The Positive Impacts of Community Living & Outdoor Adventure on AT Kids: The Parana Family

AT Staff08 May, 2020
teenage boys hiking in alaska
James (third from left) and his group in Alaska in 2019.

Adventure Treks is grateful to form and maintain long-term relationships with all of our families; in fact, we still keep in touch with families whose kids came to us on our very first adventures in the early 1990s! Since our inception, we’ve seen firsthand the positive impacts of outdoor adventure and community living on teenagers.

teenage boy and teenage girls backpacking on beach in washington
James and two friends on the Olympic Peninsula backpack on Ultimate Northwest in 2018.

We reached out to a few families whose kids have done multiple Adventure Treks trips over the years to find out what kind of lasting impression community living and outdoor adventure have had on their kids. We were fortunate to receive many enthusiastic responses! Below, read the interview from Diane Parana, from Berlin, MD, whose son James is attending his fifth and final trip with us (Leadership Summit) this summer.

If you’d like to be interviewed about your family’s Adventure Treks experiences, please email Amanda at—we’d be happy to hear from you!

How has Adventure Treks impacted James and your family?

James has been on four Adventure Treks trips (Blue Ridge in 2016, British Columbia in 2017, Ultimate Northwest in 2018, and Alaska in 2019). Each year, he has come back more independent, more self-confident, and more comfortable in his own skin. He has learned to value his connection with the outdoors, simple living, and community during his most formative years.

teenage boys and young adult women hiking in british columbia
James (far left) and his group in British Columbia in 2017.

This has been something that we as parents have not been able to provide on our own. The fact that we haven’t been a part of his journey is one of the biggest reasons it’s been so powerful. Not only has James’s experience at AT given him greater independence, it has helped me as a mother trust in his ability to succeed, while guiding to be his best possible self.

Now that James will be going off to college in the near future, I value the lessons he has learned from AT even more, and I feel it has aided for a successful transition.

What lessons do you think have been most valuable to James?

Autonomy, self-reliance, and resilience while creating the best memories of his lifetime. He often says that he doesn’t know who he would be had he not had his AT experiences.

teenage boys hiking on rock in north carolina mountains
James (middle) and two friends on the Blue Ridge trip in North Carolina in 2016.

How do you think James will carry those lessons through life?

He’ll carry them forever! Already at 17, he has learned appreciation of the outdoors enough to know he wants it for a lifetime. He is planning on majoring in mechanical engineering in order to design and develop outdoor gear and equipment.

What advice do you have for first-time AT parents?  

It can be as big a first step for parents as it can be for your child. Remind yourself of the bigger picture and what you are preparing them, and yourself, for: LIFE!

If you could do an AT trip, what trip would you do and why?

Just about anywhere beautiful and remote enough to find simplicity and a caring community, to bring back into my life at home.

Adventure Treks is a special program, and I am so grateful that it has helped my son become his best self.


View All Posts