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Montana Wilderness School looks to introduce more students to its summer expeditions

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Posted at 1:03 PM, May 04, 2023
and last updated 2023-05-04 18:07:02-04

The Montana Wilderness School is looking for more students to enroll in its summer adventure expeditions.

“I think it’s really important that, that California that just moved to Montana, that kid that lived in Belgrade their whole life, the kid that’s living on the Crow Reservation—they come together and see that there’s a million ways to connect to a place,” Kayla Wales, a former student turned instructor said.

Hundreds of students have come through the program since 2015, and Co-Founder and Program Director Josh Olsen says that he’s noticed in recent years more students struggling with mental health.

“The number of students that come to us with this diagnosis or struggling with these mental health issues are just rapidly increasing,” Olsen said. “They’re able to get a break from some of that, and they’re just with a bunch of students—their peers, and they get to talk to them how they’re dealing with their challenge of anxiety or depression.”

Olsen notes that the instructors are not mental health professionals. He says that regardless of background, students come to MWS and leave with a sense of accomplishment and success.
“They climb a mountain, and they’re standing on top of this mountain and they’re telling their instructors ‘they’ll never believe this back home!’” Olsen said.

In 2015, Olsen co-founded the Montana Wilderness School as a nonprofit with the mission of getting young Montanans to connect with nature, each other, and themselves.

The multi-day expeditions that are offered through the school come with an enrollment fee.

“We work really hard to make sure that any student can come here that wants to come here, and so we have a program where they apply, and if they seem like a good candidate essentially, we give them the financial aid and the scholarships to come.” Olsen said. “We’ve never turned a student away for financial reasons.”