Teen Summer Courses: A Place to Make Friends, Build Confidence, and Connect Offline

Colorado Mountain Club's summer courses offer teens a way to connect with nature, their peers, and themselves.
Felicia Brower Felicia Brower
May 07, 2024

Teens today have a world of connection at their fingertips, yet many feel lonelier than ever. “Loneliness is a scary thing happening in society, and teens are at high risk for it,” explains Stacey Halvorsen, Colorado Mountain Club’s Chief Education Officer. “We’ve done screenings for it for some of our teen programs, and we’ve seen that there’s a prevalence amongst the teens we’re working with.” Despite online connection and constant social media use, which can have negative mental health impacts, teens report feeling alone or having a lack of friends. Between that, the pressure to succeed in school, and the tidal wave of emotions that come with growing up, these years are especially challenging. 

The stress of growing up is unavoidable, but spending time in nature with peers can be a great way to mitigate that. CMC’s Youth Program offers several overnight, day, and multi-day courses. The programs geared towards teens take them to outdoor destinations both in and outside of Colorado where they get to experience a controlled independence and practice building self-confidence and resilience that will benefit them for their entire lives.

“Teens in our courses learn a lot about how to take care of themselves,” says Alec Backhus, Youth Program Coordinator. “They learn how to cook for themselves, feed themselves, and get themselves up at the right time in the morning.” It’s a level of responsibility that many teens don’t have at home but will need to know for successful, independent lives. Another important responsibility? Being able to make decisions with a group. “Our instructors are skilled at including students in decision making,” says Halvorsen. “It's 12:00, and the weather's coming in. Do we keep climbing, or do we go back to camp? What are our choices? What are our options? What information do we need to make an effective decision that manages risk and takes the safety of the group into account?” By including the teens in those important decisions, leaders enable the students to build self-efficacy skills that will help them make thought-out choices in all aspects of their lives.


CMC’s teen summer courses also give them a hands-on chance to practice valuable people skills in a controlled environment. “Kids meet new people and make new friends, often branching out of who their typical friend group might be. Many don't even have a typical friend group,” explains Backhus. “Doing a climbing trip or something where they're with a bunch of people they might not normally hang out with but who they share this hobby or interest really helps them build out their social skills. I think it really increases their self-confidence and self-reliance quite a bit.”

While there are skill requirements for some courses, many of CMC’s teen courses are open to anyone willing to try something new. “One of our number one goals is to take people who are nervous or are scared or haven't tried these things and show them that they are capable of it,” reassures Backhus. “Yes, you might need a special skill set, but it's something that you can learn and something that we can teach you.”

CMC’s Teen Courses are open for enrollment but are closing soon. Here are some courses where we still have space available:

Upcoming Overnight Courses:

Upcoming Day Course:

Upcoming Multi-Day Course:

Taking an outdoor course is an excellent way to meet friends with common interests, learn new skills, and build resilience by stepping outside your comfort zone. These experiences not only help teens grow as people, but they also look great on college applications.


“Students in our courses get to connect with themselves but also with nature and their peers,” explains Halvorsen. “They’re doing something physically active, which is good for their bodies and brains. Being in nature has mental health benefits from being in green space, and teambuilding and teamwork lets them connect deeply with their peers. They get to know other people and how to work with them, and they get to know themselves.”

If cost is a concern, financial assistance and scholarships are available. Feel free to reach out to yep@cmc.org for more information or to ask any questions you have about what summer courses entail. Members of the CMC Youth Education staff is happy to talk things through and help you figure out which course is right for you or your teen.


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