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
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 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
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
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.
Yesterday on July 2nd our group went on an amazing and incredible rock climbing experience on Donner Summit. We climbed up Kindergarten Rock and School Rock. There were some nerves for some before the climb but everyone who was nervous overcame their fears and climbed on!
By Jesus Nevarez
Now back in base camp after three amazing days of kayaking, rock climbing and repelling Daida Rivas feels like she has grown as a person. She states, “In these three days I gained more self-confidence than ever before. I learn to believe in myself and learn to achieve my goals. While kayaking, I found myself enjoying the company of all my peers. We danced and shared a special moment. Even though the weather wasn’t so great and we kayak for a shorter time than what we were expected to. We still had lots of fun. In the other hand the next day when we had to rock climb. We laugh and cry throughout the day, but that doesn’t mean I didn’t have fun. Anyways repelling down that peak was really scary. I learn to see the world in different ways. Now I feel like any challenges that I may face will became easier to conquer. I’m no longer afraid of opening up. The day before yesterday we had to share something that we wanted to get off our chest. I was scared, my heart was beating faster, my hands were sweating and I felt butterflies in my stomach. I did not know what people would think of me after sharing. However I shared anyways and let me tell you something it feels great.” Wow! It is amazing to hear what rock climbing can teach you in a few days.
Everyone that’s in the group made it. We all succeeded together and reached our goals together not as a group but as a family. It was a new challenge for us for the past 7 days in the wilderness. It was challenging to set up tenets and to do our responsibilities. But we all learned together every step in the way. Mel and Ale, our instructors on the trip, guided us through Desolation Wilderness peacefully and safely. Mel taught us how to write poetry and Ale taught us science. Now we are back at Sagehen with more learning and excitement. And I know we all will be ready to take the next new big challenge to reach our goals.
One thing that we have all learned to appreciate is Water! The reason for this is because during our first expedition we hiked for eight days straight. Sometimes water wouldn’t be available so when we did find water we would all be so excited. Hiking under the sun for long periods of time made us realize that water was essential for survival. Even though this was a difficult expedition due to the overwhelming heat and long hikes plus the water scarcity. We did it because, we believe in each other and feel like adventure lives in all of us.“Those who possess the spirit of adventure know the difference between doing a thing themselves and just watching other people do it” (Anonymous).
During the first expedition, I learned that it’s important to give a hand. For example, I was trying to climb over a huge log; my friend saw me struggling because I had a 100lbs backpack on my back and we had been hiking for hours. So he stretched out his hand towards me and asked, “Do you need help?” I knew he had been struggling too, but he still gave me a hand and helped me climb over the log and overcome the challenge. That moment I learned that teamwork is essential to becoming a family. Not only did I learn a huge lesson about teamwork, but I also learned about myself and what I am capable of. My favorite part of the first expedition was when we hiked to the top of Eagle Peak. Getting to the top was challenging, but when we arrived at the summit, the view was really, really, really beautiful and I felt like I was on top of the world. Like I could accomplish everything I set my mind to. I am strong. I will never again doubt myself.