My Flaws Are My Beauty — My Summer Experience at ARC pt. II

November 6, 2012 /

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 two of a transformation essay I wrote as a graduated student of ARC:

Our first expedition with ARC lasted seven days, the longest I have ever gone without make-up and dressing up. I began my first day at base camp staring at myself in the mirror. My face was dotted with specks of sand instead of the Sandy Beige foundation probably sitting in my bathroom cabinet at home. My lips were dried trenches stained with blood instead of the dazzling red Wet ‘N Wild lipstick that caught the attention of high school boys back at home. My hair wasn’t silky, but oily like a mop that was smothered with cooking oil. I no longer had two eyebrows but one, a uni-brow. As long as I can remember, I have never felt so hideous. I was disgusted throughout the first two weeks of the course until the girls here complimented me on my smile, my natural beauty. I didn’t believe them at all. I couldn’t bring myself to fully believe them.

Then one night Michelle reached out to me. She expressed that she sensed low self-esteem in me. It wasn’t a problem that I had realized before. I told her I was afraid of being myself since everybody back at school sees me as a “diva.” She assured me that I can be myself here, and this place right here is not school. I felt like I was a butterfly, just like another victim, trapped in the sticky web of the wolf spider called “society.” Others saw the beautiful vibrant colors on my wings but they didn’t see that deep inside me was as dull as a black and white photo. That dull part of me became as vibrant as my heart wanted to be when I climbed up a twenty feet telephone pole during a ropes course on day nineteen of the course. Like the first flight a butterfly takes, I was afraid and unsure of my wings, my capabilities; because society said I can’t be the way I want to be if I want to be beautiful. But I thought to myself, I was never ugly before make-up. I was only ugly because I was brain washed by society’s definition of beauty. I can be whom I want. I can dress any way I want. I can look any way I want. I can be myself. I can be whom I want. To be able to do what I want is beautiful and that is what I am now whether I have make-up on or not. I am no longer strangled to the sticky webs of the wolf spider called “society.”

Two days after our solo expedition, I was head honcho. Being head honcho has always been easy for me when I had the help of the instructors. But this expedition, I didn’t have their help because they wanted me to grow.

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