Day 25 of the course was our Solo day. Solo is where participants spend 24 hours alone with their thoughts and for us it was near Tuolumne Peak. We had a beautiful view of Yosemite’s mountains, with sunrises and sunsets perfect for your PC background. Solo itself was a very enlightening and reflective experience which was apparent when we reunited. Meeting back together we realized how fun it is to talk and be together as a team. An example of this shined brightly when we created our new group norms POHTE which stands for Patience, Optimism, Honesty, Teamwork, and Empathy. These are the things our team decided would help everyone be their best self within the group.
– Chris Rodriguez
On day five of our first expedition, we spent the day at the camp we had set up the night before. We had a Science lesson where we learned about trees and soil from our surroundings and an English lesson where we discussed our goals and challenges. At the end of the English class we threw large rocks in to the river nearby which represented our challenges that we wanted to let go. It was an emotional moment for all of us because metaphorically we all held on to our problems but wanted to throw them out.
The first expedition in one word? Tiring. By Day Six of our hike on the Ostrander Lake Trail, all ten of us ARC participants and four instructors were exhausted, both mentally and physically. At this point, we had gone through steep incline and declines, a thunder storm, and a very emotional English class. We were all at our wit’s end. But while we were on our way hiking to Chilnualna Falls, we came across a clearing at the crest of our hike. We were breath-taken by the endless view of enormous trees and the gorgeous sunset. This felt like our reward for a hard day of hiking, or as our instructor Michael would say, “Simpsons and ice cream!” The time for our break had come, and we decided to spend ours there. It was a great evening, where we played group-bonding games, played baseball with pine cones and a stick, and simply sat admiring our surroundings. This was the first time that our group as a whole felt truly accomplished.
Jesus Dominguez-Gomez first read about Adventure Risk Challenge (ARC) in his local newspaper, the Merced Sun Star. Excited and curious about spending his summer in Yosemite, he began to ask teachers and counselors about ARC. Within a couple days of learning about the program and receiving encouragement from his teachers, he submitted his application . Much of this exemplifies who Jesus is. He is strong-willed, determined, and self-motivated.
These traits were on display during the ARC 40-day summer course as Jesus hiked 60-plus miles, performed personal poetry, and climbed peaks. In Yosemite, Jesus realized that his strong-willed, independent nature, while helping him endure challenging hikes, also sometimes prevented him from trusting others. He admits, “I would refuse to receive any help that was offered to me. It felt shameful to ask for help. It made me feel like I was not capable. Mentally, I was afraid to depend on and trust strangers.” Because of this, Jesus had difficulty working efficiently with his peers and even more difficulty discussing why.
Recalling his ARC experience, Jesus remarks, “Joining ARC became an opportunity to learn to appreciate help. I was inspired to confront the challenge, work in a team during ARC expeditions, and gain confidence in accepting help.” rock climbing expedition was when Jesus realized he was ready to change. It can be a daunting experience for most first time rock climbers – trusting your safety to people below who are belaying. Most everyone feels like they will fall, so it truly is an act of complete faith to know you will come down safely after traveling fifty feet up a rock face. “My experiences with ARC taught me to acknowledge that, although I’m capable of being independent, I was not a ‘solitary island’. I needed to learn to ask for help and appreciate it. Struggling in hard times alone would only make my situation worse.”
After rock climbing, Jesus was able to more positively accept critiques from his peers. He was also able to better communicate how he was feeling. This proved to be immensely helpful for Jesus once he returned home from the summer course. When Jesus was faced with the task of applying for colleges this fall, instead of insisting he do it all on his own, he reached out to his ARC mentor and high school counselors.
Reflecting on his experiences, Jesus says, “When I know I really need help now, I don’t hesitate to ask. ARC played a major role in shifting my ideas. I [now] have better relationships with my friends. I’ve also been able to open up emotionally to my mentor, something that I haven’t really done before. Before I would be very isolated.” Jesus will graduate this year from Golden Valley High School. He looks forward to attending college and living independently, but not isolated from others. He plans to study law and politics and will be interning in Congressman Jim Costa’s office this summer.
Lilly Sanchez was first introduced to Adventure Risk Challenge (ARC) in the spring of 2016 when she attended two ARC weekend retreats: camping in Yosemite Valley and hiking in Big Sur. On these trips, she crafted personal, reflective poetry, visited waterfalls, hiked through Redwood forests, and more. Lilly realized that she enjoyed being in the outdoors and making friends from other schools, so she decided to apply for ARC’s 40-day summer course in Yosemite. The course combines academic instruction with outdoor adventure and, for the first time in 2016, Sanger High School students were invited to apply.
