A leadership center in southern Johnson County that offers a challenge course and overnight trips can begin offering their outdoor activities to more students.
The FFA Leadership Center, located near Trafalgar, recently won a $400,000 grant that will pay for more student field trips to the facility. The trips will include day trips to train on the challenge course at the facility, and overnight trips.
Currently, area schools that can pay for their own trips go to the center.
But with the grant, the center can pay for trips for more schools, including Indianapolis schools where students may not have spent much time outdoors, said Joe Park, executive director of the Indiana FFA Leadership Center.
FFA officials have been working to get the grant for about a year, Park said. And they recently learned they were awarded the full amount they had applied for through the Lilly Endowment, he said.
The grant covers a three-year time period, and during that time, officials hope to bring in student groups, especially middle school age, to try the challenge course and have overnight trips at the facility, Park said.
Their goal is to teach leadership through activities at the center, and build camaraderie among students, he said. The center’s ropes challenge course gives students a chance to work together in a way they wouldn’t normally be able to do at school, and allows students who may not always excel academically to be able to shine with their problem-solving skills, Park said.
“When the day is over, there is a whole different rapport between those kids,” Park said.
“Over the course of the year, the teacher can build on that.”
Students also get exercise and spend time outdoors at the 170-acre facility, he said.
“It will be a whole new experience for them, many who have not been out of the city,” Park said.
The grant will pay the majority of the costs of field trips for students to the center, including transportation and supervision by staff, he said.
Officials are just beginning to plan for how to use the grant and don’t expect to start the field trips until at least the spring, he said. They still need to contact schools and select who will be awarded trips, he said.
His hope is that the grant and the field trips will also help make the facility more widely known, since it can also be used for special events and by private groups.
“We are the best-kept secret in central Indiana, because most people don’t even know we exist, and we are trying to overcome that stigma,” Park said.