Founded in 1994, Work to Ride (WTR) is a 501 c3, non-profit community-based prevention program that aids disadvantaged urban youth though constructive activities centered on horsemanship, equine sports and education. The program is housed at Chamounix Stables, located in Fairmount Park, Philadelphia. This setting provides a unique opportunity to bring urban youth in contact with animals and nature. Work to Ride is designed as a long-term program for 7 to 19 year-old youth who must commit to a minimum of one year of participation. It is, however, expected that participants will choose to remain with the program through high school graduation. Work to Ride graduates receive help with college enrollment, and most also choose to return to Chamounix to mentor new participants.
Work to Ride provides youngsters with a positive outlet for their energy and an alternative to negative “street” activities. Participants develop discipline, responsibility, and life skills through training, riding, and performing horse care and barn management chores. They also develop confidence, self-esteem, and the skills necessary to complete successfully in their chosen activities. The youth are allowed to choose among various horse sports. While most are trained and talented in several sports, polo has proven to be the perennial favorite of Work to Ride youth. In addition to acquisition of life-skills, Work to Ride also emphasizes the necessity of academic achievement. Staff and volunteers provide after school tutoring to help students maintain the passing grades required for program participation.
Why does it work?
Work To Ride programs and activities are designed to explore new ways of engaging youth in significant educational, social and cultural experiences that are otherwise unavailable. The youth build relationships and develop problem-solving skills through spirited teamwork and cooperation. Activities at the stables as well as during competitions and trips allow participants to interact with diverse people and to be exposed to a variety of new experiences.
Additionally, Chamounix Stables becomes a “home away from home” for participants. Spending time there helps kids develop family-like relationships that become integral components of their lifestyles. Participation in Work to Ride teaches the youth that the combination of hard work and supportive relationships leads to success.