For Lilly, she feared that her academic struggles might force her to go to summer school and miss the opportunity to spend the summer in Yosemite. There were two classes that Lilly had fallen behind on. , but she was determined to not let her grades prevent her from living and exploring Yosemite. She took the initiative to make up the work, get help during lunch, and study after school. She wasn’t sure if or how she might change during the summer, but it was already apparent that Lilly began her transformation well before the course. Lilly remarks, “In the past, I had many experiences where I actually did try, but never made it. So I eventually quit and didn’t want to try anymore; I got tired of failing at things in life that mattered to me.” This, we learned, would no longer be the case – Lilly would learn the depth of her determination.
Upon arrival for the summer program, Lilly faced her first big challenge: the first backcountry expedition, which spans eight days. She recalls, “[We] had to keep [hiking] even though I really wanted to stop… I told myself I couldn’t do it…” On the hike, Lilly learned camping and backpacking skills, including how to use a compass and how to read a topographical map, how to cook in the backcountry, how to set up a tent, and much more. Lilly celebrated her birthday during this first expedition and her new teammates’ support and compassion for her helped her persevere through the difficult hikes.
The turning point for Lilly was when she completed her metaphorical poem during the second week of the summer course. Once the final edits were made, Lilly was asked to read over her work. Next to ARC’s Summer English Instructor, Michael Dominquez, she slowly and quietly mouthed the words, tearing up as she reached the end. “Before ARC when I had a difficult task in my way I wouldn’t try my absolute best just because I thought I couldn’t… I told myself I couldn’t do it but really I could, I was just too afraid to admit it because the thought of actually trying then failing scared me.”
After seeing what she could accomplish while hiking and in the classroom, Lilly tackled each challenge with more and more confidence. She overcame her fear of heights during rock climbing, she became more comfortable with being open and vulnerable with her cohort, she successfully completed two essays, and she became a leader among her peers.
Currently, Lilly is a junior at Sanger High and she has plans to join the Navy after she graduates. She says that, on the ARC summer course, she learned that “I am greater and better than what I thought myself to be.”
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.
Fear is a part of our human nature and our actions can many times be halted by that fear. That was something that I believed was going to happen when we all went rock climbing during our second expedition. It was the Fourth of July and we were all stoked to have the opportunity to rock climb. I was thrilled, until we got to our destination and I saw the ropes hanging off the side of the mountain. I was going to be hanging off the edge of that mountain and that is one of my biggest fears. It showed the possibility of something that was meant to go wrong. One part of me was not ready and wanted to go last, while another part of me wanted to get it over with. So I went second in my group. I put on my equipment, gave the proper demands to my belayer, my hands reached out and I climbed on. It was the scariest experience I had during the entire trip. All I remember was the encouraging words from my co-students and avoiding looking down or up because I did not believe I would make it to the top, but I did. When I reached the top and looked out, I felt true pride for what I had accomplished despite my fear of falling. It was a beautiful sight and feeling that one single experience had created.
My experience so far in ARC has been awesome. ARC has taught me to appreciate the people I have around and to trust in them. The significant moment that impacted me most, was when I participated in the ropes course activity at Calvin Crest. At the beginning of the course, I felt unsure of doing it because I was afraid I would fall and injure myself . But throughout the day, I gained confidence, bravery and most importantly enjoyed the rope climbing activity. During our debrief, we learned that the purpose of the ropes course was to teach us about our commitments to everything we have in life. My main goal in life is to succeed in my academia and pursue higher education by going to college no matter how hard the obstacles will be.The ropes course challenge marked determination in my heart and encouraged me to always have something to fight for.
-Jesus Dominguez Gomez
Today is the 22nd day out of the 40 day summer course. The days seem to go by faster everyday. We are about to start our third expedition, which allows us to be more independent on the trip while the instructors stay behind us, only answering questions. Moreover, this expedition also includes a 24 hour solo, where we are placed in a pre-selected spot in the wilderness. Other than that, as I sit here observing every single person in the multipurpose room, I realized something. I realized that we have all come so close in the last 22 days and whether my co-students realize this or not, we all have bonded incredibly well to the point where I know that it will be difficult for us to leave each other. The countdown to day 40 is not long from now, so for the mean time, we will have to keep making plans to get together after graduation.