Learning leadership and survival skills through high adventure

When Rachel West, Madeleine Wood’s longtime friend from Girl Scouts, invited her to attend one of her crew’s Venturing meetings, Madeleine jumped at the opportunity. It was 2012, a few months before Madeleine’s freshman year in high school, and she longed to add more adventure to her life.

While Girls Scouts focuses on developing young women’s confidence and character through education, arts and crafts, and leadership opportunities, Madeleine found that Venturing focuses more on high-adventure trips, survival skills, and a hands-on approach to leadership. What’s more, as a co-ed youth development program of the Boy Scouts, it is open to both young women and young men.

Different venturing crews focus on different points of interest, such as environment, wildlife, or nature. Madeleine’s crew focuses on high adventure. “In Venturing, the first campout I ever attended was a survival campout,” says 19-year-old Madeleine. “We slept under a tarp and learned how to start a fire.”

Over the years, she’s been on many memorable and exciting Venturing trips. Her favorite was a high-adventure trip to Rocky Mountain High Adventure Base in Colorado, where she and her crew whitewater rafted the Arkansas River for two days and then hiked the Continental Divide trail to Monarch’s Pass, all while carrying their sleeping bags, tents, and food on their backs. Though her crew hadn’t physically prepared for the 11-mile hike—or the 14,000-foot elevation, for that matter—Madeleine felt alive and exhilarated.

During her numerous Venturing trips, she’s learned a lot about leadership, enjoying and respecting the outdoors, campfire cooking, and the many ways to start a fire. She’s staffed the National Advanced Youth Leadership Experience (NAYLE) at the Philmont Scout Ranch in New Mexico five times and is preparing for her sixth and final assignment, which will take place this winter. This time, she will be in charge of the entire course as the senior patrol leader at Camp Green Dixon, located near Gonzalez, Texas. She also served as her crew president for two years.

In the spring of 2016, Madeleine was awarded the Ranger Award, the highest outdoor award available to Venturing participants. The award, a pin that crew members can wear on their uniforms, is given to Venturing members who have gone on a variety of camping and hiking trips, participated in planning campouts, and completed conservation and teaching projects.

“I didn’t really set out to get it,” says Madeleine. “I just went on every outdoor activity possible for as long as I’ve been venturing, and it all just kind of accumulated until all I really needed to do to earn it was the written portion.”

Madeleine, a recent high school graduate, is still involved with both Venturing and Girls Scouts. But now that she’s in college, she’s set her sights on a new adventure: either working with Doctors Without Borders or becoming a traveling nurse.

“I’ve always wanted to be a nurse,” she says, “but I think Venturing has affected the setting I want to do it in. I don’t want to be stuck in a hospital or a doctor’s office. I want to be outside and be about to go places.”

For more information on Venturing, visit

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