Adventure Risk Challenge is an English-immersion leadership and literacy program developed by UC Berkeley . They have weekend retreats about every month except in the summer where a 40 day summer course takes place in Lake Tahoe and Yosemite National Park. Students from the central valley apply for this course online or through the mail. There is a weekend orientation with about 20 to 25 teenagers to give them a small taste of what the 40 day summer course is like. During the last day of this orientation, the staff members interview each student about their experience and their commitment. After this orientation the students return home and wait for a response from Sarah, the program director in Yosemite about the 40 day course.
Once selected, the youth pack up their stuff and head to Wawona, CA to being their 40 day summer course. Throughout this summer course, the youth are steered away from any distractions of technology and their comfort zone to learn about their strengths and weaknesses. To most, the program is not just an English learning program but a program that helps teenagers realize and appreciate the little things at home many people take for granted such as toilets, showers or a nice comfy bed. They learn how to improve their leadership skills and teamwork by hiking for an average of 3-5 miles every day sometimes 5 miles with a 20 pound backpack. These characteristic is also built through ropes courses, challenges, rock climbing, rappelling, kayaking, and rafting.
Below is part one of a transformation essay I wrote as a graduated student of ARC:
In a very chilly mental health hospital, she lays there on a cold metal cot secured in a dark, gloomy cell with no windows, no lights. Her thoughts become louder than the story being told by a stranger placed in the same room. “Am I not good enough? Do they not see my love? Why do they hate me? Am I a slut? A whore? Why am I not good enough? Why? Why did they save me from suicide?”
Tears of confusion and anger continued to stream down her face as the silent night becomes disturbed by the head-banging on the wall of a client down the hall. She is rushed and released in the morning because she couldn’t stay there anymore. The next day, her classmates ask her, “Where have you been?” And because she is a diva, lips coated red, eyelids smoky black and white, and false lashes revealing the sweet grey contacts, she fakes a smile to hide her secret, her depression and says “Oh, I’ve been getting sick really easy.” That diva is amazing at hiding her flaws with make-up, clothes, posture, and lies.
That diva vanished into thin air forty days ago and the queen that was trapped beneath these lies for years emerged. The queen that emerged during the past forty days does not have to worry about the way she looks every morning, nor does she hide her true feelings, her darkest secrets. The queen appreciates and accepts her family, her boyfriend, everyone who helped makes her who she is today, and most importantly, herself. She also now approaches the obstacles placed ahead of her on her hike up the highest peaks without hesitation, even if it meant going alone. The queen now embraces and exposes her flaws with confidence. She now believes that those who matter will not mind and those who mind do not matter. She loves her life and suicide will never be an option again.
That queen is I, full of flaws. I wouldn’t be who I am today without Adventure Risk Challenge. Lessons of long hikes, dreaded rock-climbs, terrifying ropes course, and everything we went through together as a family spoke to me, silently whispered in my ears and gently stroked the chords in my heart creating a melody that was truly and only mine.