Youth Excellence Project Winter Kickoff Challenge

Group Shot, Winter Kickoff YEP
Group shot of our camp.

Adventures in Snow

“The pine stays green in winter…     wisdom in hardship.”

Norman Douglas

Youth Excellence Project (YEP) is one of our founding partnerships and over the past three years, our relationship with them has grown. This year we are excited to announce that we are leading their cohort of young men through an orientation and four special trips, creating an arch of learning and growth. This last weekend we embarked on the first of these trips and Outside Perspectives’ (OP) first overnight adventure of the season! YEP is calling it their Winter Kickoff Challenge.

The boys met early on Saturday to begin their Winter Kickoff Challenge at Winding Trails in Farmington. This is the first time these youth have ever pitched a tent in the snow! Luckily, with the right gear, we stayed plenty warm!

After a competitive snowball battle, sledding, and a hot lunch, the boys set up camp and embarked on a scavenger hunt – the boys worked together as a team to use a map and compass to find clues along the wooded path. They found three different boxes hidden deep in the woods each containing a part of the ultimate prize. The first had graham crackers, the second chocolate, and the third marshmallows. All the ingredients needed to make the classic camp favorite – s’mores!

The boys truly demonstrated a willingness to try something new and work hard. Bonds were made and fun was had.

The team learned how to prepare a fire the “right way”…with tinder and kindling. It did the trick as the sun went down!

The boys cooked an Italian dinner and used the coals from the fire to make an amazing Dutch oven peach cobbler for dessert. The best part of winter camping is the food!

Around the fire. They shared their highs and lows of the day and delivered individual gratitudes to those who went out of their way to help out or to lend support. We reflected on the lessons of the day. The boys developed skills around communication, coping, regulating emotions, goal-setting and relationship building.

This was a great start to the OP season and we’re looking forward to a great season ahead in partnership with YEP.

Dutch oven cooking a cobbler on the left!

Starting the Season Strong with Ethel Walker’s 7th Grade!


On May 9th Outside Perspectives embarked on its’ first expedition of the season with all 12 girls from the Ethel Walker School’s 7th Grade class. The Ethel Walker School is an independent, college preparatory, boarding and day school for girls in grades 6 through 12 in Simsbury, CT. Coming at the end of the school year, the expedition fortified the existing relationships between the girls and supported the school’s grounding values of integrityrespectconfidencecourageconviction, and love of learning. By reflecting these important values in all aspects of the expedition, Outside Perspectives is supporting the framework for personal, ethical and social growth which will follow them as they move into the 8th grade and beyond.

The girls tackled many obstacles on their journey and explored some of the most beautiful scenery Connecticut and Massachusettes has to offer. Hiking eight strenuous miles with heavy packs, these ladies came together as a crew and supported each other through the highs and lows. Highlights include climbing to the top of Race Brook Falls. They jumped in with both feet digging deep and pushing the limits of what they thought they were capable of. After coming out on top many expressed feeling strong and powerful!

Group embrace on Race

Hiking on the Appalachian Trail, the East Coast’s iconic long-distance trail stretching from Georgia to Maine, with its cliff-like ridgeline and sweeping views of the Housatonic River Valley was a highlight for many, but for some, it was an opportunity to face a fear of heights!

On the last day, the girls woke early, quickly broke down camp and climbed to the top of the highest mountain in CT to eat breakfast! Scrambling their way to the top of Bear Mountain, these ladies triumphed as a team. Reflecting on their experience many expressed that they were capable of much more then they thought they were and that they felt more empathy towards one another. The experience clearly brought them closer together.


Thanks so much to these courageous ladies for taking a leap into the unknown! We are so proud of everything you accomplished on your journey. Thanks also to the amazing Dr. Semk for joining the expedition and supporting these ladies from the beginning to the end. Also a big thanks to Ms. Harris for taking care of all the behind the scenes details and making sure all the participants and their families had everything they needed throughout the process. Thanks finally to the Ethel Walker School and the families for sharing these amazing young women with Outside Perspectives. It was a pleasure to take them into the wilderness! We wish these ladies the best of luck as they finish the academic year strong!

All the best,

Instructors Nicky & Shannon


Despite our quiet social media presence,

OP has been VERY BUSY this winter!

