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DaShavon Givens, 16 (Quincy, IL); Dennis Williams, Teen REACH program manager; and LaCrista Cole, 14 (also of Quincy) at Western Illinois University's Horn Field Campus while the Teen REACH program participants engaged in the high-ropes course activity (in the background).


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A Teen REACH participant gets ready to use the zip line on the high-ropes course/activity at WIU's Horn Field Campus.

Teen REACH at Horn Field Campus: Building Leadership through Summer Fun

June 12, 2013


MACOMB, IL — "For us, Horn Field Campus brings together a lot of stuff we try to do. When we bring the kids here every year, it helps them take what we teach them in the everyday program and gives them the opportunities to show how they can apply that to certain life skills, like leadership, for instance."

That's according to Dennis Williams, a Macomb, IL, native and the program manager for Teen REACH in Adams County (based in Quincy, IL), who, last Friday, was explaining how and why the program utilizes Western Illinois University's Horn Field Campus year after year for some of its summer programming. All the while, a group of middle and high school students made their way through the Horn Field Campus high-ropes course overhead.

Last week, the students in this after-school program spent four days at Horn Field Campus, situated just south of Macomb, and took part in many of the activities the 92-acre outdoor educational facility/campus has to offer, including team-building and leadership activities like the TEAMS course, the high ropes course and HFC's 40-foot climbing and rappelling tower. These activities, according to Mindy Pheiffer, program coordinator at Horn Field Campus, help develop and strengthen the students' skills.

"In the programs we offer here, problem-solving activities are presented to groups to facilitate them working together to help them learn how to interact as a team," she explained. "We follow with group discussions, too, that enable participants to examine what they have learned."

The Teen REACH program is administered through the non-profit Two Rivers Council, which provides services to Adams, Brown, Pike and Schuyler counties in Illinois. Williams—who was recruited to manage the program based on his own personal struggles and his ability to overcome them—started with the Teen REACH program seven years ago. During the school year, it operates five days a week for students ages 11-17. Over summer break, the program is offered in the afternoons, and the annual trip to Horn Field Campus is an event that he's been taking the Teen REACH students to for at least the last five years.

"We plan this trip every year, and it's huge for us. Our kids our city kids. They are used to an urban environment and don't often have the opportunity to be in the outdoors like this," Williams noted. "We have a three-step process through which they can earn rewards for the summertime activities. The first step is they have to maintain or improve their grades. We also take into consideration their attitudes, as well as attendance in the program. If students meet these criteria, then they get to take part in the summertime stuff, like going to Horn Field Campus."

DaShavon Givens, 16, from Quincy, has been taking part in Teen REACH and coming to Horn Field Campus since she was in sixth grade. She said participating in the activities at Horn Field Campus and taking a leadership role can be daunting but is worth it.

"Sometimes, I'm thinking, 'Oh my gosh! This is a big thing for me to do!' But it also makes me feel good the other kids choose for me to be a leader, because it makes me feel confident in myself, not only out here in the wilderness but also when I go to school and for other stuff like that," Givens said.

LaCrista Cole, 14, also of Quincy (who has been coming to Horn Field Campus through Teen REACH since she was in fourth grade), said the things she and her fellow participants take from their experiences at Horn Field Campus (and through the Teen REACH's activities in general) she is able apply to her daily life.

"When we learn about how to be leaders here at Horn Field and in our other activities, we can take that back to our everyday lives, like how we talk to people," Cole said. "It makes me feel special—it's great that people would volunteer me to be a leader."

Williams reiterated that leadership-skill building is a big part of what he and his staff of four try to achieve with program-based trips to places like Horn Field Campus.

"In this program, we have a lot of strong individuals, and although they live with a parent, a majority of their days are spent on the street. We want them to be able to apply the leadership qualities they have to use there and help shape those skills into ones they can use in other areas of their lives, such as in their academics or in other situations where they need leadership skills. What they do out here at Horn Field Campus shows them how to lead and how to put these skills to use in a positive manner," Williams added.

The John Wood Community College (Quincy, IL) Upward Bound program is at Horn Field Campus this week.

For more information about the facilities and activities Horn Field Campus offers to groups or organizations, contact Pheiffer at (309) 833-5798 or visit HFC online at www.wiu.edu/hfc.

For more information about Teen REACH, contact Williams at (217) 222-7944.

Posted By: Teresa Koltzenburg, University Relations
Phone: (309) 298-1993 * Fax: (309) 298-1606