Developing Young Leaders for Sustainable Change

Developing social impact projects is an adventure.  StandWatch Academy’s leadership course motivates and prepares young social entrepreneurs to bring about significant social change in a setting like no other.  Whether it’s starting a nonprofit, launching a social enterprise, or embarking on a Christian mission, our outdoor leadership school develops leaders equipped to change their communities for the better. A lot of nonprofits strive for sustainable change.  Our academy creates the leaders that can make that happen.

StandWatch Academy leadership courses teaches team-building and leadership skills in a setting that encourages students to test their mental and physical endurance in a supportive environment that encourages experimentation and outside the box thinking.  These expeditions are designed to develop new leaders who either want to launch social enterprises and nonprofits, or develop the skills they need to be successful serving on community improvement projects and missions.  The courses teach the following:

  1. Leadership and followership
  2. Innovation, adaptability, and creativity
  3. Social entrepreneurship
  4. Spiritual and physical strength

Courses range from three to ten days and run year-round. The ORPs are focused on teaching students the skills they need to conceptualize, launch, and lead expeditions for good. After a student completes one of the four core ORP courses, they are eligible to join one of our extended mission trips.

Why Use an Outdoor Approach?

There is little doubt that being outdoors produces tangible benefits for people.  Witnessing the incredible scale of God’s earthly creation places everything we know in context.  There is no better place to learn about one’s ability to enact change in this world than through outdoor discovery.  Besides this, using an outdoor approach benefits students by:

Placing them in a distraction free environment where technology doesn’t play a role.

Teaching both self-reliance and how to operate as part of a team; an extremely tricky thing to do and something that we believe can ONLY be achieved in the wilderness.

Providing a sense of adventure and excitement that may be absent for some students in a traditional classroom environment.

Students will apply leadership and problem solving skills while experiencing the majesty of God’s natural wonders.  It’s a transformative experience that can’t be found in a classroom setting. After completing a course,  students are left with validated plans for their own nonprofit organizations, valuable business strategies, and leadership experiences that will benefit them as they grow older.  It’s a win for students, and it’s a win for the communities where they live.

Who Teaches the Students?’s expeditions are staffed with men and women who are veterans, law enforcement officers, firefighters, educators, clergy, social workers, and small business people.  We all have diverse backgrounds, but most share in the fact that we have a record of serving our communities.  Our leadership cadre’s military experience allows us to offer a leader development program that few can match; serving in the military has huge benefits, but the most important lesson veterans take away from their service is a keen understanding of how to develop leaders with vision, mental acuity, and a never-quit mentality .

Who is Eligible to Go?

The academy is open to both boys and girls between the ages of 16 and 20 years-old. Students should be enrolled in high-school, or have a high-school diploma/GED. College students in their freshman or sophomore years are also encouraged to apply.  Each prospective student must complete an initial application to be accepted into the program. We will interview each applicant to make sure they are committed to completing the course. Special consideration will be given to students interested in developing ways to bridge the civil-military divide, promote entrepreneurship, and finding faith-based approaches to today’s social challenges. We also have a specific number of slots available for certain at-risk populations.  


Tuition and Fees

Leadership ORP An introduction to the leadership skills young people need to succeed


Per CourseThe essential outdoor leadership course for students interested in exploring what the SWA has to offer. It’s an experienced-based challenge that is mentally, physically, and spiritually rewarding.

Mission Trip An opportunity to attend a real-world expedition for good


Per TripEach semester ends with a seven to ten day mission trip where students can apply the skills they have learned through one of our courses.  It’s the ultimate expedition for good, and something everyone should experience.

Be Great, Do Good A package deal that includes one ORP weekend and a week long mission trip


Per PackageFor students interested in attending one Leadership ORP expedition, and the end of semester mission trip. The Be Great, Do Good package offers leadership training and an opportunity to help do good works.

A Notional Course Outline: What Will the Students Learn?

Each expedition is designed to provide students with the training and knowledge they need to conceptualize, launch, and lead projects that improve the lives of people in their communities.  Learning objectives are focused on leadership, team building, critical thinking, adapting to challenges, and developing mental toughness through spiritual strength. By the time they complete the expedition, they will be able to:

  • Assume leadership roles
  • Live and travel in the outdoors
  • Act with confidence and competence
  • Respect and collaborate with others on expeditions, mission trips, teams, and in communities
  • Care for themselves and others
  • Understand their strengths, habits, and areas for growth
  • Function under difficult circumstances
  • Make informed and thoughtful decisions
  • Communicate effectively
  • Identify and speak to God’s role in today’s world
  • Appreciate living simply
  • Understand how to establish a nonprofit

Weekend Leadership ORP Learning Objectives and Overview

Essential: By the end of the course, students must be able to answer four core questions:

  • Do I have the ability to inspire and lead others?
  • What are my strengths as a leader?
  • What do I need to do to improve as a leader?
  • How can I be a better follower?