The OP field team has returned from a week-long scouting trip to the Adirondack Wilderness in upstate New York (also knowns as ADK or the “Dacks” for short). OP will be taking Youth Excellence Project on another 8-day Backpacking/Canoeing/Rock Climbing Expedition this August and we scoured the area to find just the right EPIC EXPERIENCE for them! While the snow and cold kept us on our toes (and wiggling them in our boots), we had the backcountry all to ourselves. Maya, our sweet little office dog, experienced her first long trip and despite some shivering and a bruised tail (from too much excitement) she LOVED IT! She was an excellent member of the team running many more miles than Nicky and Shannon combined. Discovering these backcountry field areas launched us headlong into full on SPRING FEVER. OP will kick off the expedition season in early May with a 3-day Ethel Walker Expedition, followed by a Rock Climbing date with the COBA dudes and ladies. The season is lining up and filling in!


We have a climbing date on the calendar….. and are in the fast lane for acquiring CLIMBING EQUIPMENT!

Every once in a while we encounter individuals who motivate us to work a bit harder, to live more fully, and to be a bit more generous. We recently had one of these experiences  when we sat down with the always-inspiring COBA Founder Johnny “Coach” Callas and his team to hammer out this year’s course dates. The Co-ed Rock Climbing Course for the Charter Oak Boxing Academy Youth in May is the first climbing event of the year. With Nicky and Shannon updating their climbing certification this next week, they will be set to facilitate the day….. EXCEPT….

OP must acquire it’s own climbing equipment to avoid the large expense of hiring it out for the day.  For the next two weeks we will be running a ….

Check out this LINK to see the campaign details. A $12 donation will purchase a belay device or $40 a harness. 

Our johnny-on-the-spot support network showed up in a BIG WAY for the Backpacking Gear-Raiser last spring and the Trailer Campaign last fall. We continue to be overwhelmed and grateful to those that keep showing up for Outside Perspectives and the youth it serves. Please consider giving what you can for this campaign. If you are able to SHARE our campaign on social media or by word of mouth THANK YOU for that as well!

In addition to the search for individual sponsorships, two of our new board members, Amy Kassing and Ali Saslafsky (junior member) are hard at work drumming up corporate sponsorship support. They pack a big punch with Amy’s depth of experience in corporate sales as a Business Development Manager and with Ali’s strong passion for climbing and her valuable connections within the industry. We are elated to have these two on our team. We have the utmost confidence in their abilities to seal the deal and get us on track.

New Junior Board Member Ali
New Board Member Amy


The OP Equipment Trailer is due in our driveway this coming MONDAY, APRIL 23RD! It was delayed in its shipment from the midwest. Mmmmm… blame it on all the crazy midwest snow storms? Perhaps. Thank you Tom from Killam’s Truck & Trailers in East Windsor, CT for the sales support. We’ll start building out the shelves and the interior soon! Backcountry here we come!

Thank you TOM KILLAM of Killam, Inc!


We’ll be sure to share updates as the Summer Expedition Season kicks off. Once again, thank you for supporting Outside Perspectives and the youth we serve! 

Bigelow Mountains Expedition, Maine


With no roof over our heads, we slept in a new campsite each night, carried and made our own food, and continuously moved ourselves and our gear for seven days by human power alone! The men of Youth Excellence Project (YEP) covered over 40 miles of terrain on our recent expedition to Maine, crossing the Bigelow Mountains and paddling back to our start via the great Flagstaff Lake. We endured crazed mosquitoes, rain, wind, heat and cold. Though, as the Norwegian proverb says, there is no such thing as bad weather, only bad clothing.

While a new experience for some, the guys hiked and paddled themselves well, mastering skills quickly, often arriving in camp with down-time to spare. Cards were played, footballs tossed, cannon ball jumps perfected, and Smore’s roasted. Perhaps most impressive though, was that the guys spent the entire trip without any of their technological devices! We didn’t hear complaints or even passing statements of missing the connection. Like a return to the past, perhaps a childhood you remember, we spent the trip in the moment and living life to the fullest.

