Under the auspices of UC Berkeley, ARC is an intensive leadership and literacy program for high school youth, bolstering their skills in literacy, leadership, and life. Our strategy integrates rigorous academic instruction (critical thinking, writing, reading, research, and public speaking) with challenging leadership and life-skills training (goal setting, teamwork, resilience, and personal responsibility), resulting in life-changing experiences. ARC links wilderness to academics, adventure to leadership, identity to literacy, and confidence to activism.
To improve literacy and life skills, expose youth to a range of natural environments and wilderness experiences, and inspire the confidence they need to envision and accomplish goals, succeed in high school, and become engaged, empowered citizens.
High school youth in California have a multitude of challenges to overcome on the route to higher education and living wage careers. Many youth have identified literacy or academic gaps, and many lack access to the resources they need for improvement. This could be due to language, transportation, or economic barriers, or cultural, personal, or family limitations. What results is that they lack the self-esteem, confidence, and skills to identify and reach their goals. And unfortunately, although many of these youth live within reach of public lands, they have almost no exposure or access to transformational and skill-building outdoor recreational opportunities and challenges that can help them bridge the gap.
What We Do
ARC integrates rigorous academic instruction with leadership and life-skills training through an innovative curriculum melding English, Environmental Science, Social Justice and Leadership. We integrate the best practices from the field of outdoor education and our curriculum is linked to California State Standards.
We teach to the whole person, offering specialized attention to each participant, and work in intentionally small cohorts, resulting in significant personal transformation. ARC is:
• Youth centered (engaging our participants’ diverse talents, skills, and interest, building on their strengths and involving them in planning and decision-making),
• Knowledge centered (building a range of life-skills), and
• Care-centered (providing family-like environments where youth feel safe and build trusting relationships).
Summer Literacy & Leadership Course
Our summer program is tailored for the needs of today’s youth, consisting of outdoor expeditions interspersed with intensive English academics at the UC Berkeley Sagehen Creek Field Station and the UC Merced Yosemite Field Station.
ARC’s unique integration of academics and outdoor education includes an English Language Arts curriculum aligned with California State Standards and the California State University Expository Reading and Writing Curriculum. We focus on reading, building vocabulary, improving grammar, writing projects, critical thinking, and public speaking. The Environmental Science curriculum is organized around place-based education standards, introducing students to the natural world around them and to environmental conservation concepts. Through dynamic programming, students learn about their role in stewardship and conservation, raise their overall academic success, develop positive social and cooperative skills, and prepare for civic engagement.
In this program, youth participate in:
• A daily English curriculum, incorporating journaling, grammar lessons, group reading, and vocabulary building,
• Community interviews and cross-age teaching experiences,
• The writing of a metaphorical poem, a narrative biography, and a transformational essay,
• A public speaking event of self-reflective essays and poetry,
• Three backpacking expeditions, including a final youth-led expedition and a solo overnight wilderness experience,
• Kayaking, whitewater rafting, rock climbing, and ropes course activities, and
• Daily leadership activities integrating our social justice curriculum with our four core values of service, integrity, compassion and determination.
Academic Year Program
Our academic year program is targeted to all high school youth in need of leadership and academic skills. We provide a variety of activities that support healthy lifestyles, leadership development, and academic success during the school year:
• After school tutoring and writing workshops based on the California State University Expository Reading & Writing Curriculum
• College preparation, including college tours, SAT prep, and assistance with college applications and financial aid,
• Weekend wilderness retreats integrating challenging outdoor activities with leadership lessons and writing workshops,
• Community service projects and service of the land projects.
We partner with high school administrators, teachers, and counselors, as well as our non-profit partners, to increase our impact. This allows us to reach more youth and their families and expands our ability to make change on a community level.
How Are We Making a Difference?
ARC has a proven capacity to provide structured and effective academic and youth development programming. As we investigate the ways in which we make a difference in students’ lives, we see both immediate and long-term success for our summer immersion participants:
• 95% passing rate of the Language Arts section of the California High School Exit Exam (CAHSEE), as compared to passing rates across the state at 42% for English Language Learner students and 72% for socio-economically disadvantaged students.
• 79% college enrollment rate of high school graduates as compared to 36% nationwide for Latinos and 46% for Anglos.
• A 4 point average increase on the Search Institute’s Developmental Assets Profile, indicating new skills acquisitions, improved self-identity, and establishment of a strong support system through meaningful relationships. All ARC participants have higher levels of community engagement and exposure to outdoor and leadership opportunities, which are protective factors for continuing education and avoiding high risk behaviors such as drug and alcohol use, as well as teen pregnancy. Each year, ARC participants complete hundreds of hours of community service. We also see increased participation in outdoor recreation, sports, and leadership roles in student clubs.
The voices of our students are the strongest statement as to the impact of the program:
• “Being in the wilderness has calmed me down and taught me not to take everything for granted. I want to protect the parks and make sure everything isn’t urbanized. We need to work with nature instead of against it.”
• “ARC has taught me to take challenges and do well in school. It allowed me to create a goal to graduate and attend a 4-year university. It opened my eyes and I realized that education is the key to success.”
• “You don’t realize how this program has changed my life and the way I view things.”
To learn more about the ARC program, including volunteer opportunities and program underwriting, please contact our Director, Jennifer Gurecki, at 530.416.5682 or e-mail email@example.com. Together, we can make a difference in the lives of local youth.