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.
“I am eighty-seven feet in the air, with nothing more to support me other than a rope, blind trust in someone that I’ve only known for two weeks, and a harness that squeezes just a little too tight to protect me from certain death. The rock that I am scaling has no surface that I can firmly grab, so I look for any type of indent on the rock to put my fingers through and hoist my entire body. I look down for just a moment to see where my feet can get a grip, bingo! I find a small crevice just barely big enough for my big foot to fit in. I use it to my advantage and fall down. My entire life flashes before my eyes, the feeling of falling is something that makes me gasp for air even as I sit in my chair as I type. My only saving grace was being tugged by the rope as my friend yelled out “Don’t die otherwise you give Mandy more paperwork, remember that you signed up for this!” he said, as I dangled from an eighty foot cliff.
That day made me realize that I am no longer afraid of heights and to always look for proper footing when scaling a cliff. Overcoming the fear of heights was an experience that I will never forget through the ARC program, and thanks to them I have become more confident when facing any fear that I have in life. I’ve learned that to face any fear you need to trust yourself and anyone else that is going to help you face these fears. It is what brings everyone closer together, a common goal to help a friend become more comfortable with themselves and to forge a bond that will last forever. Through these expeditions I have realized that as long as I try hard enough I will be able to overcome a fear or two. ”
“Family is where life begins, and love never ends.”
The first thing that comes to mind when I think of a family are the eleven individuals that I’ve got the privilege to know over these past eighteen days here in ARC. Together we have cried, share some laughs and overcame many hardships. Together we’ve hiked a total of 36 miles during our first expedition, where we struggled to not fall down the steep rocky trails and casually strolled down the gentle and flat trails. We’ve hiked up to Eagle Peak, Yosemite Falls, Mount Watkins, and even witnessed the beautiful Half Dome up close and personal. Many times throughout the expedition, I found myself at the back of the pack because I was always the slowest one. At times like this, these eleven individuals would encourage me and push me to reach my full potential. Moreover, when I doubt myself, they would constantly prove to me that I am worthy. Today I was given the honor to read my poem at the Open house for youth groups. As I stood on the podium and looked at my peers, I saw bright new souls. Each pair of eyes told a different story and held a piece of an unforgettable memory that latched on to their hearts. As my voice echoed off the walls of the ancient barn, I realize they too saw in my eyes an unforgettable memory that had latched onto my heart. The memory of loving and caring for each other and holding that as a prized possession in my heart. I guess when you spend an incredibly crazy amount of time with eleven strangers you learn to accept and adapt. Through the core values that ARC had instilled in us such as Compassion,Integrity,Determination, I’ve learned to accept and love these individuals for who they are and to always be brave. With Gustavo, Eriel, Jesus, Lilly, Prisila, Sandesh, Jose, Wei Ping, Gerzayr, Vanna and Rosenda who are now my family, I’ve learned to adapt to situations and constantly feel surrounded with love, bravery, compassion, integrity and determination.
“The ARC group from Yosemite held and still holds that power of unity to keep each other safe no matter the circumstances. For instance, during our first expedition on day two, we were all having difficulty finding the correct trail to get on the steep rocky mountain. For many of us, we believed that we would fall at any moment since it was difficult to climb. I remember tripping so much to the point where it made me question if I was going to make it out of the back country alive. However, through that difficult situation, we were all able to feel safe because through every single step of the way to our destination, our eyes roamed to the person in front of us and the person behind us, making sure that they were still there and safe. For a group of students that had barely met and had not learned to fully trust each other, we made it out safe because trust was the only thing we had to rely on in order to survive. Each hand that was offered to me and each concern look that everyone received made us feel included and feel as if we were truly growing into a family full of trust and security. This hike was the beginning of us trusting each other with our lives because ever since then we have continued to grow stronger and more united.”
– Rosenda Sanchez
“As I was walking up to the cliff, I thought that it was going to be a piece of cake. However, as I came closer to the cliff, I began to second guess myself because I did not realized how big it was. “You really want me to climb this thing?” I said out loud. No response. “Great!” I sarcastically muttered. After being taught the basics of climbing and repelling, we were left in charge with the lives of one another. Being back-up belayer for two other people had given me enough time to think and reconsider my capabilities.
Before I knew it, my turn had arrived and I was unprepared. I began to climb with full on confidence, but as I got closer and higher, that confidence dissipated. Doubt and fear took control of my mind and my body pressed against the cliff’s surface. I was stranded high above the ground, half way up the cliff, slowly losing my hold. My feet hurt and arms were tired, hands were sweating, tears were flowing. No matter how hard I tried and wanted to climb further, my body wouldn’t budge and I was brought down to safety by an instructor.
