The Project Discovery Difference

There are a half dozen or more Outdoor Education, Leadership and Teambuilding Programs to choose from in the Reno-Tahoe region, both in California and Nevada. Although many are similar in nature, I believe Project Discovery stands apart in a number of very distinct ways. We have thousands of happy graduates to prove it!

At most of these other programs, the staff are young, inexperienced and very short term, with most sporting a fairly short training resume. Due to the high seasonal turnover in these organizations, they run a very predictable and canned program. Participants are treated, or processed is a better term, without much regard for any special circumstances or an overabundance of care, staff coaching or personal attention. Programs are not necessarily designed to support relationship building and the nurturing of positive attitudes, productive behaviors, effective communication and personal confidence.

At Project Discovery, things are different…

Research tells us that our programs make a serious positive impact on young people. We have worked with school-based programs, Gear-Up, Upward Bound, probation departments, treatment facilities, social service agencies, health and human services, mental health agencies, foster care programs, Friday-Night Live Programs, scouts, youth clubs, adoption agencies and a whole host of other youth programs. We do good work. In fact, returning clients represent the largest part of our business.

Unlike other “canned” programs, the Project Discovery Leadership Challenge Program allows children and young adults to challenge themselves physically, mentally, emotionally and socially in such a way that they bring their best self, and ultimately, succeed. It’s not easy, nothing worthwhile ever is. Students work hard and are challenged to be even better on each progressively more difficult exercise. But we approach each challenge with lots of support and celebration.

We do this by addressing each program, each group and each child and exercise as if it is a building block to success… because, it is. Through individual and team coaching, with an emphasis on progressively improving individual and team problem-solving and a celebration of each success, our students learn that they can and are, leaders today, and with some hard work, will be even better leaders, tomorrow. I personally make sure this happens by directly supervising all program staff, their training and their ongoing professional growth. Rather than a volunteer off the street, your PD staff member will be highly trained and professional. Having Master’s Degrees in both Outdoor Education and Counseling and Educational Psychology culminating with a Doctoral Degree in The Social-Psychology of Outdoor Leadership has aptly prepared me for my position here at Project Discovery. We work hard right alongside our students and together we win!

The root of the challenge has remained perennially the same, to improve, to be better tomorrow than we were today, to challenge old dysfunctional behaviors with new ones, to become a person that earns respect from others and more importantly, for oneself. To become a person that can boast of a positive “can do” attitude, who demonstrates good judgment and behaves in a way consistent with personal excellence. In an impactful, yet also supportive and enjoyable environment, we coach participants and gently nudge them toward their personal best. Our goal is to have every participant feel like a hero at some point in the day and to make sure that he or she is not allowed to forget it. Through a time tested three phase process students enjoy an introductory Phase I getting comfortable, sharing a little bit about themselves as well as getting to know their team mates. In Phase II, students are challenged to work together in several team building inititives. With a well built team behind them, students move to Phase III where they are challenged in many ways to find their own strength, push through their fear and move forward with the support of their team.

We are able to accomplish these goals because we take the time to personalize our program for each young person that spends time with us. Rather than bend the student to fit the program, we bend the program to fit the student. We take pride in the fact that we start where the student is and then coach them along the way until the student is doing things he or she never believed they could with the support of their team and their new friends.

We frequently have students return after many years and share with us the impact that Project Discovery has had on them. “This course changed my life in huge ways” stated Bryce Ingle when returning to the course years later as an adult. He now works with us as a facilitator. “Something clicked for me here that day…” stated Candice Meyers “and I realized that I was a lot stronger than I thought and that I could stand up for myself.” Principal Jason Zona of Pioneer High School said “this program changes lives for the better every year and Project Discovery will always be a big part of our students and our staff’s Pioneer experience.”

Probably the biggest pay-off for all of us here at Project Discovery is the fact that our students are full of smiles and new friends after a program with us. Their new found confidence is tempered with an understanding that the world is not just about them, but if they work hard and are not afraid to “fail forward” and keep learning, that eventually they will succeed and that very little that is worthwhile comes easily. They become aware of both what they are naturally gifted at, and their weaknesses as well and where they have to focus to keep growing. Most importantly, they learn they are part of something powerful when they initiate leadership behavior and take the reins and move their team forward.

Toward the conclusion of any given program, we have each one of our participants discuss what leadership “tools” worked well for them and how they might be able to integrate use of these tools into their home, school, work or institutional arenas. If there is a follow-up on the part of the teacher, parent or sponsoring group leader, empirical research has shown that the value of our program extends far into the future in terms of the young person’s evolving leadership and decision-making skills.

In essence, our Leadership Challenge Program is a positive touch-stone for both the young person, his peers and his group leaders. It provides an arena where young people can “try out” more productive Attitudes, Behaviors, Cognitions and Communications and dramatically demonstrate how these leadership “tools” are life changing. These A, B & C’s are the cornerstones of self-leadership and we have been assisting youth in this “discovery” for well over two decades. Having worked with other providers of Outdoor Education in our area in the past, I cannot overemphasize just how different we are from our competitors… and are darn proud of it.

Michael Selby, Ed.D.

For more information on Project Discovery Youth Programs please contact us directly or check out our website at: or by phone at: (775)849-3393. We forward to hearing from you!