TAHOE/TRUCKEE, Calif. — Over the past eight years, ARC’s Director Jen Gurecki has achieved a powerful vision for ARC. Under her leadership ARC has crossed its 10-year milestone, empowering youth to climb to their personal summits.
Now Jen is moving on to pursue her doctorate in sustainability education. “The eight years I’ve spent with ARC have been fundamental to my growth both personally and professionally. It is a bittersweet departure, and I am confident that ARC will continue to thrive under new leadership,” she said.
Sarah Cupery Ottley is enthusiastically moving from the role of program director into the executive director position. After five years of dedication to ARC, Sarah said, “It’s an incredible experience to work for an organization in which so much transformation takes place. Every time I work with our participants, I’m able to observe that they have grown in confidence, character and academic ability.”
We’d like to express our thanks to those who supported ARC and the Voices of Youth event this summer, where we successfully raised nearly $30,000 toward future positive youth development programming.
At both program sites, Yosemite and Truckee, ARC hosted very diverse groups in the summer immersion courses this year — from urban and rural California, from 12 towns, seven cultural heritages, and six languages spoken among the participants. The teams were filled with many different personalities as well: the vocal leaders, the organizers, the jokesters, and the encouragers.
“I liked the diversity of backgrounds of each ARC student. I learned a lot about their stories and culture,” said one leader.
It wasn’t easy learning to put aside differences and to learn how to work as a team. But they never gave up and persistently problem solved any issue that arose. Each group quickly gained independence from the instructors, and took ownership of life on the trail.
They learned to lead.
They faced the challenges.
They learned to step out of their comfort zones toward personal growth, self-revelation, and inspiration.
“ARC gave me the chance to have a deep and personal connection to nature,” said a participant.
For some, the biggest challenge of the course was the curriculum work; writing and sharing in a group was as scary as rock-climbing, the ropes course, and backpacking. ARC creates a safe atmosphere for those who may have failed high school English classes or those who are non-native English speakers. Most had never told their personal story or how impactful certain events were on their lives.
“I learned to become a better writer, to save water and nature, and to leave no trace,” an attendee commented.
At the end of the course, they all expressed high dreams for their lives now and in the future, and motivation for achieving those dreams. Our participants started as strangers and left at the end of the 40-day course calling each other family, each with an incredible sense of achievement and empowerment.
“Without ARC, I would still be struggling trying to find myself and trying to discover my limits. I am very grateful for the great opportunity that I was given,” noted one student.
By April Kuang
I am the porcupine
Always carrying spikes
Blocking others from knowing my mind
Because I’m too weak to be attacked without any spikes.
When I was a little kid
I didn’t know how to use my soft spikes
Like the infant porcupine
I once was so welcomed when many classmates were around
But their mocking faces impress on my mind
“Pork chop” “Nerd” “Loser” “Tomboy.”
Swords and knives stab emotionlessly and directly toward my heart
Like the aggressive bites on the baby porcupine
But I didn’t know what to do
The baby porcupine can never leave its mother’s sight
My parents told me,
Their crying girl
Sweep your tail and erect your spikes
To your enemies.
Bullying didn’t happen again
Except my best friend
Who betrayed me, lied to me, and teased me
The biggest nightmare presents
With the gang of previous enemies
Pain and sadness exploded rapidly from my broken heart
Just like a huge wound bleeding from a porcupine’s belly.
The wound is hard to cure
And I started to close my heart
No one reads my secret mind
No one knows my little wish
The vigilant porcupine.
As the time flies
I immigrate to San Francisco
Confusion gradually storms into my family
Stress, language, being misunderstood
They can’t read my closed mind
And I don’t receive their hidden love
Tons of problems pile on and collapse
On the day I decided to leave far away
Going far away for 40 days
The wall of pretending crashed
They state I’m rebellious
I fight back with coldness
I erect my sharp spikes
But guilt and sadness emerge
Day by day toward my heart
I long for their letters
I pray for their forgiveness
But it’s already too late.
Although the porcupine is an herbivore
She is not a silent sheep
Waiting to be eaten
But I’m not born to be a porcupine
But experience has taught me to use my spikes
I can’t wait to throw out my past
My past of bullying
My past of sadness
I’m waiting for one day
The day of owning a strong mind
The day of being a strong porcupine
Without relying on my spikes.
STAY STRONG GIVE IT A CHANCE AND TRY HARD
By Paulina Mosqueda Gonzalez
I am a waterfall
Furious water rushing through me
Rocky and immense, filled with life
Surrounded by flowers which bloom by day and night.
I may not seem Intimidated
But if you ever try crossing me
You will leave me with a trace
Making my water slowly diminish.
Now let me tell you my story
Maybe you will see
People always cross and step on me
But many don’t know,
How much pain they leave.
As a child there’s not much you can do
Like a trickle of water just starting to mature
I still learn from what’s right and what’s wrong
And always having to depend on mom and dad.
I’ve always been told to help others
To not let anyone bring me down
To just hope for the best
Because everything will come
At its right time.
“Your friends will always be there” they told me
I lived for years trusting them
Thinking they were just like family
Until ONE DAY THEY FAILED ME.
The pain I felt
That adrenaline rushing through my veins
Trying to act strong but seeing them
Just made me run away.
Drugs they tried to make me taste
Trying to contaminate my water
I refused to say yes.
Not being considered the cool one
For not tasting or taking a smoke
One by one
I let them go.
As I saw my friends walk away
One by one
It hurt the most
One by one
They ignored me and told me “NO.”
Thinking it was okay
I looked at the mirror every day
Just wanting an answer
But seeing my tears run down my face
One by one
Going faster and faster like a waterfall
Every time a brick of cold ice hit me.
As time goes on
Day by day
I realize how it was the best choice I could ever make
Making me stronger
Making my water stay fresh
Rushing faster and clearer
Every time a good decision is made
The few friends I have now
Are true friends
Whose best strength
Is to be there for me.
I am a Waterfall
With few rocks now
But those who stayed
Were there to support
Through my roughest times.
The rushing water that splashes with fear and strength
One day will change with a
Peaceful rush of water
That soon will make a melody of happiness
The birds will sing, splash and play along
The flowers will bloom with bright petals that reflect the sun
Finding life from my calm water.
I will be independent
I won’t rely on my parents anymore
I will accomplish my goals
Like going around the world and help the poor
To make my parents proud
To show everybody that if I stay strong
Anything I commit myself to
Can happen any time.
I will work hard
I will be passionate about my dreams and goals
I BELIEVE ANYTHING CAN HAPPEN IF I JUST GIVE IT A TRY.
ARC links wilderness to academics, adventure to leadership, identity to literacy and confidence to activism. For more information visit www.arcprogram.org.