No expedition is truly complete without a good dose of character-building rain. On a particularly memorable day later in the trip, we got doused! After spending the morning packing up, we canoed most of the day in a chilly rain. The break in the clouds after lunch was a joyous moment! The late afternoon was spent playing games, completing a fire-building contest and writing letters to our future selves (which will be mailed in a year). As the sun set that night, the morale of the group was jovial as folks took an evening paddle and leaped into the lake practicing water acrobatics. It was the kind of day that makes a person feel like they are in the right place at the right time.

A sunrise hike up Avery Peak, requiring a determined 4:30 am wake up, marks a final big trip highlight. Climbing in the dark, we enjoyed an amazing 360 degree view of red, orange, and purple clouds, views of distant mountain peaks and pristine lakes below. Additional rewards for our efforts were a peaceful and serene nap on the summit and some freshly cooked up oats. You can’t beat breakfast in bed with a view like that!

This trip provided incredible opportunities for the group to sort out interpersonal challenges, personal struggles, and to push outside of comfort zones.  This experience was a rite-of-passage journey, a return to nature and a leadership challenge that promoted personal growth and strong group cohesion. It was not an easy or comfortable experience, but it was fun and exciting. We did NOT spend the week camping…. we went on an EXPEDITION! 🙂

It was such an honor to work with Damion, Ryan, Jim and The CT Youth Excellence Project (YEP) on this expedition. YEP’s support and belief in Outside Perspectives from the start has been incredible and working with their youth has been a perfect match. These young men worked really hard on this expedition and pushed themselves beyond their own beliefs about their personal capabilities at times. It was really amazing to see them work as a team and to support each other through physically and emotionally challenging situations. Most memorable for us, was the emergence of the leadership skills we observed.  We look forward to seeing this group and the returning youth leaders again next year!

Until next time….. CHEERS from co-founders and instructors, Shannon & Nicky


Help us MOBILIZE our operation!


Outside Perspectives is making great strides this year, increasing our reach and support of youth — especially underserved youth. We have big expeditions with YEP and COBA fast approaching and have set our sights on becoming a completely MOBILE OPERATION as soon as possible.


TrailerOur final puzzle piece is to RAISE $2400 for the purchase of an enclosed TRAILER, allowing us to transport equipment to our expeditions. Feel free to offer whatever amount is right for you. Donors giving $100 or more will receive a token of our gratitude with the choice of an Outside Perspectives T-shirt or hat. ​​



Sponsoring businesses will receive valuable ongoing advertisement on the trailer with a custom decal of the company name, logo, and contact information. If you know of, or own, a business interested in this benefit please contact us.

On behalf of Outside Perspectives and all of the youth we serve … THANK YOU for your generosity!


The 24-hour Mt. Everett challenge!

IMG_9311On the weekend of June 10th-11th, The CT Youth Excellence Project joined Outside Perspectives to backpack up and over Mt. Everett on the Appalachian Trail in Southern Massachusetts. This was the first backpacking experience for the group and it was in preparation for their upcoming excursion with Outside Perspectives to the Bigelow Mountains in Maine.

The group met at the trail head of Race Brook Falls Trail and immediately started their hike. For some, this first mile was very difficult as they adjusted to the weight of their packs and the steep uphill climb. However, the group persevered by working together and made it to a beautiful 100-ft waterfall known as Race Brook Falls. The water was clear, cold and refreshing as the boys took off their shoes to cool off from the hike. We refilled our water bottles and continued pushing upwards, passing Race Brook campsite and turning onto the Appalachian Trail.

The next section of the hike was the most challenging, as participants scaled the steep south side of Mt. Everett. The climb included scrambling up rock so steep wooden steps had been bolted in place for foot holds. As we emerged from the scrubby, small trees and made it to the top, the crew celebrated their success. The amazing viewpoint looked east across the Housatonic Valley.IMG_9242_censored

We didn’t stay too long as the black flies were out with a vengeance, so the crew soon made its way down the trail to Guilder Pond, away from the bugs.

By the pond, under the setting sun, the group took the opportunity to dip on the cool water and relax after a hard day. The area known as Mount Everett State Reservation has some beautiful examples of old-growth forest that is rare in this part of the United States. These rare trees can be found around Guilder Pond, which adds to its unique beauty. The group then headed down the trail to Glen Brook Campsite where we made some burritos and built a campfire. That night, the almost full Strawberry Moon rose above the camp-site (a pink or red tinted moon in June).

