“This is honestly the coolest place I’ve been to (along with my hometown in Mexico),” wrote Maria Hernandez, a sophomore at Dos Palos High School, as she sat sitting in front of a campfire in Yosemite. Maria along with her fellow ARC participants had visited Chilnualna Falls earlier in the day and had just finished preparing and eating a meal together. For Maria, it was not an average Friday night after a long school week.
“I like the trees, the little hills, the people, and overall the environment. I know it’s been just one day, but I can’t wait for what’s ahead.” What was ahead for Maria’s ARC weekend? On Saturday, she woke up at 7:30AM and hiked seven miles round-trip on the Mist Trail. She climbed 1,900 feet up stone steps, saw a rainbow extend across the powerful expanse of Vernal Falls, and she lay in the sun next to the pools of water above Nevada Falls (the top of the hike). It was a weekend of physical challenge and beautiful scenery with the waterfalls near their peak.
Maria wrote of the experience, “Right here, you are face to face with nature. To be able to step away and leave your daily life, even for a little while, is one of the most awesome feelings ever. Here you can not only hear the silence, but you can feel it, as if engulfed in a warm and fuzzy blanket in the middle of winter.” It was Maria’s first time in Yosemite and she is excited to return again soon!
ARC recently hosted the first retreat for students from Kings River High School in Sanger, California.
As ARC explores the feasibility of serving this agricultural community on the outskirts of Fresno, in partnership with Epic Promise a new group of students was exposed to outdoor programming in Tahoe.
Kings River is a continuation high school for students who are at risk of not graduating. These students face obstacles—substance abuse, family trouble or academic struggles—that slow their academic progress. The high school, whose mission aligns with ARC’s, provides a family-like environment so that students can receive the support and guidance they need to graduate.
To meet ARC’s mission of integrating literacy and wilderness programming, weekend retreat participants went snowboarding at Northstar, toured Sierra Nevada College, and wrote personal poetry with Fresno poet Michael Dominquez.
One student wrote after the experience, “I learned [this weekend] that all you need to have fun is some friends and a supportive group of people around you.”
This supportive group included Northstar instructors, who led the students through a progression of exercises to learn the basics of snowboarding. They introduced the Sanger students to “S” turns and “garlands” and, by the end of the afternoon, many of the students were able to go up the lift and maneuver easily down the mountainside. Northstar generously provided all the lift tickets and instruction for ARC participants.
At Sierra Nevada College (SNC), Admissions Officer Jessica Doar toured the students around campus, showing them dormitories, classrooms, science laboratories, the art studio, and more. ARC alumna and SNC graduate Yami Guttierez shared her college experiences and encouraged students to consider applying. Yami said, “I never thought I would be able to attend a private college like SNC, but because of my involvement in ARC, I was able to receive financial support and graduate.”
After experiencing the beauty of Lake Tahoe and Northstar, several Sanger students expressed an interest in attending future ARC retreats. ARC is excited to offer more retreat opportunities to Kings River and Sanger High School students in 2015, inviting them to apply for ARC summer courses and September’s rock climbing retreat in the Sierra National Forest.