High school senior, Rosenda Sanchez-Avina, entered the ARC summer course in Yosemite a quiet and shy student. At first, she kept to herself and was slow to become close with her peers. Rosenda said after the course, “One of the most challenging parts of ARC was being able to be open about myself and my feelings because I wasn’t accustomed to having people talk to about those things.” By the end of the course, she had overcome this barrier. She confidently read her metaphorical poem “Free Like A Bird” in front of a large audience and was integral part of the ARC student team.
Each day during ARC’s summer courses, a student is Leader of the Day and is responsible for making sure the schedule runs smoothly, that their peers are safe and comfortable, and that the day’s tasks are successfully completed. Rosenda remembers, at first, when she was the group’s Leader of the Day, she didn’t feel comfortable. She was reluctant to take charge of her peers and take ownership of the group’s development, but eventually, Rosenda grew to be one of the strongest leaders in her cohort. She remarked, “I learned how to take that role and how to work with others in a compatible way.”
When reflecting back on her time with ARC, Rosenda speaks fondly about the Youth in Yosemite Open House that takes place in Wawona. At the Open House, youth from different summer programs in Yosemite share some aspect of the work and how it has impacted their lives. Her teammates Linda and Gus shared their poems for the first time and Rosenda remembers feeling proud to see them share and represent ARC.
Now with college on the horizon, Rosenda does not carry the same fears she had before ARC. “I used to be quite afraid of making mistakes and of large changes, but I am now more open to the idea of growing and learning from each situation.” She plans to enter her college life ready to take chances, seek leadership roles, and confidently make new friends in a new place.
The Wild Bill Integrity Award was presented to Linda Yang on Saturday, September 10th in Yosemite Valley. Linda was a participant in Adventure Risk Challenge’s (ARC) 40-day Summer Immersion Course in Yosemite. She explored Yosemite’s natural beauty with eleven teammates this past summer, surrounded by waterfalls, alpine lakes, and spectacular granite cliffs, while bolstering her academic and leadership skills. Linda was selected for the award by ARC staff for her consistent positive attitude, strong moral character, and a willingness to look out for the needs of others at all times.
The award included a luncheon at the Majestic Yosemite Hotel (formerly the Ahwahnee Hotel) and an award presentation at the base of Yosemite Falls. Candra, Russ, and Debbie Canning generously sponsored the award and ceremony in honor of their father, Bill Canning, or “Wild Bill,” as he was affectionately known. Spouses Matt Glerum and Allie Canning participated in the luncheon and ceremony as well.
With vistas of Yosemite Falls and the Valley’s huge granite rock formations, Linda read a poem she wrote during ARC’s summer entitled “Mother Nature.” Also, a beautifully constructed plaque made of wood and slate was presented to Linda. Her name was engraved on the plaque as the first annual recipient of the Wild Bill Integrity Award.
Candra Canning said, “My family was thrilled to meet Linda and hear how she has been living and leading with integrity during her time in ARC and we know she will continue to be successful in her life.”
Integrity is one of ARC’s four core values (along with determination, service and compassion) and was also an important value of the San Joaquin Valley Young Leader’s Organization (YLO) which was co-founded and co-sponsored by Bill Canning. Wild Bill used to emphasize to his youth participants: “Integrity is between you and yourself. Integrity is what you do when you know no one else will find out.”
When asked what integrity meant to her after the luncheon and ceremony, Linda said that “Integrity is an act of sheer kindness and though there is often no reward, there is self-knowledge that you yourself have done good for others.”
During the luncheon Linda and ARC Executive Director Sarah Ottley expressed gratitude to the Canning Family for the gift that Wild Bill Canning inspired. Sarah said, “ARC is extraordinarily grateful to be able to honor a student like Linda each year, who embodies the values that Wild Bill lived by and imparted to his family, his students, and his community.”
Wild Bill was an entrepreneur with interests in cattle feeding, almond ranching and whitewater rafting. His passions were his family, the high country of the Sierra Nevada, backcountry skiing, whitewater kayaking and developing teenage leaders in the San Joaquin Valley. He attended college at UC at Davis and had his entire career in the San Joaquin Valley.
Bill was passionate about youth and what the outdoors could do for their confidence and success in life. Bill was the father of four children, was married to his wife Barbara for 52 years and passed away on April 1, 2014, leaving a long legacy of outdoor adventure and of giving back to his community.
Candra Canning said, “Our day in Yosemite together as a family, honoring this wonderful student, was the perfect full circle to honoring our dad and keeping his legacy of integrity alive. Congratulations Linda and thank you ARC for introducing her to us.” ARC looks forward to continuing to honor the legacy of Wild Bill Canning for many years to come.
Linda is a senior at Edison High School in Fresno and will be attending college next year.