Our First Basecamp

We are staying at the Sagehen Creek Field Station right now and are getting ready for our next expedition.  We will be kayaking next week on Lake Tahoe.  Yesterday we had the wonderful opportunity to go white water rafting on the South Fork of the American River. It was a hot and sunny 118 degrees (according to our car) and the water was icy from the snow melt. We sailed through rapids and paddled our way through beautiful scenery and sat down to an excellent lunch with our rafting group before progressing to the last leg of our journey. We ended our trip with some cold sodas, hot pizzas, and as always, lots of laughter and reminiscing of the days events. We all had an amazing time despite our exhaustion towards the end of the day!


2017 ARC Tahoe Trip-First Expedition

Hello my name is Gisselle and I’m a student for this year’s 2017 ARC Tahoe trip! So we just finished our very first expedition and it was incredible! The experience was great. I’ve never done something like this before so it was scary at first. It took a while to get used to being away from my family and be around with people I have never met. Soon enough we all got along and have formed an amazing bond with one another. The first expedition consisted of learning to trust one another and become leaders for the rest of the group. We all had to try super hard to get along if we wanted it work! We were hiking through the mountains and forest of Tahoe during our first expedition. We were all tired, but pushed through it all. It was something that I will never forget! I feel like more teens should be interested in doing something like this!Expedition one


Northstar Offers Free Snowboard Day for ARC Students

On the weekend of March 17th, fourteen Adventure Risk Challenge (ARC) students from the Central Valley and the Tahoe region had the opportunity to stay at Hutchinson Lodge at Clair Tappaan and snowboard at Northstar California Resort. For many of the high school students, this ARC trip at Northstar was their first experience snowboarding, and for a few, it was their first time seeing snow. Northstar provided snowboards, lessons and passes for the whole group, facilitating a meaningful day on the slopes. By the end of the day, the students were riding the chairlift up the mountain and confidently snowboarding down.

The students shared leadership responsibilities throughout the weekend, taking turns cooking meals and washing dishes. In addition to the snowboarding, the students participated in a journaling activity and a creative writing workshop, and they wrote a personal story and shared it with the group.

Jose Ponce, a junior at Truckee High School, served as a peer leader for the weekend. He is a graduate of the 2016 ARC Tahoe Summer Course. Jose demonstrated the leadership skills he gained from the summer: teaching about ARC traditions; facilitating a reflective journaling activity; and motivating his peers throughout the weekend to fulfill their own leadership roles.

As part of the Tahoe ARC Summer Course, the students each work on a transformational essay expressing their growth and self-discovery. In his transformational essay, Jose talked about the challenges he has faced as an English learner and his journey to overcome them. He stated, “I worked hard on my English skills so I could communicate with others. I worked on practicing presentations, speaking in front of the class… I spent many years improving my speech and I never gave up.”

Jose is motivated to improve his English and expand his comfort zone by speaking in front of groups and using his voice confidently. He continues to grow and give back to ARC through his drive, dedication and leadership.

Thanks to Northstar, fourteen more ARC students like Jose will be back in Tahoe later this month for another weekend of snowboarding, writing and leadership.


Connections Can Last Forever: 2009 ARC Graduate, Maria Valdez

Maria Valdez, known also as Imelda, first heard about Adventure Risk Challenge from a friend back in 2009 when she was a sophomore at Truckee High School. Unsure at first, she applied for the summer course completely unaware of what her experience with ARC would bring. She was excited to be out of her comfort zone, to be removed from technology, and to visit beautiful natural places, but she didn’t know what it would be like to be away from home for 40 days at the University of California’s Sagehen Creek Field Station.

Eight years later, despite the physical and mental challenges of the 40-day course, Imelda has very fond memories of her ARC summer. She still remembers the views she cherished from the top of her rock climb; she remembers her 24-hour solo and the feeling of being alone with her thoughts for an entire day. During the solo, students stay within a small area in the wilderness by themselves (they are checked up on by ARC staff). Imelda described it as a unique experience for a teenager: “It was very unfamiliar, but it was one of the best parts. From [the solo], I was able to know myself better. In your challenges, sometimes you’re going to be alone, but you can overcome them.”

During her time with ARC, Imelda made deep connections with more than just her fellow students. Years later, ARC continues to impact Imelda’s life through her friendships with ARC teammates, volunteers and staff. About half of the people she met that summer are still in her life in some capacity from coworkers to personal friends. Imelda still maintains a close friendship and mentoring relationship with several community members from that summer as well, including Susi Lippuner and Paul Bancroft, who have helped guide her through her academic and professional successes.

Imelda is a source of inspiration to future and current ARC students. The oldest child of a single mother, she helped take care of her younger siblings and worked multiple jobs throughout high school. After her summer with ARC, she continued to devote many hours to community service, and during her senior year of high school she received several scholarships for college, including one from the Tahoe Truckee Community Foundation for her dedication to the community. In 2011, she accepted an offer to attend CSU Chico.

