By Heidi Glaus
St. Louis (KSDK) - In what seems like the middle of nowhere, you can hear friendships being made.
"This is like my second family here I love it, I don't know what I would do without it really," said Marquee' Banderet, a 15-year-old.
Listen even more closely and you'll hear teens becoming responsible young adults.
"The stuff we do I would never be able to do at home," added Rhea Lee, another 15-year-old.
It's that responsible part that the WYMAN Teen Leadership program is all about.
"The ultimate goal is to get people to graduate high school, go on to college and be economically self-sufficient, contributing individuals to their communities," pointed out Tim Kjellervic, Director of the program.
It's a place that's been serving young people from economically challenged backgrounds since 1898, but these days they do things a little differently.
"They know how to balance like serious things with like fun things," explained Jordan Henderson, a 14-year-old.
"We went white water rafting in Tennessee, oh my god one of the best experiences of my life I can't wait to tell my mom," added Lee.
Sounds fun, but being in the program is also a lot of work.
"I don't like sleeping outside and I slept outside for three days," said Adam Masters, a 13-year-old.
This is seven year commitment that starts just before their eighth grade year and each summer they spend 24 days away from home. Most of that time is spent challenging themselves.
"I camped on one of the tallest mountains on the Cherokee National Forest," said Lee.
"We always say there's no dollar cost to the program, but it's not free. Our teens have to do 40 hours of service every year. They have to turn their grades into us and just their time alone, we're asking for a lot of time," Kjellervic explained.
In return these teens are learning priceless lessons.
"I've learned how to be a better leader, how to like lead by example and how sometimes to be a good leader you have to be a good follower," Henderson said.
They also learn about scholarships and conflict resolution. And most importantly, decide not to let their future just blow in the wind.
"I feel like this program has made me a better person, cause I've never been a bad person, but I think it's helped me realize what is most important in life," Lee said.
You can learn more about the WYMAN Teen Leadership Program by visiting their website.