Recently Bobby,* an inner city kid who had never been out in the country, came to Camp Hebron's Meadowview Stables. It was evident that anxiety was building up in him the further into the country the van came. When Bobby arrived at camp, he stuck close to a friend and stayed as far away from the horses as he could.
This young man came from a difficult home life, and was fearful and had trust issues. After 30 minutes, he finally touched a horse's shoulder. Learning that some of the horses at camp suffered physical and emotional scars as well helped Bobby connect with his horse, Micah. By the end of the day, Bobby was riding the horse, petting him and saying goodbye. Significant growth and development can happen when someone is able to face their fear and step outside their comfort zone. In this instance, that opportunity was made possible through a joint effort of Camp Hebron and the Yellow Breeches Educational Center (YBEC).
Every parent wants their child to succeed. But what if your child struggles with behavioral issues, an emotional disability, ADHD, ODD, a mild form of autism or simply comes from a dysfunctional home? For these children, the traditional learning environment is often a difficult place to thrive. Yellow Breeches is a private academic school licensed by the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. Its mission is to provide a quality, comprehensive, life-altering special education program for secondary school-aged students, identified with emotional support needs, who are at risk to fail in the traditional academic setting.
Yellow Breeches' primary concern is the student’s character-education. In Yellow Breeches' programs, principles are promoted and enforced through the implementation of a positive, peer normative culture which includes behavior management and level systems, to motivate and enhance students’ ability to learn. The program runs on a point system to hold students accountable on a daily basis. Earning points lead to earning trips, creating a great way to produce consistent habits. Part of the Yellow Breeches Educational Center (YBEC) program is hands-on educational learning, which is where Camp Hebron fits in.
Over the last ten years, YBEC has partnered with Camp Hebron to work with students through Horsemanship and Adventure activities (the High & Low Ropes Course). Ryan Shipp is the Branch Program Coordinator & Adventure Instructor for YBEC, and works with the school districts to provide adventure education & emotional support through special education learning. Yellow Breeches works with elementary, middle and high school students.
Every trip has a goal and a purpose in mind, whether adventure or experiential, and will have an educational aspect and a challenge along with it. "Many times students will come into the program timid and afraid and say they will not ride a horse at all, but after the staff explains the horses’ emotions and how they relate to their emotions, the children become more confident. They begin to understand the rules of the horse. Many of these youth would never have an opportunity like this due to finances. Some, like Bobby, rarely leave their communities and are uninvolved with extracurricular activities," states Mr. Shipp.
Camp Hebron horsemanship staff Dean & Susan Berger play a huge role in the lives of these students. Mr. Shipp says "I love the way that Dean and Susan relate to the students and help them face their anxiety. The program is educational and our students almost immediately want to come back. They walk away with a different understanding of horses and horseback riding." Camp program staff and volunteers even went so far as to recognize that some students didn't have warm clothing. Now every student leaves with a Camp Hebron sweatshirt, and a note to let the kids know someone cares about them. It's a tremendous collaboration that is truly changing lives.
Yellow Breeches averages 160 youth in its program and brings 15-20 groups to Camp Hebron each year. Dozens of other offsite educational trips are run as well, including rock climbing, horseback riding, ropes courses, white water rafting, kayaking, year-round hiking, skiing, skate boarding, mountain biking, teamwork ventures and more. Students are also taught to give back and serve at places like Bethesda Mission.
Through academics, service learning & experiential education, the goal of providing a quality education can be achieved, and students can gain the tools they need to development into independent adults. Camp Hebron is happy to play a small part in helping Yellow Breeches students grow academically, in emotional maturity and, most of all, in character.
*Name changed to protect identity.