Throughout college Imelda continued to dedicate her time to bettering her community. As a member of Community Action Volunteers in Education (CAVE) she volunteered in the school system, did park cleanup and offered services to the homeless community of Chico. Imelda worked as a Community Service Officer and was promoted to a Field Training Officer for the University Police Department. From there she was selected to work with Chico Safe Place where she did outreach, awareness, education, intervention and research on crimes of sexual assault, domestic violence, stalking and harassment for the Chico State community. Additionally, she was the designer for the Multicultural Echoes Magazine, a literary magazine on campus, and even spent a summer studying abroad in Spain.

In addition to all of her extracurricular activities, Imelda was recognized for her high academic achievements in college. She was a part of several national honor societies and each year she was granted new scholarships, including a national scholarship for her accomplishments and hard work. She was on the Dean’s List for all of her 10 semesters, consistently achieved a 4.0 GPA and completed over 200 hours of community service. In 2016, Imelda graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in Criminal Justice from CSU Chico. Upon graduation, she was awarded the Educational Opportunity Program (EOP) Achievement Award for achieving academic excellence in her program while contributing exemplary service to the community.

Imelda currently lives in Truckee and works full-time as a Bilingual Advocate at Tahoe Safe Alliance; she now works alongside the advocates who brought her hope many years ago and helped her along her journey to college. She also works as a fill-in Security Guard at Martis Camp where she is the only woman among the security team. Imelda continues to strive for her lifelong dream of being an FBI agent, a goal she’s had since the 6th grade. As a woman of color, she is defying others’ expectations and stereotypes as she gracefully and confidently moves toward a career in law enforcement. Her strength shows through in her dedication, “I continue to face my biggest obstacle, but I have hope. I am working hard and doing my best to get there.”

Through her actions and her words, Imelda is an example and an inspiration. To any future ARC students reading this, Imelda wishes to share these words:

It was a struggle, the 40 days, but I would do it again. Even though it’s not going to be easy – it’s going to be difficult in one way or another – you get to see things you probably won’t see again, and those connections that you make can lead you to success.


A Warm Hello – Kelsey Porter

Hello ARC and Aim High Community!

I am the new Tahoe Outreach and Student Support Coordinator for both ARC and Aim High. I was born and raised in Truckee and graduated from Truckee High School. After high school, I attended U.C. Berkeley and attained degrees in Social Welfare and Spanish. During college I also studied abroad in Santiago, Chile where I studied Spanish Literature and Gender and Women’s Studies. Throughout the past four years, I have had the opportunity to work as a guide and instructor on multi-day rafting and backpacking trips for both OARS and GirlVentures. I am so excited to be back in the Tahoe community and working for ARC and Aim High. I cannot wait to make connections with everyone in the ARC and Aim High family and I’m looking forward to helping increase access to college and outdoor experiences for our youth.

-Kelsey Porter


Querida comunidad de ARC y Aim High,

Soy la nueva coordinadora de apoyo estudiantil por ARC y Aim High en la región de Tahoe. Nací en Truckee y me gradué de Truckee High School. Después de la escuela secundaria, asistí la Universidad de California, Berkeley donde estudié trabajo social y español. Mientras estuve en la universidad, hice un intercambio en Santiago, Chile donde estudié la literatura española y estudios de género. Durante cuatro años tuve la oportunidad de trabajar como guía y instructora de rafting y trekking por las compañías de OARS y GirlVenures. Estoy muy emocionada para integrarme en la comunidad de Tahoe de nuevo. Espero hacer conexiones con toda la familia de ARC y Aim High y estoy emocionada para aumentar el acceso a la universidad y las experiencias en la naturaleza para nuestros estudiantes.

-Kelsey Porter


Andrea Briceno, The Monarch Butterfly

Andrea Briceno

Andrea Briceno was a quiet and often unenthusiastic student. Now beginning her sophomore year in high school as a recent participant of Adventure Risk Challenge’s (ARC) summer course, Andrea says there are so many positive changes for her this school year.

Before ARC, Andrea had trouble focusing on her studies and was reluctant to try new experiences – academic, social, and otherwise. She was a self-proclaimed video-gamer spending much of her time with a control in her hand.

Andrea had a great deal of ambivalence about joining the summer course. Leaving her twin sister at home while seeking an experience that would help her “find my true self” took a great deal of courage. Going from her tight bond, no-secrets relationship with her twin, learning to trust others was a stretch for her.

During the beginning few days of ARC’s summer course, Andrea would occasionally refrain from participating in group activities, often with an air of indifference. But taking the words of Eleanor Roosevelt to heart, “You must do the thing you think you cannot do,” Andrea has since blossomed into a courageous individual and is more willing than before to be an open, honest person more accepting of emotional vulnerability. This served as a catalyst for her focus in class, her willingness to be more sociable, and her assuredness in exploring new things.