Secondary: In addition to the essential goals, students should be able to:

  • Understand the critical need to be adaptable and decisive
  • Describe a basic plan for starting their own social enterprise or nonprofit
  • Demonstrate a basic understanding of the steps they must take to set-up their own businesses
  • Present a short “elevator pitch” of an original business plan
Sample Agenda
Day One:

Students will arrive and be broken into at least two squads.  Ideally, each team will have an even number of teammates, thereby allowing buddy teams to be created in each squad.  A squad leader will be chosen at random.  From that point forward, instructions will be given only to the squad leaders, who will then pass that information down to the individual members of the his or her squad.

The initial tasks will be to get each squad organized, ensure that each member has all their required equipment, and prepare the expedition for departure.

A key lesson that every leader must come to understand is that being in charge can be stressful.  In fact, it’s always stressful, but that’s not a bad thing. It’s life.  But like a runner who trains his body to run long distances, great leaders are developed by training their bodies and minds to deal with growing amounts of stress. As such, we will introduce certain variables that will force the students to make decisions under stress.  Mostly, we’ll use unreasonable time constraints, vague instructions, and leadership changes to help teach the students that they are stronger and smarter than what they may think.  Shouting and berating the students is not permitted in any way.

We will leave the departure point and proceed to the ORP training area.  During this period, students will be encouraged to learn everything they can about their fellow students, as well as read through some of the course material.

When we arrive at the trailhead, a new squad leader will be named for each squad, and the students will be given a short time to get organized and ready to start the hike.  The new leaders will be given a route briefing, their current location, and the location on the trail where they will be camping. The squad leaders will need to brief their squads on the route, and get started on the hike within 15 minutes after they are briefed by the instructors.  If they miss their start time, cadre will prompt them to move out.

The students will hike approximately four miles to the first night’s campsite. Once there, they will be given time to make camp, explore the area, and eat dinner. Instructors will provide advice on setting up camp, the do’s and don’ts of finding water, fire starting, hygiene, critter control, and outdoor cooking.  After dinner, they’ll receive a block of instruction on the essential characteristics of great leaders, which include adaptability, courage, spiritual strength, empathy, decisiveness, and selflessness. As much as possible, examples from the day’s activities will be used as teaching tools.

After the class, students will be given free time to socialize and prepare for the next day’s activities.  The group will be required to maintain a fire watch, which means no less than two people will remain awake throughout the night. Instructors will take a shift as well.

Day Two

Day two will begin at 7:00am.  Students will wake-up, pack-up their gear, and eat breakfast. Instructors will give pointers on hygiene and how to live comfortably in the woods while the students are getting ready. A new squad leader will be chosen and briefed on the day’s route.  Leaders will be told to brief their squads get on the trail by 8:30am.  Depending on conditions, the students’ start time may be changed to 8:00am or 7:45am.

During the morning hike, the students will be given time to enjoy the scenery and outdoors.  The trip is ultimately meant to be enjoyable.  Rest breaks will be taken approximately every hour, or as needed. A longer lunch break will be taken at noon.  During lunch, a block of instruction will be given on identifying causes and issues that the students feel are important to them.  These will form the basis of their business concepts.  We’ll also talk about the challenges and rewards of starting a nonprofit or for-profit business. After lunch, a new squad leader will be named, and the group will set out no later than 1:30pm.  The day’s hike will stop around 6:00pm.  Students will be given time to set-up camp, decompress, eat dinner, and socialize.  After dinner, we’ll have a block of instruction on the importance of adaptability, using the day’s experiences as talking points for the discussion.   We will then revisit the student’s business plan development process from the lunch break.  Afterwards, everyone will be dismissed to have some well-earned downtime, and possibly watch the sunset.

Day Three

At the end of day two, squad leaders will be told that wake-up is at 7:30am.  We will start off on the trail and hike for approximately one hour.  After a short devotion, adjustments will be made to everyone’s equipment to make sure nothing was packed incorrectly when departing the campsite, and we’ll be back on the trail by 7:00am.  As with the previous day’s hike, the morning session will be dedicated to simply enjoying the outdoor experience. At noon, we’ll take an extended lunch break where students will go over their initial business plan and receive feedback from their instructors and peers.  After lunch, we’ll finish up the remaining mileage and exit the trail around 3:30pm.  We’ll depart for home no later than 4:30pm.