All activities enlarge the life experiences, enhance decision making and life skills, build character, and develop the leadership potential of our members. Each WILL Year looks similar to what is discussed below but has its own special essence.

Challenge/Ropes Course
In October, WILL kick offs its year of experiential learning and leadership development with a challenge/ropes course. Goals for the day include: getting acquainted, fostering teamwork,  decision making, and communication skills, and stretching comfort zones so WILL youth begin to realize there are no boundaries to what each can accomplish.

“The purpose of the ropes course is to get to know everyone and to be comfortable with your peers. Today we also are here to understand that WILL helps us get out of our comfort zones and that if we set our minds to it, we can achieve anything.” – Tatiana

“The ropes course was amazing. I never did anything like that in my life. We worked with our group, learning to communicate and trust each other to come up with a solution in order to solve a problem.”– Ahammed

Heart of the Region
The Chesapeake Bay and its watershed are the heart and soul of the Mid-Atlantic. The Anacostia and Potomac Rivers are arteries to this heart. In November, WILL youth board the Chesapeake Bay Foundation’s (CBF’s) boat Bea Hayman Clark to learn about the Chesapeake Bay Watershed, the integral role that the Potomac and Anacostia Rivers play in the Watershed, and our role in keeping the Bay healthy. They perform water quality and bio-diversity tests and have the exhilarating experience of driving the boat.

“The purpose of the rivers day is to give us a better understanding of how important it is not to pollute so we can have healthy rivers and a diversity of aquatic life. Today was fun because I got to drive a boat which I’ve never done before, and I also got to fish and learn how to prevent pollution.” – Keyri

WILL’s Holiday Party
Creativity, teamwork, and communication abound at WILL’s December Holiday Party. WILL youth decorate trees and the party room in true holiday style and design their new holiday stockings. Families then join us for a tasty meal and discussion about WILL, our mission and goals. Each youth receives a special, personal gift to commemorate the first part of his/her year-long WILL adventure, each WILL family receives a poinsettia

“For me, being in WILL was like being in family.”– Jose

Holiday Alumni Lunch

Annually, WILL alumni gather during the holidays for a festive lunch to reunite with their WILL classmates, to meet and become friends with other members of the WILL family, to reminisce about their WILL experiences, laugh, and learn what old and new WILL friends are doing and to share WILL’s impact on their respective lives.

Financial Literacy & SMART Goals
Significant emphasis is given to these life skill during the WILL year. WILL youth learn and discuss the concept of dignity and living one’s life with financial dignity, needs v. wants, discretionary and necessary spending, setting a budget, the difference between a checking and saving account, the difference between a credit union and a bank, credit, the components of a credit score and the role this plays in the ability to get a loan, and different investment options.

“During the WILL financial literacy days, I learned how to make a budget and that there is a real difference between a need and a want, and that being financially responsible is living with dignity – I plan to do that.” – Anthony

WILL youth learn the power of and practice setting SMART (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Time-bound) goals and the action plans to achieve their goals.

“The purpose of doing SMART goals is to push us to write goals and take steps to achieve them and make our goals a reality. A word to describe my day is helpful because what I learned will help me later on in life.” – Keyri

Wellness/Nutrition & Cultural Appreciation Days
Our body is an engine and WILL’s goal is to provide skills and tools for WILL youth to make healthy nutrition, hydration, and wellness decisions. WILL youth are engaged in lively interactive discussions about healthy eating and beverage choices, portion size, reading packages for nutritional content, and the benefits of organic over processed foods, sleep and being active. During the afternoons of these insightful days, we learn about and experience South American and Ukrainian music and cultures, and WILL youth learn Ukrainian folk dance

“The purpose of WILL doing nutrition is for us to be healthier, to teach us that it is important to read labels to know what we are eating, and how many calories and trans fats we put in our bodies, that sugar is not good for us, and that drinking water is good for us. – Joseline

“In WILL, we learn about other cultures so we can appreciate other’s beliefs, other’s traditions the same way we would want others to appreciate ours. Diversity is important and it’s important for us to realize that every culture is a unique and important part of this world.” – Maritza

A Day at the Lanes
On Presidents’ Day, WILL youth have fun bowling and building bonds and group cohesion at Lucky Strike Lanes. For many, especially those not from the US, this is an invigorating new experience.

