Say “YES!” to Adventure Risk Challenge

“Am I really going to do this?” Brock Sanders asked himself. “Am I doing the right thing? What am I going to get out of this?” Adventure Risk Challenge (ARC) had offered Brock a spot in their leadership and literacy summer course, but he couldn’t imagine spending 40 days away from home, hiking through the Yosemite wilderness and sleeping under the stars. My mind was set on “NO,” he said.

The quiet of a Yosemite night seemed scary compared to the comforting laughter and screams of his ten brothers, sisters, and cousins. A sophomore in high school, Brock wanted to escape his hometown of Dos Palos, CA, but he also felt at home surrounded by familiar faces and friends. Yosemite, he imagined, had dark nights and was full of menacing creatures.

Brock had been struggling at school, often putting his head down in class and having difficulty completing his homework. He didn’t think he could write and his lack of confidence was clear in the scribbled handwritten essays that he turned in for English class. He described himself academically as “not being good at anything.”

After saying “no” to Yosemite for weeks, Brock finally allowed himself to be convinced by ARC instructors to attend the course. He decided that the fun would outweigh the homesickness and that new summer adventures would be more exciting than his regular summer routine.

In Yosemite, he hiked over seventy miles through the National Park. He saw the Park’s iconic landscapes, swam in alpine lakes, and rafted on the Merced River through Yosemite Valley. In class, he began to see himself as a more responsible student. He said, “Before ARC, I never did my homework. I just threw the work in my binder and never looked at it again, but ARC taught me the importance of responsibility.”

After ARC, Brock had a new-found confidence in his writing and academic ability. He wrote a moving poem entitled “I am Yosemite Creek” about the struggles he had in high school. He described himself as being “surrounded by a whirlpool of equations, formulas, letters, and numbers/they keep circling me, tangling me up and won’t let me go.”

When he returned from Yosemite, the whirlpool had stopped. He would write freely outside of school for fun. His grades began to improve significantly. He joined multiple clubs, including FFA and a leadership group. He joined the swim team. This year he wrote, “I am now excited to attend school…I am ready to take on future challenges!”

On his college application, Brock wrote, “If it was not for the ARC program, I would still be failing my classes, I wouldn’t be in any clubs, and I wouldn’t be on the right path to a successful future. I am so happy for what ARC has done for me.”

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ARC Students Interview Local Community Leaders!

Today we interviewed some very inspirational people.  We met a judge, a president of a corporation, a poet, a park ranger, an entrepreneur, an executive director of a non-profit, and more.  They inspired us to become more involved in our communities, to focus on our passions, and not be distracted by negative influences.  Before the interviews, we did an icebreaker where we asked questions of one another and played a thumb war game (see picture of me with Magistrate Judge Michael Seng).  Today was a fun day of getting to know new people!  – Alondra


Creativity in Action – Spring Skiing and Filmmaking with ARC

Adventure Risk Challenge prides itself on connecting academics to outdoor adventure, and we do it in a variety of ways.  But what we don’t always talk about is the importance of creativity in our overall mission.  Creativity in ARC can mean freely choosing your turns down a snowy mountain slope or thinking about the right imagery to capture your thoughts in a personal essay.  We believe creativity is essential to personal growth and exploration in the outdoors.  This past week, in both Tahoe and Yosemite, creativity was on display!

On March 1st in Yosemite, four ARC students—Dahlia, Brock, Kiauna, and Francisco—were given an ‘Honorable Mention Award: Sharing the Visitor Experience’ by the National Park Service in the Youth in Yosemite Short Video Contest.  The students submitted a video called “Yosemite is Our Home,” which they planned, edited, and directed.  The video interspersing clips of the ARC students describing their experiences in Yosemite with visitors’ descriptions of their feelings about the Park.  At the awards ceremony, the video received more laughs than any other.  It is evident from all the smiles and laughter throughout the movie that the students had a lot of fun throughout the filming process.  Thank you, Dahlia, Brock, Kiauna, and Francisco, for all your creativity and hard work!  To view the video, visit

On March 1st in Tahoe, eight high school students and four adult staff/volunteers headed to Northstar for a day of snowboarding and skiing.  The conditions were great since we had just received a couple feet of “Sierra Soft” in the days before.  Our instructors gave us a guided tour of the mountain, as the participants enjoyed the sunshine and fresh snow.  As we wove our lines through the trees in the afternoon, we realized that athletic pursuits of any kind are essentially a creative act.  You have to choose when to turn, where to go, when to check, and when to just let it rip.  It this sort of free riding that has allowed a new generation of athletes, including our ARC students, to express themselves in a creative ways in the outdoors.


ARC Reunion a Resounding Success (Even Without a lot of Snow)!

Thirty ARC summer course graduates came together last weekend for the 2014 ARC Reunion.  The annual event celebrates the successes of ARC graduates, reinforces the values taught in the summer course, and encourages students to reflect on their academic and personal goals.

Of course, there was also a fun, outdoor adventure planned for the weekend!  Students snowboarded, skied, and ice skated on Saturday at NorthStar Resort in Tahoe.  Despite the less-than-snowy winter we’ve had, everyone was excited for the opportunity to hit the slopes. About three-quarters of the group had either never been snowboarding or skiing before or had only been once.  NorthStar generously provided professional instructors and lift passes for the ARC graduates.  Thank you NorthStar for an amazing Saturday of wintry fun!

During the retreat, the students reflected on how their lives have changed since they participated in the ARC summer course.  Manuel, a participant from the 2013 Yosemite course, shared with the group how his confidence and English speaking skills have improved.  “I used to not know much English.  I couldn’t communicate with anybody and no one could communicate with me.  When I came to this program, I had to use English for 40 days and I improved a lot.  Now, I am more confident in myself and I am not afraid to speak English…or even speak in front of many people!”

The reunion was a successful weekend of reminiscing, seeing old friends, and making new ones.  Thank you to everyone who came!  See you next year!


Teaching the Youth

Today the Pacific Fishers presented their science projects to The Boys & Girls Club from Planada and Merced. We spent a good chunk of the morning and afternoon dedicated to teaching the kids about watersheds. Francisco and Manuel taught “Water Pollution in the San Joaquin River”, Brock and April taught “The Water Cycle”, Sabin and Kiauna taught about “World Water Issues”, Dahlia and Cody taught “Freshwater Footprints”, and Vanessa and Ling taught “Agriculture and Water”.