When I reached the ground again, I ran off frustrated and disappointed in myself. I kept my distance from the others because I felt ashamed for being the only one who didn’t climb to the top of the cliff. I began being anti-social with everyone and rarely spoke because my thoughts kept me occupied. As the day comes to an end and people were wrapping up their last cliff climbing, I realized that I didn’t want to be the only person who was not able climb the cliff. I got up and put on the rock climbing gear once more and began to climb the cliff again. I kept climbing and climbing and within moments I reached the top and repelled back down to safety. “
– Jose Aguilar
“During our first expedition, we hiked quite a lot of mountains that I have never heard of before. It was such a challenge for me because I have never physically challenged myself that badly. As I kept pushing my legs to climb up the steep hill up to Eagle peak with a fifty pound pack on my back, I thought to myself “Oh man, do people back at home not realize how difficult this is?” When I reached the top of Eagle peak, took off my pack and looked down to Yosemite Valley, I realized that the philosopher Robert Frost was correct about something; life goes on. By that, what I mean is, when I reached the top of the mountain and unbuckled the pack off my back, it felt like I unbuckled all the stress and burdens off of me. This summer course allowed me to gain a new perspective in life which allowed me to open up to things I have never tried to before.
For starters, it usually takes years for people to connect with another personally because there are certain levels of trusts that need to be earned. However, Adventure Risk Challenge has totally changed my mindset of that. These past ten days in Adventure Risk Challenge has given me an opportunity to create beautiful close relationships with people from all kinds of backgrounds in just a short amount of days through vulnerability. Honestly, never in my life would I have ever thought that twelve strangers can create such a close knit bond with one another in just a short amount of days in the wilderness. Adventure Risk Challenge has taught me so much about life, vulnerability and myself in just a few short amount of days out here in the wilderness. I can not wait until graduation comes when I get to share all these great moments with my family. ”
After being in the back country for eight days, Gustavo was able to sit back and reflect on his experience in base camp. Here’s what he had to say:
“First experiences are often jarring and make us feel like we are not able to do something that is in front of us, however that is not the case with the ARC program. When I first started the ARC program and was picked up for the first orientation, my first thought was “Can I actually do this?” My first taste of the ARC program was getting to hike up to Fresno Dome in full backpacking gear all the while being a complete novice to the intricacies of backpacking. My legs were on fire, muscles I didn’t even know I had were sore the day after orientation was over. That was only three days. As I lay on my bed I started to wonder if I could actually survive forty days and thirty-nine nights. I’m on my ninth night now and I can say with complete confidence that I think I can do this. The physical part of this program is something that I am not used to, I went from couch potato to hiking sixteen hundred feet in steep mountains and being swarmed by an endless amount of mosquitoes that seemed to almost regenerate after each swat.
That may seem like it would shoo a lot of people away and it should, it is not for the faint of heart or people with faint calves. What this program does offer is something that I don’t think many other programs can offer, a sense of community and a feeling that you belong here because you have a place to call home, even if it does change with the daily hikes that are not in base camp. I can honestly say that I don’t feel homesick in the slightest because I feel like this is my home and I belong here. Even now I am being lulled into a deep unconsciousness by a friend of mine that is currently playing a piano that we found at base camp. What I left back in my home was quickly replaced by these twelve strangers that I feel are now an extended part of my family. We’ve been through so much these past couple of days and we’re only 1/5th of the way done. We laughed, we suffered, we cried, but overall we experienced something that brings everyone together; happiness. It is the fact that we are strangers that makes us all want to be as close as possible, we rely on each other for many things and one of the biggest is emotional support.
One of the biggest breakthroughs that happened during our trip was when we picked up two rocks, one heavy, and one light, we were then told to hold the heavy rock over our head and read something that we feel is a big burden in our lives. It was an experience that I will treasure forever because it made me realize how insignificant my problems were in the grand scheme of things, but I still couldn’t let go of my rock because I felt that I had an obligation to do so. I held on like my life depended on it and my arm was shaking to the point where I thought that I was going to give out before I give up. Then I heard Michael say “It’s okay to let go, it doesn’t mean that you quit, it means that you are strong enough to move on from what is troubling you.” Hearing that made me have an epiphany, six thousand feet in elevation and here I am having a full-blown crisis about a rock that signified my problems and emotional weight. It took a lot in me but I was finally able to let go while we all said what troubled us in sync. That was when I realized that through the help of ARC, the personal questions, and my new family that I was able to find the courage in myself to let go. It was a weird feeling, mostly because my arm fell asleep but at the same time I felt so alive. It was as if, quite literally, a huge weight was taken off of me.
Overall the ARC program is a place for learning about English, environmental science, leadership, but most importantly, yourself. It is in the very nature of this program to explore yourself and find what makes you, well you, in the wilderness we all take off the mask that we put on for others and replace it with dirt from a hard day’s climb. It is both liberating and exhausting to see who you truly are in nature. Seeing your reflection in a dirty puddle or shiny spoon is like seeing a completely different person, because we finally took down the facade and can now see ourselves the way our inside truly is. To some that may be disturbing, but to me it is beautiful. I can’t wait to see what else this program has to offer.”
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