• Growing teamwork in the wilderness.




    Growing leadership in the wilderness.

    Growing powerful bonds in the wilderness.







    Overcoming adversity in the wilderness.

  • Programs

    Wilderness Photography Club

    We mix outdoor adventure with learning how to use professional camera equipment. We do this with weekly classes and monthly outdoor hiking trips. We meet each Wednesday at Hudson C.O.V.E. from 4:00pm to 5:00pm during the school year. Sessions start 10/13/21. Equipment for photography and hiking is provided. This program includes 25 photography sessions and 8 outdoor trips from October through May. Spacing is very limited and varies by income level.


    Location: Hudson C.O.V.E. - 312 Pacific Ave Jersey City

    Time: Wednesdays 4 - 5 pm

    Starts: 10/13

    First trip: 10/30

    Ages: 13-17


    Select on the appropriate income level below and then click on the sign up icon.

    Wilderness Club

    Our after-school program offers weekly team building, tutoring, mentoring and lessons in nature photography. This is coupled with monthly adventures in the wilderness. Wilderness Club is managed with support by college students that are alumni of Summer Treks. High school students that are alumni of Summer Treks provided secondary support tutoring.


    This program is exclusively for MS40 students. It is offered with no charge to students or JCPS.


    Partnership Programs

    We tailor empowering and team-building trips to fit the needs of our partners for maximum impact. These customized fee-for-service outings can be built to promote self-confidence for groups serving teens or employee engagement team-building for organizations and their employees. Check out our brochure for more information. If you would like to partner with Team Wilderness to provide an amazing trip for your organization just Contact Us.


    Partnership Program Exit Survey

    Summer Treks

    Eight days of empowering outdoor character building adventures Sessions are Monday through Thursday over a two week period. Each day we meet at Saint Peter's University at 8:30 AM and end around 2:30 PM depending on that day's trip. Trips include hiking, a yoga hike, and waterfall rappelling! Breakfast and lunch is provided for all students. It culminates with a three day backpacking trip in the Catskill mountains. Youth will unplug and bond while working together to build the campsite.

    Wilderness on The Water

    Each summer we partner with Resilience Paddle Sports to bring you the Wilderness on the Water. These STEM infused adventures teach teens how to kayak and paddle board while playing games on the Hudson River. They also learn about local marine life, how to conduct water quality tests, and climate change’s impact on local waterways.


    Transportation to and from designated sites in Jersey City to the The Shipyard Marina in Hoboken is provided aboard a 15 passenger van. The furthest drop-off/pick-up sites can add up to an hour to the times below. Also provided: masks, sunscreen, and snacks. Wearing a provided life preserver is required and teens do not need to know how to swim to participate.

    Non-Discrimination Policy

    Team Wilderness is an inclusive organization that accepts applicants regardless of race, gender, gender expression, culture, religion, sexual orientation, or economic status. It is Team Wilderness policy to serve a minimum of 51% free or reduced lunch population. Typically 80% of our participants fall in this category.

  • Donate!

    Over 50% of teens we've surveyed said that since the pandemic began they've been active only two or less times a month!


    Every single one of our youth reported that their experience gave them more confidence to conquer adversity in life.


    For financial info and more see our Annual Report.


    Team Wilderness is a non-profit, tax exempt organization and is approved as a 501(c)(3) organization under the Internal Revenue Code.

    All contributions are tax-deductible.


    Funds one teen's scholarship for two weeks in the summer.



    Sends one teen to North Carolina to conduct scientific research while backpacking.



    Allows one teen to spend a day hiking and rappelling.



    Sends one teen on an empowering day hike.

  • Our Mission

    It is the mission of Team Wilderness to grow teamwork, leadership, and character within our urban youth through wilderness excursions.

    To achieve our mission we emphasize striving to be E.T.H.I.C.A.L. in the wilderness and reflecting on its application to life.


