Venturing into leadership


United States
44° 58' 19.2864" N, 93° 14' 48.4908" W

What happens when your friends vote you into office and you don’t feel ready to lead?

You learn how to lead.

That’s one of the practical life lessons young adults like Esther Swanson learn during outdoor activities with Venturing Crew.

Venturing Crew 3309 is registered with Boy Scouts of America and chartered by Midwest Mountaineering, an outdoor equipment store in Minneapolis. It is led by youth ages fourteen through twenty. They meet twice a month for team-building activities:  rock climbing in winter and kayaking on Lake Nokomis in summer. They also plan winter and summer camping trips. On state park day hikes, they learn to pack Swanson’s “Ten Essentials”; water, food, first-aid kit, pocket knife, compass, warm clothing, fire starting kit, flashlight, sunscreen, and insect repellant. At least three adults accompany all events.

Crew members build character along the way. Teamwork is a key concept in Swanson’s mind. It played a huge role on one of the crew’s longest trips. Over three days and two nights, they hiked twenty-eight miles on the Superior Hiking Trail from Oberg Mountain to Lake Agnes.

“It was definitely a learning experience for all of us,” recalled Swanson. She said they would have never reached their goal hiking alone, but as a team, they kept each other going to the end.

Another difficult trip proved to be Swanson’s most memorable. In preparation for the Grand Tetons in 2012, Crew 3309 took a “shakedown” hike at Wild River State Park. A nasty mosquito hatch greeted them, along with a quarter mile of sandy trails near the hike’s end. The sand would not have been terrible except for the bugs and the fact that the unconditioned crew was already tired. To face their misery, they applied bug spray and jokes, using “every power” to not complain.

“It brought us together as a team,” said Swanson. “We were all sharing a common hurt.” They got to know each other and built trust from the conversations that followed.

When Swanson’s teammates voted her in as crew president, she did not feel up to the task. She worked hard to be worthy of the responsibility and found that she enjoyed leading. She also realized being a leader means laying down the privilege. At the request of a crew member, Swanson handed over leadership for part of the Grand Tetons Trip and discovered it went well.

“I have learned to be patient and to work with people,” Swanson reflected.

Outdoor experiences with Venturing Crew have proved to Swanson that hardship brings personal growth. Her advice to other young people is “Challenge yourself, because if it’s all easy, you will never learn.”

More information about Venturing Crews can be found by clicking the Venturers tab on



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