One of the hardest parts for any youth program is getting the “buy in” and attention of its young participants.
When a group of teens first arrives at our gates they form a circle with our staff and are asked to center themselves; to be calm and present. The usual giggles and sighs ensue but eventually they quiet down. Everyone is wondering what they are doing and why we all are standing in silence. And then it comes, the hauntingly beautiful howl of a pack of wolves. We now have everyone’s attention and respect!
“Wolf Connection has given me hope, and the tools and desire to try and make my life better despite my past. If the wolfdogs are able to move forward so am I. I feel happy with who I am now.”
From a teenager on the closing day at wolf camp
What is Wolf Connection?
Wolf Connection is a youth education and empowerment program with wolfdogs, Youth Ambassadors, as the centerpiece. With the help of these magnificent animals, young men and women from all walks of life learn about nature and conservation, work through the challenges in their lives, learn to be of service by responsibly caring for another living being, and work towards becoming the kind of person they want to be.
The organization was created in 2009 with the purpose of using the presence and natural balance of these deeply intuitive animals to inspire and educate at-risk youth in Los Angeles County and its vicinity.
Due to the energized responses of youth participants and administrators, what started as in-school presentations and brief visits to the sanctuary has turned into overnight camps and 8-week-long intervention sessions with a progressive experiential education and characterbuilding curriculum. In an emotionally, psychologically, and physically safe environment young participants get to identify with the life stories of these magnificent animals.
Once a bond is established, we apply our Wolf Principles© (Appendix A) and The Nine Realms of the Wolf© (Appendix B) to help participants assimilate their experience so they can:
- Understand the nature of human relationships and the circumstances leading to love, support and empowerment, as well as cruelty, abuse and neglect.
- Identify the characteristics of a healthy peer-group in order to replace aggression, segregation, and rivalry with the understanding, respect, and mutual acceptance needed to develop constructive, healthy communities.
- Learn the effective communication, collaboration, and self reflection skills needed to sustain such communities.
- Find their place in the world.
Wolf Connection’s fundamental education and empowerment methods combine the arts of natural, peaceful and healthy living with the science of human development, and are based on extensive research in the fields of animal therapy, behavioral sciences, and anthropology, which scientifically explain the deep, primal, and life-changing connection our youth participants experience during our programs … An ancestral bond between man and wolf that has been acknowledge and revered by ancient cultures around the globe.
Community events for the general public such as:
- Monthly hike with wolves
- Monthly movie night with wolves
- Special events such as healing workshops, singing bowl circles, etc.
Presentations at schools and youth organizations
(i.e. foster care agencies, boy/girl scouts, at-risk youth programs, etc). We enrich pre-existing curriculums by offering three main approaches tailored to the school’s/group’s needs:
- Natural sciences: biology, zoology, ecology, environment and conservation
- Human History and Evolution: ancient cultures, traditions, and co-evolution of men and animals
- Moral and civic (and spiritual) education, ethics and life values
Guided visits to the reserve:
Full day and Half day. Same approach as above.
Multi-day programs for schools and youth organizations:
These include both educational and empowering curriculums.
The delivery of our experiential education and empowerment services is structured within four distinct levels:
1- Connection: This is the entry level and is provided either at the client’s location in the form of a presentation in the class room setting, or a half day visit to Wolf Connection ranch.
2- Discovery: Multi-day, 8-week on-sight series or an overnight, weekend event; both series include a follow-up session to foster long-term application of the principals learned.
3- Creation: Builds on the Discovery level and goes deeper. Same 8-week format.
4- Consolidation: 6 months (once a week) Internship Certification Course at Wolf Connection Ranch.
Within this format, the day-to-day curriculum is tailored to the needs of the hiring institution and the individual youth participating in the program. To support the process and ensure lasting results we provide an online community with forums for remote/ongoing learning and follow-up.
This unique approach has intrigued community organizations and we are honored to be partnered with groups such as Violence Intervention Program, Street Poets, Youth Mentoring Connection, Penny Lane, Pacific Lodge Youth Services, Celerity Education Group, various scout and youth groups, and the Antelope Valley and Simi Valley school districts.
Youth who get off the bus at our gates have eyes that tell stories of things most don’t want to imagine; some with such pain and anger, why would they want to trust anyone? But these young men and women can see themselves in our animals, who have also been through pain, cruelty, and violence. With the combination of the care and dedication of the Wolf Connection Team and their bond to the wolves, they leave this magical place with eyes that tell a different story, a story of hope.
The Wolf Connection Program is
- Holistic modeled – addresses the mind, the body, and the spirit
- An effective experiential approach for youth empowerment, and social awareness
Through providing these life-education experiences, one of Wolf Connection’s main objectives is to prevent and reduce violence and to improve healthy living in the communities we serve. Our approach addresses the fact that the roots of violence and illness are often found in past traumatic experiences. Such unresolved emotional and physical trauma is carried in the body in the form of emotional and physical stress, pent-up violence and potential illness due to a weakened immune system.
Wolf Connection’s programs provide a powerful and unique opportunity to heal and move past those obstacles through an organic, non-intrusive approach. Our rescued wolfdogs have also suffered abuse, neglect, and abandonment which allow us to center the discussion around the animal’s past experience rather that the kid’s. This provides the opportunity for our young participants to identify with them, and embark on the journey of healing and growth through the eyes and experience of the wolfdog.