“Am I really going to do this?” Brock Sanders asked himself. “Am I doing the right thing? What am I going to get out of this?” Adventure Risk Challenge (ARC) had offered Brock a spot in their leadership and literacy summer course, but he couldn’t imagine spending 40 days away from home, hiking through the Yosemite wilderness and sleeping under the stars. My mind was set on “NO,” he said.
The quiet of a Yosemite night seemed scary compared to the comforting laughter and screams of his ten brothers, sisters, and cousins. A sophomore in high school, Brock wanted to escape his hometown of Dos Palos, CA, but he also felt at home surrounded by familiar faces and friends. Yosemite, he imagined, had dark nights and was full of menacing creatures.
Brock had been struggling at school, often putting his head down in class and having difficulty completing his homework. He didn’t think he could write and his lack of confidence was clear in the scribbled handwritten essays that he turned in for English class. He described himself academically as “not being good at anything.”
After saying “no” to Yosemite for weeks, Brock finally allowed himself to be convinced by ARC instructors to attend the course. He decided that the fun would outweigh the homesickness and that new summer adventures would be more exciting than his regular summer routine.
In Yosemite, he hiked over seventy miles through the National Park. He saw the Park’s iconic landscapes, swam in alpine lakes, and rafted on the Merced River through Yosemite Valley. In class, he began to see himself as a more responsible student. He said, “Before ARC, I never did my homework. I just threw the work in my binder and never looked at it again, but ARC taught me the importance of responsibility.”
After ARC, Brock had a new-found confidence in his writing and academic ability. He wrote a moving poem entitled “I am Yosemite Creek” about the struggles he had in high school. He described himself as being “surrounded by a whirlpool of equations, formulas, letters, and numbers/they keep circling me, tangling me up and won’t let me go.”
When he returned from Yosemite, the whirlpool had stopped. He would write freely outside of school for fun. His grades began to improve significantly. He joined multiple clubs, including FFA and a leadership group. He joined the swim team. This year he wrote, “I am now excited to attend school…I am ready to take on future challenges!”
On his college application, Brock wrote, “If it was not for the ARC program, I would still be failing my classes, I wouldn’t be in any clubs, and I wouldn’t be on the right path to a successful future. I am so happy for what ARC has done for me.”
There were many “firsts” accomplished by ARC students in Sierra National Forest this past weekend. Students ate s’mores over a campfire for the first time. They experienced sleeping under the stars in a tent. They climbed up a 90-foot stretch of vertical granite rock. And they learned how to work in a team and encourage and support one another in the outdoors.
Six Outward Bound instructors-in-training from the High Sierra Instructor Development program led the weekend. They facilitated leadership activities for the ARC students and created a safe environment of laughter, fun, and learning. Thank you Outward Bound California for a fantastic weekend!
For pictures from the trip, visit: http://adventureriskchallenge.pixieset.com/octoberweekendretreat/