After being hosted for more than a decade in Idaho, Adventure For Youth made its debut in Moab in 2019. AFY is the perfect combo of outdoor adventure and faith-building experience. As of 2020, AFY is now called EFY Adventure for Youth.
Each summer for over a decade, the sleepy town of Tetonia, Idaho, was flooded with teenagers — teenagers climbing ropes, river rafting, riding horses, forging both friendships and faith. Located forty miles outside of Rexburg, Tetonia was the home of BYU-Idaho’s Outdoor Learning Center, which hosted Adventure For Youth. Over 1,800 teens came to learn outdoor adventure skills, socialize with others who held similar beliefs, and feel a little closer to the Spirit in the fresh Idaho air.
AFY provided the setting for gospel discussion and, hopefully, spiritual growth. The youth encountered and overcame hard things — like a high ropes course or raging river rapids — and learned to apply their newly developed tenacity to other challenges that they might face, such as tough family situations or difficult life decisions.
For more than ten years, AFY was immensely successful; each year, registration would fill within the first month or two. In 2017, however, BYU-I president Henry J. Eyring issued an initiative to trim external programs and focus more on the university’s central campus and academics. AFY, being neither central to campus nor a big academic contributor, was canceled.
Meanwhile, the folks down at BYU in Provo — who bring thousands of youth each year to campus for a variety of summer programs — heard that AFY was shuttering its windows. But they liked the way AFY functioned and how its different take on the traditional classroom setting could complement other youth programs they were running. With BYU-I’s approval, BYU Continuing Education took on the program. AFY was back with a bright future ahead.
Welcome to Moab
Some integral parts of AFY needed to be changed if the program was to be resumed in 2019 after a one-year hiatus. The Outdoor Learning Center was no longer available (and was too far away from Provo, anyway). What other remote, outdoor location had the capacity to hold 300 teenagers each week? Fortunately, the Boy Scouts of America offered their facilities in Moab, Utah, and the new AFY team knew they had found the perfect place.
Situated between two national parks (Canyonlands and Arches) and two big rivers (Green and Colorado), Moab is a world-class destination for outdoor enthusiasts. Its unique, stunning landscape allowed AFY to expand into red rock territory and add rock climbing, rappelling, canyoneering, and mountain biking to the setlist. Additionally, the BSA’s skilled staff made it possible to include shooting sports and throwing knives and tomahawks to the activity list. Although the terrain is different from the Tetonia mountains, Moab promises to deliver the same thrills and then some.
Not Just Another Summer Camp
But AFY is not — and was never intended to be — just another summer camp. Just as it was with the original camp in Idaho, the hope is that participants will increase their faith and outdoor skills. They’ll try new things, and although they may fail, they will ultimately succeed at attempting something new. Failure, triumph, and success — all in one week.
To create such a meaningful environment at AFY, good leadership is imperative. Young single adult counselors will celebrate with the company when they successfully complete a taxing run on the rapids. They’ll also encourage participants after a failed rock-climbing attempt. And then the counselors will bring everyone together and ask questions like, “Why do we fail? How do we overcome? How does Christ help us overcome challenges?”
While parts of Adventure For Youth are new this summer, the core philosophy remains the same: help youth see that God is everywhere. He’s at church, in seminary, in the scriptures. He’s also with you when you’re mountain biking or rock climbing. No matter if you’re struggling or progressing with your testimony or with a new activity, He is always there.