“The purpose of bowling is for us to have fun together and so we all can have a chance to communicate with one another. It is also a new experience for some that have never bowled before.” –Gelila

CPR & 1st Aid
WILL youth gain beneficial practical knowledge that they can use to assist others in situations they may encounter, including the Heimlich maneuver, CPR (everyone practices on a mannequin and can get certified), to apply well aimed direct pressure on a bleeding wound, how to treat burns, allergic reactions, heat exhaustion and heat stroke, hypothermia, and other health issues that one might come across.

“The reason WILL does the CPR/1st Aid day is so we can learn ways to help others in an emergency. Something I learned today that I can use in the future to possibly save lives is the CPR training. One word to describe my day was exhilarating because I learned many ways I can help others.” – Jordy

Spring Break on the BayCleaning up the Chesapeake Bay
During spring break, we spend 3 days at the Chesapeake Bay Foundation’s (CBF) Karen Noonan Center (KNC). WILL youth broaden their environmental/ecological education and understanding of the Bay and its watershed begun in the fall. We learn more about sediment, nutrients, and toxics, climate change and erosion, the important filtration and habitat benefits of the marsh, we explore and remove debris from barrier islands, dredge on an oyster bar, set crab pots, make s’mores and tell stories around a roaring campfire, canoe, do leadership initiatives, learn Leave No Trace ethics, and expand our knowledge of the Bay’s importance and our role in its future. The KNC trip provides a wonderful opportunity for WILL youth to be out of the city and to have many new experiences, including seeing magnificent sunsets and sunrises, ospreys, and bald eagles.

“WILL comes to the KNC to give us an amazing experience away from the city and gain more knowledge about nature. I learned how to be more accountable about the amount of water, food and resources that I use and can reduce on a daily basis. My time at the KNC was wonderful. I saw stars, and saw the moon and sunset at the same time.” – Jala

Biases, Diversity, and Inclusion
While we are all unique, we have many similarities that connect us. WILL youth discuss how we see others, how we each see ourselves, and that being inclusive are important to being effective in life and an effective leader. WILL youth learn that we all have biases and being aware of them and how we deal with them is an important life skill.

Expedition Orientation & College Admissions Forum
The first part of the day we discuss the Expedition, answer questions, allay fears, set expectations, and encourage youth to be open to the experience – one that will challenge us all in different ways and can be one of the best experiences of one’s life.
Representatives from local and national colleges then join us to introduce WILL youth and their families to the “mysteries” of the college admissions process, financing college tuition, and the DC Tuition Assistance Grant (TAG) program.

“The WILL College Admissions Forum is a great opportunity for students to hear about various aspects of the college admissions process from knowledgeable professionals representing diverse institutions. I especially appreciate the opportunity to interact with such talented and motivated students.” – Sharon Alston, Vice Provost for Undergraduate Enrollment, American University.

“I’ve learned there are many scholarships out there and that is a very important thing for me because it deals with me going to college or not.” – Luis 

Day at Mount Vernon
WILL youth come away with a new appreciation of President/General/Farmer George Washington. They discuss some of Rules of Civility that Washington copied as a teen to work on his penmanship that are regarded as influential in the development of his character and how the rules are still relevant today; WILL youth learn about Washington as farmer first and his crop rotation system (a SMART Goal steeped in financial literacy); and how his views on slavery changed during his life. We visit parts of the mansion not afforded to most Mount Vernon visitors and lay a wreath and spend reflective time at the Memorial to the enslaved people who lived, worked, and died at Mount Vernon.

