Triple C brings nature and fitness education to South Bend youth

Author: Stephanie Healey

Trip to Juday Creek

When she’s not hard at work in the laboratory, biological sciences graduate student Victoria Lam, loves to spend her time outdoors. This past year, she created a new program to share her passion for the outdoors with South Bend area school children called Triple C.

“I was inspired by a program back home for children from urban neighborhoods who many not otherwise have the opportunity to engage with nature,” Lam explained. “I recently learned how to rock climb and learned what a great tool the sport is for building self-confidence and imparting the values of diligence and persistence to overcome challenges. I thought that it would be a great way to help kids develop new skills while teaching them about the environment.”

Triple C, or Camping, Climbing, and Cameras, takes a three-pronged approach to connecting youth to the outdoors.  The activities and lessons in the program are focused on three major areas, education in ecology and wilderness preservation, sports and nature photography, and participation in outdoor recreation.  

Learning to rock climb

For the inaugural six-week session, 14 sixth grade through high school students from the Robinson Community Learning Center (RCLC) and La Casa de Amistad were paired with undergraduate mentors who worked with the students to develop self-confidence and leadership skills. The weekly activities included rock climbing, camping, kayaking, photography, fitness training, nutrition, an ecology lesson, and visit to the Museum of Biodiversity

“I really liked the biology we learned about. We went to the museum the first day and saw a bunch of bones and animals,” said sixth grader Caribia Coleman.  “My favorite part of the program was climbing the cliff and meeting the mentors. They are super fun; they’re like kids in grown-up form.”

Triple C students & mentors

In addition to fun and education, the program helped the participants overcome fears. “The most beneficial thing my daughter got out of the program is realizing she can do anything,” said Stacey Clay. “When she went into the program she was afraid of heights, but she ended up conquering that fear by climbing a rock wall.”

The impact of Triple C was not only recognized by the participants and their families, but by their teachers as well. “Many of our students had never experienced camping, climbing, or exploring the outdoors,” explained Duane Wilson, advanced skills program director at Robinson Community Learning Center.  “For most of the students this was more than just trying something new; this was a growth experience.”