Wilderness Youth Project + SB Police Activities League

WYP x SBPAL: Celebrating 25 years of partnership

Wilderness Youth Project and SBPAL (Santa Barbara Police Activities League) have both been around since 1999. We've been working together for all 25 years, sharing after-school programs, weekend campouts, and leadership outings.

This month, teens from SBPAL’s Youth Leadership Council spent a rainy day outside with their little buddies (younger SBPAL participants) and WYP mentors for a bonding day.

We asked participants: How do YOU like to play in the rain? 

Several kids shared that they had never played in the rain.

Participants quickly realized that playing in the rain has no age limits. Turns out, you're never too old or too cool to play in the rain.

These Wilderness Youth Project x SBPAL participants got to:

  • Make a boat out of materials found in nature and race it down a small creek
  • Take a walk in the rain getting wet in puddles
  • Find all the best nature shelters to stay dry
  • Tune into their senses and notice new smells, colors, and changing landscapes

WYP x SBPAL’s Youth Leadership Council

WYP provides nature-focused mentorship and bonding time outdoors for SBPAL’s Youth Leadership Council, a group of motivated and ambitious high school students from all around the Santa Barbara and Goleta area.

SBPAL's Youth Leadership Council (YLC) is an excellent opportunity for students who possess the ability to work within a group structure to explore, discuss, brainstorm, and implement ideas that will have a positive impact on their community. In doing so, YLC instills a sense of pride in areas of academic achievement, community service, leadership skills, self-esteem, and personal development within each member.

So how did the SBPAL Youth Leadership Council feel about getting caught in the rain?

  • “It was fun, I loved the activities”
  • “I liked the human knot, that was so much fun, and sharing in the circle”
  • “I liked that they made us think about what we did”
  • “We would love to do it again!”

WYP Alumni and SBPAL's Executive Director

SBPAL’s Executive Director, Judie Lugo, doesn’t only see the success of WYP programs with her SBPAL participants. Judie attended WYP programs herself back when she was a student at La Cuesta High School. Branded “broken” and “troubled” teens, Judie says she and her peers at La Cuesta were often treated like criminals, ferried between two portables by security guards on the outskirts of campus.

WYP began offering programs at La Cuesta once a week in her senior year. At first, she was put off by the upbeat staff, who didn’t demand the teens earn their respect but instead gave it freely. However, once she made it off campus and outdoors, Judie was able to embrace the liberating atmosphere of Santa Barbara’s nearby nature.

"Wilderness Youth Project said: Alright, the day is yours. Whatever you want to do to explore and create and experience something new, go ahead and do it,’” Judie explains. “And that's what was so great about WYP. We weren't treated differently. ”

Going out in nature became therapeutic for Judie and her peers, who often came from difficult living situations; being with WYP was a time for laughter and relaxation amid adversity, fostering resilience among the teens. Although Judie was only at La Cuesta for six months, she says WYP had an immeasurable influence on her life going forward, especially when it came to incorporating outdoor activities into her work at SBPAL.

“Participating in WYP pushed me out of my comfort zone, helped me free my mind, face my fears, and believe that I could conquer it all! Being out in nature with no barriers and only endless possibilities has that effect on adults and children. There ar no walls, no limits. That is what the teens in SBPAL who participate in WYP learn, and why they return weekly without fail – it’s an experience like no other that they share with their family.”

--Judie Lugo, Executive Director, Police Activities League and former WYP participant

Paying Nature Connection Forward

As the Executive Director at SBPAL, Judie loves bringing WYP into PAL. Many years after being a WYP participant, she is determined to bring the joy, adventure, and relaxation of nature connection to the youth she serves, paying forward her positive experiences to create material change for her community.

“Kids come to us just because they haven't found the space yet where they feel comfortable or just seen. WYP is this resource that we have that's available to us so that some of the kids who just won't talk to us or haven't found their way yet can take a break. WYP is that break."

-Judie Lugo, Executive Director, Police Activities League and former WYP participant

Wilderness Youth Project is grateful to Judie for bringing her enthusiasm to our programs as a teen and for using her knowledge and experiences to create spaces for underserved youth to grow. Our partnership with SBPAL means the world to us and we hope that we can continue connecting for years to come.

Save the Dates

APRIL 26, 2024
Join SBPAL in celebrating 25 years of the Police Activities League (PAL) and look ahead to 25 more years of building the bridge between cops, kids, and the community. The evening will feature a cocktail hour, a sit-down dinner, and a pulled pork cook-off competition between Santa Barbara Law Enforcement and the Fire Department. There will also be live and silent auctions with unique items and experiences. Learn more here.

OCTOBER 5, 2024
Join Wilderness Youth Project in celebrating 25 years with gratitude at our Anniversary Celebration this Fall on October 5, 2024. This all-ages festival will be open to the whole community. We are currently looking for volunteer committee members and anniversary year sponsors. Learn more here.

Build a Bridge to Nature Today

You can support this WYP partnership and other community Bridge to Nature programs by making a donation online today and helping a local kid have their first-ever rainy day filled with laughter, puddles, and boat races.

Learn More