Growing leaders through outdoor adventures
Peter Lisiecki grew up on the east side of Detroit. As a 17 year old, he took part in a 26-day adventure program in Colorado and came back a different person. He had discovered he could handle all kinds of challenges and new situations. He saw how teamwork could accomplish things that a person could not do alone.
Upon graduating from Wayne State University, Peter went to Micronesia with his church and put his belief in the transformative power of outdoor adventure to work, spending three years running a diversion program for youth in the criminal justice system. “Instead of going to jail, they could spend 21 days in the jungle with me,” he grinned.
Peter returned to Detroit to earn a Master’s in Social Work at the University of Michigan. In 1991, he became director of youth and family services at Brightmoor Community Center. But during the Great Recession, the community center fell on hard times, and Peter was intermittently laid off.
Then in 2013, another small neighborhoods organization, Wellspring, contracted Peter to lead summer youth activities. Here, he combined his expertise in adventure-based leadership development with Wellspring’s tradition of taking neighborhood teens on a camping trip to the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore. Peter lead teens through active teen-building exercises including high ropes courses, indoor rock wall climbs, and kayaking on the Huron River.
Some youth engage in the program deeply, growing into summer workers and eventually joining Wellspring’s permanent staff. DaSean Myree, now 22, is one of the participants that are now leading programs.
“My goal is to make this a second home for these kids. We want to be here for you. We want to build friendships, relationships,” said DeSean. “I’ve known most of these kids since they were yea-high. I’ve been like a big brother to them.”
“There is so much more to you than you think there is.” Peter says that this truth fuels his work with Brightmoor youth, helping them gain self-awareness, confidence and skills to expand their possibilities in life.
This blog is excerpted from Strengthening Grassroots Community Leadership in Detroit, an Evaluation Report on the Community Connections Grants Program, 2006-2015, produced by David Scheie, Touchstone Center for Collaborative Inquiry. The Brightmoor Community Center and Wellspring receive funding through the Skillman-supported Community Connections small grant program and is included in the report as a case study. Download the full report.
Strengthening Grassroots Community Leadership in Detroit is a product of the Skillman Foundation's Kids Matter Here: An Analytic Review of the 10-year Good Neighborhoods Initiative.