VisionQuest has been on the forefront of Wilderness Adventures as a therapeutic alternative since the 1970s―long before many other agencies were providing rehabilitative alternatives. From VisionQuest’s inception, youth participated in activities and events that were physically or mentally challenging and emphasized teamwork and trust to succeed. VisionQuest has called these activities Extraordinary Experiences and has used them as rites of passage for youth and to build teamwork and camaraderie.
Historically, VisionQuest built its reputation operating a unique Wagon Train program that gave troubled youth the extraordinary experience of traveling cross-country for some period of time via horseback and covered wagon. Living on the Wagon Train provided a natural setting in which teenagers could learn about their behavior, self-discipline, and cooperation through the direct experience of logical consequences. And while moving at the slower-than-usual pace of the Train, young people had an opportunity to truly integrate the lessons learned along the way.
Along with providing an excellent setting for dealing with issues and developing strengths, the Wagon Train also helped young people to broaden their perspectives through the people and places they encountered on their journey.
Over the years, the types of Extraordinary Experiences offered have changed. However, teamwork, relationships, and challenging activities will always be at the center of Extraordinary Experiences. Other Experiences offered have included the Buffalo Soldiers drill team, HikingQuest, BikingQuest, and Disney MarathonQuest. Like the Wagon Train, these events provided the opportunities for kids to grow physically and mentally. They learn to encourage each other when things get tough, and they learn to trust others.
VisionQuest has varied the types and length of Extraordinary Experiences offered to accommodate the needs and availability of youth in different community-based and residential programs. Youth may participate in a one-day City Murals Project, spend a day on VisionQuest’s Alpine Tower, or hike for an afternoon. Each Experience is different, and the emphasis is always on choosing activities that will penetrate defensiveness, build confidence, and foster a sense of positive accomplishment in the youth who participate.