The recent 2015 ARC reunion presented alumni with yet another challenge to add to their already impressive repertoire. The weekend of February 5, with its historic weather event, was a reminder to all that confronting challenges with a positive attitude is a valuable life skill.
Twenty-seven ARC graduates traveled into the Sierras on a snowy Friday night and arrived at Sagehen Creek Field Station to brave not only a snowstorm but also a power outage. Many of the Central Valley and Bay Area youth were seeing snowfall for the very first time.
Eight years of ARC summer courses were represented at the reunion. Many of the alumni had never met, but in different years had spent weeks in the backcountry cooking with headlamps, sleeping in sleeping bags, and smiling and laughing in the face of unfamiliar circumstances.
The oldest, Jaime Alvarez, graduated from ARC in 2006. He has attended seven consecutive ARC reunions and says he continues to attend because, “It always feels like family. Every year, I meet new friends.”
Participants repeatedly expressed their appreciation for the sense of family they feel when together. Just as important, they experience inclusiveness, acceptance, and the freedom to be themselves. A 2014 Yosemite graduate, Daniela Ponce, said “I enjoyed myself even more because of the storm. We were working together again as a family.”
Under snowy skies, the ARC alumni snowboarded at NorthStar, wrote personal poetry, and discussed their college aspirations. On Saturday morning, prior to snowboarding, they screened the documentary “First Generation” at Martis Camp. The movie tells the story of four low-income high school students who hope to pursue a college education and face many barriers to reaching their dream. ARC youth related to the protagonists’ stories and, in facilitated discussions, reflected on the barriers they confront (or confronted) in their own pursuit of a college experience. One student said, “If it wasn’t for ARC, I wouldn’t have known half of what I know about college.” In a post-reunion survey, a recent summer graduate wrote that he was grateful to “be connected to alumni who have already gone through high school and know what it takes to get into college.”
ARC would like to thank several dedicated people for the reunion weekend’s success, including Michael Dominquez, Director of OutWords Fresno, for leading a poetry workshop and for his endless enthusiasm and positive energy; Jamie Moore, for her wisdom and help in workshop facilitation; Shelby Takenouchi, for leading her first ARC poetry workshop and sharing with students her passion and excitement for writing and performing poetry; Kasey McJunkin, for providing late-night logistical phone support in snowy conditions; and Katie Zanto, Danielle Rees, Eve Giovenco and Greg Rideout for volunteering on a busy ski day. Also, big thanks go to Sagehen Creek Field Station, NorthStar Resort, and Martis Camp for hosting ARC alumni.