    Empathy - Through co-dependence to force students to develop compassion towards each other


    Teamwork - To understand and embody a positive team culture


    Health - Through mental and physical challenges recognizing what is necessary to be your best self and live a healthy and balanced life


    Inclusive - Through interdependence to learn to value and work to create an environment inclusive of everyone that supports and respects differences


    Community - Understanding social and environmental responsibility


    Adversity - Using a foreign setting to compel students to challenge themselves mentally and physically resulting in increased self-confidence and self-actualization


    Leadership - Out of necessity to demonstrate the ability to collaborate, communicate, problem-solve and resolve conflicts promptly and effectively

  • What We Do

    Team Wilderness is a nonprofit organization that uses an experiential educational model to teach urban teenagers teamwork, leadership, and character.

    The organization helps to promote confidence in youth, consideration for their peers, passion for the world they live in, and resilience both as an individual and a group. Facing physical and social challenges, they learn to adapt and develop real-life problem-solving skills while at the same time overcoming fears and obstacles.

    "Everyone took their experiences and molded it into something extraordinary. For me, I was able to step out of my comfort zone and become a leader."

    - Kristine, student

    Team Wilderness is the only wilderness experiential education organization offering programs focusing specifically on Hudson County's most underserved youth. Our programs are affordable for all income levels; since they cater to the youth from the community, they help positively impact the community itself.


    Team Wilderness allows youth to experience hiking, backpacking and numerous outdoor activities during both single-day and overnight trips. These trips require the commitment and collaboration of the entire team. The students understand that and embrace it. The Team’s adult leaders, and the trip experiences themselves, will cultivate reflection to unearth newfound self-confidence, undiscovered interests and unexplored opportunities.

  • Testimonials



    "It's very inspirational... You get the opportunity to leave the city. You get the opportunity to explore nature... It's something that you won't see in a classroom, something that you won't see on a sheet of paper."



    "This has been one of the best choices I made in high school... I was able to experience camping, hiking, and other activities that can be so exhausting but very fun and exciting... I'm very glad to be a part of this nature loving family."

    Andrew (on the left)


    "I'm not always the most social around new people. I would have been fine not talking to anyone, but Team Wilderness wouldn't have it. In the end I not only got to hike and go in a waterfall, but they helped me become more social."



    "Our hikes had the best views and made me realize the nature I was missing. The guides were so warm it helped me be open even around new and different people. Half way rappelling down a waterfall the water would be roaring. When each of us got there we yelled out something we were going to conquer in life. It all helped me to endure even if I was tiring."



    Kristine's comments were so moving we asked if she could record them for us. This is what she gave us. Wow. Way to go Kristine!

  • Our Team

    The Board of Trustees

    April Vella - Board President

    April Vella is the District Supervisor of Mathematics at Northern Valley Regional High School District. She has valued outdoor education from a young age as a camp counselor at Camp Speers-Eljabar YMCA. She participated in an intense three-week Outward Bound adventure in Alaska in 1999. Travel is her passion and her love for the outdoors has brought her to Costa Rica, the Galapagos Islands, and many beautiful places around the world. As a high school teacher, Ms. Vella advised the Ski Club for many years and chaperoned student cultural exchanges with American and Scottish students. She is excited to be a part of Team Wilderness giving inner city students the opportunity to explore the outdoors, challenge their limits, and be adventurous.


    Brigid D'Souza - Board Treasurer

    Brigid D'Souza is an assistant professor at Saint Peter's University's School of Business. She is a licensed CPA and holds an MBA in accounting and worked for 10 years in public accounting with Deloitte and Ernst & Young. She currently resides in Jersey City and serves as a strategy team leader with Jersey City Together. Brigid is a mom to two children who attend Jersey City Public Schools. Brigid was an athlete throughout her youth, experiences she views as formative to a foundation of team-building and leadership skills that were instrumental in college and beyond. She is excited to be part of Team Wilderness, where students can experience team-building, new and renewed friendships, new environments outside of the urban landscape, and an exploration and stretching of their own potential which can have potential life-long impact.