The most pivotal moment for Andrea was half way through the course where participants had time alone in nature to reflect on their lives – dubbed the ‘solo’. “If I could go back and do one thing from ARC it would have to be the solo. I learned a lot about myself and things were turned around for me after that.”

Now, Andrea finds herself more active and social. She proudly speaks of joining the high school’s track team and her newfound enthusiasm for English class. When asked what about her has changed Andrea noted, “I used to be a bit awkward and always down on myself but now that I know I can work hard to change things in my life things have gotten so much better.”

With the new school year underway, Andrea is excited for all the possibilities her life holds. In her personal poem, Andrea describes her metamorphosis through the apt metaphor of a Monarch butterfly.


Please continue reading Andrea’s poem The Monarch Butterfly. Read More


Jesus Alejandre, Intern Extraordinaire


As a high school freshman, Jesus Alejandre was a shy student who didn’t look his teachers in the eye. When asked to speak in front of a classroom, he lowered his gaze to the floor and spoke quietly. “I didn’t like speaking in front of people because I was worried about how I sounded as an English language learner,” he said.

You would not recognize Jesus today. This summer, as the Adventure Risk Challenge (ARC) intern in Yosemite National Park, he confidently taught lessons about wilderness skills and leadership. Jesus helped guide students through 40 days of outdoor expeditions and personal reflective writing. Fulfilling ARC’s mission, he worked with the staff to empower underserved youth through integrated literacy and wilderness experiences.

Jesus offered a unique perspective, having walked in the shoes of those he was teaching. As a 2012 graduate of the 40-day summer immersion, Jesus experienced the physical challenge, the personal growth, the transformation. The creative writing he crafted during the course gave him a sense of pride and liberation.

“I was stuck with my story of how I immigrated here,” he said, “I was the only one that knew my story and all my life I’d never shared it. The poetry gave me the opportunity to liberate myself from that burden. I wasn’t afraid to say who I was and where I came from. It made me tremendously proud.”

Many of the ARC participants, both in Truckee and Yosemite, experienced similar insights while writing their poetry this summer. Students revealed stories of loss, struggles with confidence, conflicts with parents, challenges in school, and more.

Jesus felt proud watching the students perform their poetry, as they opened doors into their lives. “It’s really tough to say some of these things out loud and it takes a lot of courage. It was a heartwarming feeling for me to see this summer’s students experience what I did,” Jesus said in a déjà vu moment. “I was able to tell the students about my stories and relate to them a little bit better. I was able to look back and reflect—and see how far I have come since I was an ARC student.”

As a first-time instructor, Jesus experienced the hours and effort, the thought and dedication that the ARC staff pours into each of the participants. He developed confidence and won the respect of the staff and participants. By the end of the course he had a strong voice on the staff team.

Jesus says, “What ARC does for youth is give you life.” Before Jesus started ARC, as an immigrant, he didn’t have voice or choice; since ARC, he has realized that he can fulfill his dreams and hopes. Being an outdoor educator is an important goal in his life now.


Interview Day

Interview Day at ARC was a fun and exciting experience! Our group had an amazing opportunity to meet and get to know adults in the community. We were also able to form valuable connections, which will benefit us in the future. Each of us were assigned to interview and get to know a volunteer matched specially to us because of common interests, and hopes that they would be able to inspire and guide us in the coming years of our lives. Though we were only given an hour to conduct our interviews, it was plenty of time to ask deep, emotional questions, and form a bond with the person we were interviewing. Personally, I loved meeting the person I interviewed, and I know many others in our group did as well. I look forward to seeing many of the kind volunteers at Voices of Youth, our poetry reading.

Written by Cassiopeia Dalsey



Final Expedition

It is the day after our second and last expedition at Granite Chief. We all tried to make the best out of last expedition of our 24-day program even though the weather wasn’t in our favor. A highlight for these past six days was our solo day because we got to know our fears and ourselves better. Even though we only spent 22 hours alone because of the weather, it was more than enough to reflect and think. The last two days were exhausting and very wet. We had to go through rain and hail and in consequence our toes were swimming in our shoes. Since we couldn’t complete the whole hike on the second-to-last day of the expedition we had to hike nine miles the day after but we killed it and managed to make it through.

By Mariana Mosqueda



Everything is for the Best

The past 10 days at ARC have been relatively mind blowing. We have found ourselves in one way or another; some of us absolutely love what we have found, others not so much. “I have found that I can trust more people,” said Pedro. I absolutely love how everyone is so willing to help one another through any situation. I feel that everyone in ARC has a great amount of resiliency because we all strive to complete what we begin, and we never give up. We have grown so much as a strong community together. As a community we built a system that we all agreed on and respect so that we can make this an experience of a lifetime.