At 4am the next morning a few brave individuals hiked back up Mt. Everett to watch the sunrise over the valley. This is an exceptionally beautiful experience, only available to those willing to rise to the challenge of a very early day. They woke before the birds and listened to them start their morning song as they hiked and even spotted a porcupine on the trail. The sunrise did not disappoint as it was a beautifully clear morning.IMG_9310

The intrepid morning hikers made it back down to camp in time to wake their crew mates and start cooking breakfast. The group hiked out of camp and down the Elbow Trail that ends at The Berkshire School. The crew returned a mere 24-hours after departure, all-in-all a wonderful journey and just the beginning of The Youth Excellence Project’s exciting adventures with Outside Perspectives. Outside Perspectives instructors Nicky and Shannon felt privileged to meet and spend time with such a special group and look forward to spending more time with them up in Maine.


Unexpected Gifts From Painful Experiences….

Nate FotorSometimes the most unexpected gifts come from the most painful experiences.  As many of you know, our dear friend and co-instructor, Nathan Bliss, unexpectedly passed in late April. The loss has been difficult. He was a talented instructor with great wit and humor and a huge heart for kids. He was known for digging deep and giving it his all to ensure that students received the best from him. At services and celebrations, we met people and heard story after story from across the decades of his life, affirming our experiences of his special qualities. While we would trade it all to have Nate and his crazy antics back Earthside, we are grateful for the gifts he left behind for us. Unexpected joys in the deep loss….

Some of these gifts come from Nate’s family and his good friends, Frankie and Kara Cecchinelli, founders and owners of Figidini’s Wood Fired Eatery in Providence, Rhode Island.

Frankie and Kara 2_Fotor

A bit of the backstory…. Upon the restaurant’s grand opening four years ago, true to form, Nate drove to Providence, Rhode Island ensuring that he was the first customer to give the first dollar to support his friends.  The signed dollar has hung in the restaurant since that day.  On the drive home from Nate’s services Frankie and Kara asked themselves the inevitable questions one asks with loss. The idea was formed to make a donation to Outside Perspectives in Nate’s honor. On their restaurant’s anniversary, shortly after Nate passed, Frankie and Kara hosted a week where a percentage of all their profits would go to Outside Perspectives.

Several months ago, Nate had set a date on the calendar to hike up Bear Mountain and to one of his favorite waterfalls with Kara and Frankie. Kara decided that she would 18556990_824539274371257_5573315100567024440_nkeep the date and invited a few of Nate’s friends and family to join her and Frankie. At the waterfall, Kara presented the very generous Figidini donation check of nearly $4,000 to the Outside Perspectives Nathan Bliss Memorial Scholarship Fund!  The fund will provide scholarships for groups of youth who otherwise would not be able to afford to participate in a Wilderness Expedition.

A truly significant and special day had evolved from Nate’s plan to take Kara on a hike. The most powerful experiences are difficult to put into words. What can be said is that the day was felt deeply — full with laughter, tears, freezing cold waterfall plunges, new friendships, sushi, and enough sunshine to keep our faces to the sky. We felt Nate present with us celebrating our gathering.  It was just the type of day, with just the type of group, that he would have loved to have been a part of.

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Thank you to Frankie and Kara and Figidini’s. Just as meaningful as their generous financial support are the new friendships we have with them.  They are delightful people with big hearts. We look forward to spending time with them in the future and taking them up on their offer to volunteer with us. Because of their support, we now have the opportunity to fund an expedition for Charter Oaks Boxing Academy (COBA) located in inner city Hartford later this summer! We know that Nate would have been psyched at the opportunity to work with such a great organization as COBA. They are fully onboard with the value and power of experiences in the outdoors. The COBA program is transformational for many of the youth who participate; combined, we believe we can do incredible work together!

We are so deeply thankful for the generosity we have received from Nate’s family as well.  In lieu of flowers, Nate’s family named Outside Perspectives as the donation recipient. We thank all of those who donated over the past two months. The Nathan Bliss Memorial Fund will be used exclusively to serve youth.  We take this responsibility very seriously and will continue to honor Nate through supporting youth as he did so brilliantly.

With sincere thanks — Nicky and Shannon

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