British Columbia

From the inner city to Patagonia: Street2Peak takes B.C. youth on a new epic trip

The 10th annual Strachan Hartley Foundation Legacy Run on Sunday raises funds to take the Lower Mainland's inner city-youth to the mountains of Patagonia.

Strachan Hartley Foundation Legacy Run takes place Sunday to raise funds for Patagonia trip

It took seven days for the Street2Peak students to climb to the top of Mount Kilimanjaro and make it back down again in 2015. (Street2Peak/Facebook)

There are new mountains to climb for a group of Vancouver's inner city youth — in the southernmost tip of South America.

Street2Peak is a project aimed at giving vulnerable teens the opportunity to gain experience by combining travel with physical activity. The program is led by Trevor Stokes, a teacher at Brittania Secondary School, who will lead a hiking trip to Patagonia in Chile early next year.

"We're going to go to five continents in 10 years," said Stokes, who also leads Streetfront Alternative — an alternative education program that puts an emphasis on physical activity.

The confluence of the Baker and Chacabuco rivers lies close to the entrance of Chile's Patagonia National Park. (The Associated Press)

"We are trying to re-engage students that are no longer on the traditional [academic] path," he said, adding that the majority of the program's students are aboriginal. "So we're giving them another focus."

The program — which has 22 students — provides disadvantaged youth with the opportunity to run marathons and test their mettle against some of nature's toughest hikes.

This weekend, they'll compete in the 10th annual Strachan Hartley Foundation Legacy Run — a 10-kilometre run up the scenic Mosquito Creek trail in the North Shore — to raise money for their Patagonia trip.

"These kids come from such extreme situations that our goal is... to let them be a part of this global world," said Stokes.

"I believe we can offer them something really profound"

'These kids should be your employees'

Stokes has already taken students to hike Mount Kilimanjaro during the pilot phase of Street2Peak. But after forming a permanent partnership with the Strachan Hartley foundation, he's planning four more trips over the next eight years.

Stokes says without the program and the generosity of the foundation there's no telling if the students would ever get such a unique opportunity.

"I'm not really sure where their lives will lead them," he said. "I'm going to work as damn hard as I can to make sure that they've got as many great memories as possible."

In Stoke's eyes, the kids deserve all the opportunity in the world.

"These kids should be your employees, they will be neighbours, they should be everything that every one of our kids or my own children become," he said.

In fact, Stokes laughs, some of his old students are looking to follow in his footsteps: "I got a whole bunch of them at UBC and they're trying to take my job."

With files from CBC's The Early Edition

To listen to the full interview, click on the audio labelled: Vancouver's disadvantaged youth hit the streets for a trip to Patagonia