Community Service
Service learning is an integral part of the WILL experience, so that WILL youth learn and appreciate the importance of giving back to one’s community. Leaders care about and give to others and to their communities. Leaders care about others and the community in which they live. WILL youth participate in a full-day service project working with the Anacostia Watershed Society (AWS). This service learning is environmental – whether doing wetland planting, removing invasive plants, building goose fence to protect wetland plants, or removing debris from the Anacostia watershed, WILL plays a regular role in the revival of the Anacostia. Additionally, we do a day of service at the CBF’s Clagett Farm; one-half of the produce grown at the Farm is provided to the Capital Food Bank or to other local food distribution centers.

“The purpose of the service project plating native plants is to give back to the community and to help the Anacostia, Potomac and Chesapeake Bay watersheds – the plants are filters and provide habitat for animals and birds.” – Myracle

“WILL comes to Clagett Farm to collect fruit and help the people at the farm – also, we are helping other people who will get the food. Even if it is hard and you are tired, you work for the benefit of others and to help them.” – Ericka 

Scavenger Hunt on the National Mall
WILL youth have an exhilarating day learning about our Nation’s history and finding answers to questions relating to the educational gems in the monuments, memorials, museums along The Mall, and in the National Gallery of Art such as: what do the columns around the Lincoln Memorial represent; how many women’s names are on the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall; what do the stars on the Wall of Freedom at the WW II Memorial represent; what is the name of the boat in Winslow Homer’s Breezing Up and how many lions are in Reubens’ Daniel in the Lions’ Den. Do you know the answers?

“This once-in-a-lifetime experience allowed me to explore parts of my own city that I never thought I would explore.  It also unleashed the part of me that enjoys history and art.” – Rolando

“Today, during the scavenger hunt, I was shown a view of D.C. that I’ve never seen before. I discovered the beauty and the mystery of the capital and all of its museums. I learned that this city is more than just wards 7 or 8, it’s a very diverse place with unique things to see.” – Jalin

Summer Expedition on the Appalachian Trail
The summer 7-day backpacking Expedition on the Pennsylvania and Maryland sections the famed Appalachian Trail (AT) is a life-changing aspect of the WILL year. The Expedition continues the process of expanding WILL youths’ comfort zones, hones “Leave No Trace” ethics and the importance of environmental stewardship, and reinforces their growing understanding of responsibility for one’s decisions/actions. The Expedition further cements the importance of goal setting and action plans to achieve goals as a path to being effective in life.

“The purpose of the Expedition is to test us mentally and physically, but also to gain insight about who we are and the things that we might take for granted. This is why I believe WILL takes us out here – to expose us to a world beyond technology where we can escape and reflect and for us to overcome fears and to push beyond our limits so we know we can succeed in the future.” – Tatiana

Canoeing on the Anacostia River
The day provides an engaging outdoor activity that is new to most and offers the rare chance to see wildlife like Great Blue Herons, Osprey, Bald Eagles, Snowy Egrets, and turtles. It also provides the opportunity to see the state of the River, and the role we play in the future health of the Anacostia – and thus the Potomac River, and the Chesapeake Bay.

“We come to canoe on the Anacostia River to have a good time but also learn about water life and ways to help the water be cleaner. One word to describe my day is adventurous and new because it’s my first time getting to canoe.” – Keyri

Alumni Picnic
WILL alumni gather to enjoy a summer afternoon, to reminisce about their WILL experience, to share what each is doing and the ongoing impact of their WILL year in their lives, to catch up with friends, and to make new friends in the WILL family.

In September, WILL youth who successfully complete the year, their families, WILL volunteers, and Board Members gather to celebrate and honor the youths’ accomplishments, grit and commitment, and their year of new experiences and experiential learning.

Some words that members use to describe their WILL experience – “life changing, incredible, amazing, dynamic, authentic, wonderful, challenging, fun, extraordinary, interesting, friendship, enlightening, achievement, productive, lucky, change, unique, ever-lasting, different, successful, awesome, adventurous, reborn, exhilarating, WILLicious.”