GAP Year Base Life

by Andrea Wackerle


Hello Again! It’s February 18th, 2018, and it is check-in day for the GAP Program participants. I am one of the participants here at Eagle View Ranch. I am going to tell you about this past base phase and all of the experiences that we have shared over these past couple of weeks. I just got through with a check in that we have to do every Sunday. A check in is essentially SOAR’s way to support our growth and progress throughout the week. Each week is a fresh start so we can prove how much we have grown as people. With our improvement come privileges that correspond to tiers. The important thing to remember is that tiers just help us gauge where we are at with our growth and how we can improve as individuals. Over the past few weeks we’ve met our two new group members! We worked together to incorporate them into our group dynamic, and they have been transformative in our lives here at SOAR.

One of the most rewarding things we have done on this base phase is giving back to the community around our base here, in the town of Dubois by volunteering. There are volunteer placements that put us in different parts of the community and each place has its own unique experiences. There is the Opportunity Shop, which is a thrift shop that sells donations from all over Dubois. There is the fish hatchery where you hatch and raise fish to be released into the wild. There is the bighorn sheep center where you look up information about the many interesting facts that are associated with the Bighorn sheep and share that information with the general public. There is the Dubois Museum where you research history and put it on display. There is Absaroka Western Designs and Tannery, a tannery where you flesh the hides of animals and, with the fur, make them into clothing and furniture. There is also the Boys and Girls Club of Dubois where you assist in the upkeep of the facilities and spend time with kids after they come back from school. Finally we have the opportunity to volunteer at the Warm Valley Lodge. Here you are able to help improve the quality of living for the senior residents that live there by playing games, talking during meals, and generally making their days more enjoyable.

It’s not just all fun and games at SOAR. We go to school to learn more about how to deal with real life “adult” problems when we leave. As a group we take classes at Central Wyoming College, a community college based out of Riverton, Wyoming. Currently we are studying how to work in the job market and what professional skills one has to learn to be successful. Our teachers are trying to simulate that environment for us by having us create job resumes and partake in mock interviews. It’s interesting to see how everyone handles customer service and it gives insight into what field of work we would like to go into. Taking these classes has given us real insight on how to manage real independence in life.

Although, we have had classes and volunteering during this base phase, we also got the opportunity to do some really cool stuff on the weekends. Normally before the weekend even starts we need to make sure we have a concrete plan for the director of our program. These meetings normally take place on Friday and together we talk as a group, reflect upon the week and bring up some of the ideas we have for the weekend. There were two events in particular that are the most memorable from this base phase. One of those was snow tubing at the Snow King Mountain Resort in Jackson Hole. We rented tubes and zoomed down a slope over the course of an hour. It was something none of us had done before, and we all had a great time doing it. The other event that was a lot of fun was when we went to the Aquatic Center in Lander and had about 3 hours of free swimming. Some of my peers were attempting dives off the diving boards; some were playing water basketball, others just relaxing at the pool. The weekends are a great time for the group to get a break from the stresses of the week.

During the week, we also have the opportunity to partake in scheduled activities. At least twice a week we have a required hour of movement, usually after volunteering, where we get to go to the local gym and get in some well needed exercise. If we aren’t at the gym, we often go sledding at base, have snowball fights, play a game of King of the Hill or explore a snow cave one of our participants made.

During base phases we have designated Life Skills that are taught by our mentors throughout the week. A few life skills we learned during this base phase were how to budget our money, how to communicate with others, gourmet cooking, motivation, and skills to use for executive function. My favorite was when we were taught about gourmet cooking and simple tricks to get the best out of every meal you make. I learned how to properly cut an onion and how to best cook rice, but the most important thing I learned is how to make pie. We got the chance to make our own crust and filling before the pies were baked =) Life skills can be an important way to use your strengths in a real world setting and can be super fun as well. This is a major portion of base life here at SOAR and, with special thanks to the Mentors; we always learn something new about living life.

SOAR, isn’t just about how we grow as an individual but how we grow as a team. A team can take a lot of time to work and grow together. The best lesson for this was the day where we devoted our time to team bonding. Staff planned an afternoon’s worth of group bonding activities that would ultimately bring us closer together. Our first task was to snowshoe up the mountain in silence to reflect on what the concept of support meant to us. After we got up to the meeting spot, we dealt with tasks that challenged our respect, communication, and cooperation. One of those tasks involved working together to get across a metaphorical bridge called the “crevasse.” In order to complete this task we had to “safely” get our entire group to the other side of the crevasse with portable dots we were handed by the GAP director. While we did have our differences of opinions through this exercise we were able to successfully accomplish our goal as a team to reach the end together. Another activity that required a lot of trust was the zipper run we did to get back down to the lodge. We had to take turns running under our teammates hands all the way back to base. I had a lot of fun cheering on my teammates as they tried new ways to get through the zipper. We concluded the day with a candle light ceremony that symbolized us turning a new leaf in our growth here at SOAR.

With all that has happened over the past couple of weeks there is still more excitement and adventures in the next phase of our program. We are getting ready for our international trip to Belize! It will be the first expedition in which we didn’t need to plan or prepare extensively as a group. I am personally excited about all the opportunities we will have to experience in a place we couldn’t even dream we’d be going to. Right now we are packing for the trip, but on the 23rd we will be hitting the road for Denver to fly to Belize the next day. It has been a truly wild ride and I can’t wait to see what the future holds. So from all of us here at the GAP program, it has been a great pleasure sharing our experiences with you. Make sure to read the post after Belize, but in the meantime I am signing out and wishing you a great rest of your day. Adios!