The 906 Adventure Team program teaches life skills with mountain bikes and more

An opening line from a book, popular a few years ago, states, “Life is hard.”

Yes. life can be difficult, especially for young people as they navigate their way through the challenges of growing into adolescence and adulthood.

In Marquette, the 906 Adventure Team program, strives to help young people face those difficult years using lessons taught outdoors, in community, on mountain bikes. 

“We’re genuinely focused on equipping kids to be successful in the game of life. We know they’re going to need to be challenged when they’re young in order to develop the toolbox they’ll need to be successful adults,” says Todd Poquette, director of the 906 Adventure Program. Both on and off mountain bikes, the program’s focus is on developing and nurturing life skills and working together.

“Our process is using challenging outdoor activity to develop self-confidence, resilience, grit, and community. We bring it to youth without the pressure of head-to-head competition –– no clocks to race against or finish lines to fight for.” 

The list of skills participants develop is impressive and includes resiliency, adaptability, consistency, respect, effort, grit, doing hard things, and (developing a) growth mindset and an ethos of self-support. Participants are taught 'it’s you versus you,' and that there is no finish line. 

“We’re not equipping youth to take the world head-on and it’s contributing to a ‘mental health crisis,’ which we could restate as a ‘human resilience crisis.’ Too disconnected. Untested. The program’s foundation builds resiliency in youth by doing hard yet fun things. Our mission is getting kids back outside and getting their families out riding,” Poquette says. 

906 Adventure includes locations in Dickinson, Gogebic, Grand Rapids (area), Iron, Lansing, Marquette, Midland and Delta counties in Michigan; Green Bay, Eau Claire, and La Crosse in Wisconsin with an affiliate in Ohio. Dickinson County, a new addition, is now an active participant. The county’s major cities include Iron Mountain, Kingsford and Norway.

“A group of people from Dickinson County community approached us and over the course of a year we laid the groundwork for a leadership team and ultimately decided we were ready to launch. I was born in Iron Mountain in 1974, they didn’t have to twist my arm to get us there,” Poquette says.

“The plan for all our communities is fairly straightforward. A new team launches with 50 kids and approximately 25 volunteers. Over time, the team should grow through awareness and outreach in the community. Ideally, in the second year we would hit 75 kids, then 100 in the third, and so on. Of course, for the number of kids in the program to grow we need more volunteers which in turn builds the community.

“I’ve grown in appreciation of our adult volunteers; they are a big part of our success. Our volunteers operate at a high level to continue to reach more kids and help them become more resilient. We continue to recruit and train adults to become proper role models for kids. Our leadership is 50 percent male and 50 percent female,” Poquette says. He adds that the ratio is the same for their youth program with boys and girls sharing equally in leadership. 

“Of the 1,200 kids we’ll work with this year, half are girls. They learn quickly they can hang with the boys. There is never any suggestion that anybody is less,” Poquette notes.

“Our goal is to build well-rounded, courageous, independent, resilient humans, not mountain bikers. That’s important to note. This year we are piloting a trail running program in Marquette. If successful, and I expect it will be, we’ll offer the option in other communities such as Dickinson,” Poquette says. 

The 906 Adventure Program gets kids outside and gets families riding. This outside exercise can lead to decreased high risk behaviors such as drug use, obesity, etc. and helps sedentary kids to become active. It promotes a healthy lifestyle and encourages families to take part in events. 

Participants learn the necessary life skill of overcoming obstacles by going through a mobile obstacle course set up by their local Adventure Team. Completing the obstacle course challenges the youth taking them out of their comfort zone and leading to increased skills development. 

“The kids just love it and go for it,” Poquette explains. “They’re not afraid.”

The program provides the necessary bikes and safety helmets for those needing them. “We’ll provide a bike and helmet for the season,” Poquette says. Donations of bikes and/or necessary funds have increased over the past 10 years. 

“Training gear, equipment, everything a volunteer needs is also provided,” according to Poquette. Volunteers have told him they appreciate the time spent working with the program because it allows them an opportunity to decompress from the stresses of daily life. 

One of the program’s adult volunteers explained it this way. “When I’m going through the woods, I’m totally in the moment. There’s no place I’d rather be, and you feel so good when you’re done. The program teaches a lifetime sport to help stay fit and active.”

Other staff members include Marc Salm, Partner in Adventure, and Leslie Phillips, Partner in Sustainability. 

The League of Michigan Bicyclists has recognized the program with its 2023 “ChangeMaker of the Year” Award for making an enormous impact on the bicycling community with its emphasis on positive youth development. The Community Mental Health Association of Michigan endorses the 906 Adventure Team work in mentoring and building greater resiliency in children. They reference the benefit of physical activity on improved mental well-being. 

Fund-raising is ongoing. Poquette says the program is building a park at its lakeshore base camp in Marquette. 

“We’re fund-raising every day for that. If you visit our website and hit the donate button the dropdown menu will help you make donations to specific funds. 

Additional information may be found at: 906 Adventure Team. 

Ann Dallman has lifelong roots in Michigan’s UP. She started out as a newspaper reporter/photographer and returned to journalism after retiring from teaching. Her first Middle Grade novel, Cady and the Bear Necklace, received a State History Award (Books/Youth) from the Historical Society of Michigan as well as a Midwest Book Award, New Mexico-Arizona Book Award, was a Next Generation Indie Book Award Finalist and a UP Notable Book. Her second book, Cady and the Birchbark Box, also received the Historical Society of Michigan State Award, is also a UP Notable Book and was a finalist in the New Mexico-Arizona 2023 Book Awards. 
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