too!