- VENTURE FORTH Go Adventure participants traveled to Catalina Island last summer.
'I'm always telling everybody that we're doing exactly what we said we would do almost 20 years ago," says Jim Nevill.
The co-founder and executive director of Bodega-based nonprofit organization Lifeschool and its flagship program Go Adventure says that, though the mission has evolved and the language has been updated, the essence of what they do has not changed since the group formed in 1999.
Every summer, Go Adventure leads teenagers from Sonoma County and beyond on customizable wilderness adventures, sans cell phones, to encourage life skills ranging from outdoors experience to building personal relationships. The program's destinations include many of California's diverse ecological wonders, from Mount Shasta to Death Valley, as well as trips that reach as far as Alaska and Costa Rica.
"Our program really emphasizes adventure-based learning," Nevill says. "It's about having an enriching experience in the outdoors that's still fun."
Rather than focusing on training kids just to be proficient at specific camping skills, Lifeschool was founded on the idea of passing on skills that can make kids more productive in school and in their personal lives, like communication and conflict resolution. But that's not to say kids aren't learning a ton of outdoor skills. Re-branded as Go Adventure in 2007 due to student suggestions, the organization's wilderness tours are no mere ropes courses. Expeditions can last as long as 30 days and feature challenging environments.
"The learning is hidden in the fun and challenge of the activities," says Nevill. "You don't realize the profound changes that can happen to you as you hike up a mountain that you never fathomed getting to the top of. It teaches you something about yourself that you can then apply to your home life."
Nevill grew up on the East Coast and earned a degree in psychology at the University of Dayton in 1995. The first job he was offered out of college was with a Catholic Youth Organization camp in Occidental, where he worked as a counselor and then director before forming Lifeschool.
"I believe that good youth workers weave themselves out of the formula as soon as possible," Nevill says. "Ideally, you're empowering people with the skills they need to make good calls when you're not around."
With that state of mind at the forefront of its work, Go Adventure has been recognized as a pioneering force in youth mentorship as well as outdoor fun.
Go Adventure's schedule of group outings run April to October. Ultimately, Nevill wants to encourage parents to see the importance and benefits of the outdoor experience for their children.
"I believe the best way to learn real-life hard skills is to go outside and live."
For more information, visit goadventure.org.