Three students majoring in parks and recreation management at Western Carolina University recently designed and implemented a program aimed at helping a group of veterans involved with the Wounded Warrior Project.
As part of their class in “Program Planning and Evaluation,” Hunter Hamm, Lee Mask and Trevor Brown designed a two-hour initiative based on trust and communication, two personal skills that representatives from the Wounded Warrior Project in Jacksonville, Florida, told them combat veterans struggle with when transferring back into civilian life.
The Wounded Warrior Project is a military and veterans service organization that works to empower injured veterans and their families. “Hopefully, we were able to help a little bit and touch at least one,” said Hamm, a senior from Dothan, Alabama.
The students went to Wildwater Chattooga Adventures near Long Creek, South Carolina, where they worked with 13 female combat veterans attending a weeklong program. The students met with the women for a two-hour period on March 20, the participants first day at the site.
The program began with a couple of icebreaker exercises, Hamm said. The first one had the participants state their names, demonstrate their favorite stretches and tell the group who their favorite band is. The other involved each participant stating two truths and one lie while the others guessed which one was the lie.
After the women became acquainted with each other, Hamm, Mask and Brown implemented the first of their two exercises – a game called “PROCESS Plates,” which was designed by Todd Murdock, director of WCU’s Project Discovery program. The game consists of plates that spell out “PROCESS for Problem Solving,” with “PROCESS” being an acronym for plans, roles, ownership, communication, evaluation sensitivity/synergy and safety, Hamm said.
The plates were arranged in a large circle with the women standing outside the circle. One-by-one, the women ran and stepped on a plate to spell out “PROCESS for Problem Solving.” If more than one woman was in the circle at a time, or if she stepped on a plate twice, there was a time penalty assessed.
After playing the game one time, the women were taught what “PROCESS” stands for and how they could utilize it. Then, they played the game again, Hamm said.
“They used ‘PROCESS’ more and more between the first and second (time playing the game), and their time actually decreased by four minutes,” he said. “It was very helpful in allowing them to succeed in this event.”
The second exercise was an obstacle course in which several objects were arranged on the ground. One woman was blindfolded while another verbally gave her clues on how to get through the course.
“We wanted to see if they were still using ‘PROCESS,’” Hamm said. “What we saw was that after teaching them about ‘PROCESS,’ they were able to use that.”
At the end of the participants’ week, they filled out an evaluation of the students’ program.
“They said they would be able to use ‘PROCESS’ in other aspects of their lives,” Hamm said. “They did find it helpful. Another positive aspect is that with two of us (Hamm and Mask) being civilians and one of us (Brown) being a combat veteran, some thought it was helpful seeing that other civilians wanted to help out with veterans.”
Mask, a junior PRM major from Hudson, said the experience taught him a lot about how to prepare, plan and run a program.
“Overall, it left me feeling very accomplished and very proud that I was able to help these veterans,” Mask said. “I’d love to be involved in helping veterans out in the future. That speaks a lot to my personality. I’ve always been a helper. Any chance I get to give back, I’m more than willing to do so.”
The students also got a positive review from the staff at Wildwater Chattooga Adventures, which said they had never seen a group of female Wounded Warriors come together that quickly, in that short two-hour period, Hamm said.
The students also have set up a fundraising aspect to the program aimed at helping the Wounded Warrior Project. With the Wounded Warrior Project’s help, they became student ambassadors for WCU and were provided a website to help raise funds. They set a goal of $500 and are currently at $415.
Those interested can donate until May 25 by visiting this website.