    Lilia R. Diaz - Board Member

    Lilia R Diaz is currently the Energy Conservation Director for the Puertorriqueños Asociado for Community Organization (PACO), a nonprofit community-based organization, which provides vital social services to the communities of Hudson County. An experienced association executive, Lilia previously was a Partner at her family business, Diaz Agency, an income tax preparation and insurance business. Prior to working for PACO, she was a board trustee from 2007 to 2015; and currently serves as a board trustee for Metropolitan Family Health Network and Urban League of Hudson County. Lilia earned her Bachelor of Arts at Montclair State University with a major in Justice Studies. Most importantly Lilia is a mother of two children, Noah, 22 and Bella, 14.


    Juan Melli - Board Member

    A first-generation immigrant from Argentina, Juan Melli is passionate about the outdoors and giving back to his community. Juan hikes hundreds of miles per year, is a volunteer trail maintainer with the New York-New Jersey Trail Conference, and is NOLS certified in Wilderness First Aid. He is a communications and political strategist who is currently Senior Vice President at Mercury Public Affairs. Juan is a graduate of Rutgers University and earned a Ph.D. in Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering from Princeton University. He resides in Hoboken with his wife and two boys.


    Joel Torres - Board Member

    Born and raised in Jersey City, New Jersey, Joel Torres grew up in various areas of Jersey City from Bergen-Lafayette, to West Side, to Downtown, to where he resides now in the Western Slope section of the Heights along with his wife and their three children. His parents, both born in Puerto Rico, moved to Jersey City in the late 1970’s.


    Joel graduated from St. Mary’s Grammar and High School in Downtown Jersey City. In 2011, Joel graduated with a Bachelor’s of Science in Public Health and a minor in Latin American & Latino Studies with Summa Cum Laude Honors from Montclair State University (MSU). In May 2014, he received his Masters of Arts in Public and Organizational Relations from MSU.


    Joel previously served as the President of the Jersey City Board of Education and completed a three-year term in December 2017. He is currently serving his first three-year term as a Hudson County Freeholder representing Hudson County’s 4th District, containing parts of The Heights, Journal Square, and Downtown Jersey City.


    Joel is currently the Manager for the Alcohol and Drug Abuse Prevention Team (ADAPT), a countywide organization focused on decreasing and preventing underage drinking and substance abuse in Essex County, based out of Orange, New Jersey. In addition, he is involved in issues including, but not limited to, education, quality of life issues, Autism awareness, health and senior services, and support services for residents in our local area.


    Lauren Tortorete - Board Secretary

    Lauren Tortorete is a corporate communications professional dedicated to helping companies and brands translate their work into compelling stories that help them grow their businesses. She is currently the vice president of Powell Communications, focusing on clients in the advertising, marketing, media, technology and entertainment industries. Before joining Powell, Lauren amassed 20 years of experience in the healthcare industry, advising clients in the pharmaceutical, biotech, medical device and healthcare provider categories. Lauren has lived in Jersey City since 2002 and has a son who attends public school in Jersey City. An avid skier, runner and hiker, she is excited to be a part of Team Wilderness to help young people build teamwork and leadership skills through outdoor adventures. Lauren graduated from Boston University, College of Communication with a bachelor’s degree in communication.


    Executive Director

    Steve Cunningham

    Steve Cunningham taught high school history in Jersey City for 15 years. Believing that city kids should have an opportunity to discover the wilderness, he founded an after-school outdoors club at his school. Through that experience he realized there was a demand for a robust outdoor organization that would allow youth from every Jersey City neighborhood to experience empowering outdoor adventures and character growth together.


    Steve is certified in Advance First Aid by the Emergency Care & Safety Institute, a certified Hiking Guide with the American Hiking Guides Association, and a licensed guide for hiking and camping with the New York Department of Environmental Conservation.


    Lead Guide


    Development & Specials Events


    Wilderness Club



    Operations Assistant



    Junior Guide

  • Supporters

    Team Wilderness will forever be grateful for the over 70 individual donors that supported our 2016 launch. We are incredibly thankful for our partners below; without them achieving our mission wouldn't be possible.

  • Contact Us