Power To Be was honoured to be featured by Searching For Sero, a mental wellness project that captures the stories of North Americans who are passionate about outdoor adventure as the key to happiness, well-being and balance in their lives. Founders John Rathwell and Tracey Guenard joined Power To Be Wilderness School grad Elly Crawford to learn more about her connection to nature. Check out her Sero Story, shared below with permission.

Wilderness School youth shares her story of turning the outdoors into the ultimate classroom

Everyone belongs in nature. This simple yet powerful statement is what Power To Be promotes, because they believe that physical activity and time outdoors is paramount to health and happiness, and that no one should be excluded from nature for any reason. The non-profit organization empowers people to explore their limitless abilities through inclusive adventures rooted in nature, and that’s something we can get behind. Through their different programs, they try to ensure physical, mental or financial considerations are no barrier to one’s ability to grow in the natural world.

While in Victoria, we met with Elly Crawford a young lady who graduated last year from the Wilderness School and discovered that Power To Be’s approach goes hand in hand with the power to dream. During three years, a cohort of teenagers goes on monthly weekend trips and multi-day summer excursions to build personal and interpersonal skills. Coincidentally learning about the program, it led her to live exciting adventures and forged her desire to pursue a life rooted in the outdoors.

“One of the people that worked for Power To Be used to be my neighbour. I had seen their van around and was intrigued. I found out more through him and it sounded super interesting. They were doing a lot of things I wanted to do so I decided to apply.”

Elly’s curiosity paid off. Her application was accepted and so her adventure begun.

“I traveled with my family a little bit when I was younger, but with Power To Be, we did a lot more on Island trips and camping. I had only ever been camping a few times in the summer. I have always wanted to travel but I think the program helped me to do more backpacking and camping style of traveling instead of staying in hotels and places like that.”

During the different trips, kids learn about the skill required to kayak, surf, hike and so on. Elly fell in love with the freeing feeling she gets from going on long hikes and expeditions. Through the different activities, the groups also familiarize themselves with being in nature and learn the valuable lessons that come with those experiences.

“I learned how to cook outside, starting fires, what gear you need, how to pack it in a backpack so you can carry it with you. Everything really. I learned that I can do a lot and I don’t really need to be a straight “A” student to feel accomplished. I can go outside and have the skills to survive.”

Talk about a boost in self-confidence. How many can claim to be able to survive in the wild? Over the course of those three years, the things she has learned merged with the confidence gained to foster her sense of leadership and she was able to keep cultivating that by volunteering with younger cohorts of the Wilderness School.

“It’s a different experience. I get to teach them how to use a white gas stove. I get to see how encouraging them keeps them going. They look up to me and at the same time I see myself in them. I was like that when I started out the program. Sometimes, you really want to be there and sometimes it’s tough and you don’t.”

At an age where the sum of your experiences have such a big impact on your life choices, Elly has capitalized on hers. She is currently looking at university applications that could help her pursue her dreams of traveling and adventure, and has also applied to programs like Students On Ice to pursue what she has started four years ago. Even in her personal life, she is making sure to keep on doing what she loves.

“I will absolutely continue to get out, camp and hike in the future. I just bought my own sleeping bag. I am starting to collect my own gear so I can do trips on my own in the future. I am trying to do some of those trips with my family as well. We gave my dad the Backroad Mapbooks for Christmas and I made a whole bunch of highlighting in it already.”

Elly’s participation in the Wilderness School program has given her the tools to carve a good future for herself and the power to dream that she can make it happen. Now thinking of working as a guide, she can use what she has leaned to be a positive influence for others and encourage them during tougher times, the way she does now as a volunteer.

“I try to remind them of when it was better and tell them it will get better again. Even if the time we are having now is hard. You just have to get through the hard part now before it gets easier.”

Talk about a life lesson…


  • Story written by Tracey Guenard with photos by John Rathwell. See the original story here.