SOURCE: Chrysalis School Montana

August 31, 2011 09:00 ET

Chrysalis Students Continue Tradition at Glacier National Park

Weeklong Adventure Demonstrates the Value of Community Service

EUREKA, MT--(Marketwire - Aug 31, 2011) - Fifty-nine travelers from Chrysalis School Montana recently renewed a long-standing tradition of community service at Glacier National Park.

Chrysalis, a therapeutic boarding school, is located near the Canadian border, about 35 miles from Glacier National Park, which features more than 700 miles of trails set among forests, meadows, mountains and lakes. The northwestern Montana school is designed for teenage girls who have struggled in traditional academic settings.

This summer, 32 Chrysalis students took part in the national park service project, accompanied by family members and school staffers. It marked the 12th consecutive year that Chrysalis students have journeyed to Glacier National Park for a service project, said Chrysalis founder and co-director Kenny Pannell.

During the one-week Glacier trip, the Chrysalis group built three trail turnpikes (a total of 35 feet). The school volunteers also performed 3,700 feet of tread improvement, 430 feet of check and fill, 200 feet of lateral drain construction, 320 feet of lateral repair, 375 feet of drain maintenance, 80 feet of trail realignment, 12 feet of log retaining wall and 350 feet of hand brushing, according to Corey Shea, a trails foreman at Glacier National Park.

"We've built dozens of those turnpikes over the years. It's really hard, heavy, difficult work," Pannell said. "Our students discover that they can do things they never thought they could do before."

Building a trail turnpike involves felling a tree, constructing a long log box (10 to 20 feet) along the damaged section of the trail, and then filling the sections with about 12 inches of rock and gravel.

Another sweaty endeavor for the Chrysalis students involved using a Pulaski trail tool for trail "grubbing," or using "loppers" to cut back branches and undergrowth in order to widen the trail.

"Girls who sometimes have difficulty focusing their attention in one direction were content breathing slowly the fresh air and observing the stillness of the forest," said Sarah Jones, a therapist at Chrysalis. "I found myself overwhelmed with amazement at our students - working for hours on end, digging drains, chopping roots the size of tree trunks, and lifting tools that weighed almost as much as they did. Many of the girls worked with intensity and focus, without complaining. In the end, the sense of accomplishment for their efforts could be seen in their beaming, mud-covered smiles."

Chrysalis students developed a deep appreciation for the benefits of hard work over the course of the week. Many of the students grew up in urban areas and are unaccustomed to spending a whole week in a setting like Glacier.

"Trail work physically and mentally challenges teenagers to a level that is hard to replicate outside of service trips such as this," said Chrysalis adventure staffer Jeremy Meyer. "I work year-round with the girls here at Chrysalis and the time that I see most of them make the largest leap in their personal growth of confidence, ego strength and personal strength is when they walk into a work site and see a washed out trail that's muddy and murky and three days later see a 15- or 20-foot turnpike."

Despite the intensive labor, the work resonates with Chrysalis students long after they graduate. In fact, more Chrysalis graduates return for the Glacier trip than any other school trip or activity, Pannell said.

Visit Chrysalis School Montana to learn how the Chrysalis experience serves as building blocks toward a higher education.

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