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Turning Life Around with ARC

When you’re a high school sophomore who has never experienced life away from home, forty days feels like a long time to be separated from your family. Francisco del Rio, a 2013 Adventure Risk Challenge summer course participant, described the feeling of leaving home like “the Pacific Ocean was ready to release its massive waves on my face.” He said he held the tears back and took a step toward a new beginning, “to become a more disciplined, appreciative person who has a better idea of his future.”

Before participating in the ARC summer course, Francisco was a student who rarely studied for tests. Like many teenagers he says, “I would wake up in the middle of the day without thinking of what my goals for the day were.” He was an unmotivated student who didn’t see the connection between his classwork and his future.

Francisco also described taking his parents for granted. He says that “at home, I would stay out with my friends and not come back until my parents were asleep.” He remembers lying around on summer days while his mom was at work, instead of helping with cleaning or laundry.

On the ARC 40-day summer course in Yosemite, Francisco lived in the wilderness, slept under the stars, wrote and performed poetry, and began reflecting on his future. The turn-around point for him was four weeks into the course when he had some reflection time alone, overlooking the Sierra Nevada mountains and journaling his thoughts. At that moment Francisco says, “I wanted to prove to myself that I had changed and that I was a more disciplined person.”

His summer course teammates noticed his transformation. On the group’s final backpacking expedition, they selected him as one of their two leaders. For four days, Francisco was responsible for navigating the group for over twenty miles of hiking and for the well-being of his peers. ARC instructor Ann Reynolds said, “Francisco’s positive attitude and light-hearted spirit made him a strong leader. There were points during the course when he adeptly assessed the mood of the group, helped resolve conflict, and encouraged his teammates when morale was low.”

Francisco’s teammates also admired his playful, fun, enthusiastic charm. When the ARC students taught students from the Boys & Girls Club about water conservation issues, Francisco put a new creative spin on these lessons. He taught the younger students about the effects of pollution in the Central Valley in a hands-on exercise where students donned ponchos, symbolizing run-off as rain storms (sprinkler water) pushed them to lower ground. The younger students loved the active learning on a hot summer afternoon.

Francisco, a 6’4” high school sophomore, also demonstrated great compassion and love for his family. During the ARC graduation, he read a poem that he wrote about his relationship with his father. The poem was appropriately entitled “I am a Giant Sequoia Tree.”

Since his participation in the 40-day course, Francisco has become active in his community and started coaching youth soccer (his team won the league championship this year). He applied and was admitted to California State University, Fresno and he is excited about studying broadcast journalism. He hopes to one day share with a television audience the experiences he had as a young man with Adventure Risk Challenge, seeing the beauty of Yosemite and imagining a brighter future for himself in college and beyond. Read More