Adventure Risk Challenge | Ana ‘grabs up’ all her courage |

Adventure Risk Challenge | Ana ‘grabs up’ all her courage

TAHOE/TRUCKEE, Calif. — One of the greatest learning opportunities of the Adventure Risk Challenge summer immersion course is to be surrounded by a team of supportive peers while pushing through daunting physical challenges. Before participating in the 2012 course in Yosemite, Ana Aguilar hoped to achieve skills and knowledge in both the outdoors and leadership areas, and to have a memorable summer.

Part of that memory is to have faced her most extreme fears during the ropes course and climbing / rappelling expedition.

Fearful of her inability to pull herself through the obstacles, Ana sobbed and screamed, yet with the strength of the team behind her, she kept climbing upward, kept rappelling downward, and kept moving forward on the ropes course.

Ana recalled, “I was so afraid due to my fear of heights. I was dangling in mid air, crying and so full of fear I began to think I couldn’t do this. Everyone was cheering me on so I just pushed myself. Once I reached the bottom I was so happy and proud of myself for what I had just done. There really aren’t any words that come close to the amazing feeling I had.”

Even though Ana came to ARC with a great deal of trepidation, she possessed a quiet, strong determination. Despite her fear about being away from the safety of her close and supportive family, Ana knew it was her last chance to participate in ARC’s summer course, and she wanted so badly to have the experience and to grow as a person.


“Being away from home was basically being away from your safe zone. It was challenging because I don’t like being away from my family. I was really shy so it was challenging for me to open up and be comfortable with the other participants, but in the end I became really comfortable and open with them,” said Ana.

Before ARC, Ana let fear stop her. Now, she said, “I try to do as many things as I can that I am afraid to do. I just grab all the courage I have and put the fear aside and go on with whatever it is I want to achieve.”

Ana says the main lessons she learned from participating in ARC are “not to be afraid to get out there, communication is the key to many things, and one has to believe in oneself. Then everything is possible.” After completing the ARC summer course, Ana confidently enrolled in CSU Stanislaus and began her college career.

In Ana’s personal poem composed during the ARC course she told a moving story about her life, in which vulnerability gives way to strength.


I am a river

Made up of tears of a mountain

One by one

The tears roll down slowly

Of happiness


And pain

I started off small and weak

Like a little creek

But as the tears rolled down

Gently caressing the cheeks

I got bigger,


My body of water flowed

With such a rush

Just like my childhood,

I had to grow up quickly

With no time for the light of the warm sun,

The happiness and joy of nature,

To hit my water

And reflect

Taking up a new life style

Living with separate parents

Listening to over heard arguments

The tears


Those of my own.

Taking up a parenting role

Caring for my siblings

And mother

All new to me

I carved my way down the mountain

Leaving traces,

Leaving things in the past

Yet they stay as scars

Leaving my mark in other’s hearts

Leaving only the hidden pain

A shadow in my heart

In my being

In my tiny being.

All my life and my self





I feel free

Yet a strong pull

Towards something bigger

Yet unknown

That pull is too strong

I just wish to slow down

Many living feed off of me

I provide life and hope

They depend on me

Stretching their roots into my water

Taking shelter within me

Just like the trees and fish

The giant and small

The old and young

They needed me.

I’m not the mother of nature

But I do act as if


This river, gave birth

To those living things

Big boulders and dead trees

Get in my way

Family problems

Self doubt



Draping over my body

A heavy weight upon me

My tears build up

And yet for some strange reason

I cannot flow through

I think I’m going to die out

Yet that’s not what I want

All the emotion is too much

Till I finally burst through those obstacles

Feeling relief

Letting myself break through

I move fast

And rapid

Since I had so much holding me back.

I survived.

Just like I do every day.

I think and hope

That I am

Strong enough to push through.

In the past I’ve given up

But I give thanks

That I

Decided on keeping my life.

There are still times

When I think it’s too much

And I want it to stop


But taking my life is not the solution

Or a way out

I’ve realized that

My family are tributaries

Helping me push and reach the unknown

They bring happiness and pain

Support and love

Everything they give into me

Allows me

To grow

And become stronger

My mother being mother nature

Giving me the most

She’s the main tributary

The soil

The trees

Everything around me

She is my best friend and companion.

Giving up everything for me

and my siblings

So that we

could have a better life

Making us feel loved

And that we

Are something greater

Her reason

Later in my journey

My father became noticeable

He was always there but unheard

The thick leaves of the trees

Hiding him

muffling his voice

As I continue flowing

I listen to his song

Stronger and beautiful

Than it was before

Friends are like the whispers in the wind

Helping along the way

Constantly reminding me that

I can push through

That I will.

The way down is too far

I am scared of that journey

But I know it’s the only way

So I let myself fall

Just like I did in life

Even if it made me sad at first

I was glad that I brought happiness to others

They see me,

Now a waterfall

I’ve realized

I am


and strong

For the longest time

I’ve ignored

Everything in my body

In my water

Those precious tears

Of happiness and joy

Of love and care

I’ve been stuck

Far too long

On the negatives

Not on what really matters

The positives.

I treasure those tears

As a pirate treasures his gold

I see that those tears

that I’ve ignored

are what makes everything




Worth living

As I look far ahead

I know I will become

Something bigger


And more beautiful

With my family along side me

I know I am unstoppable,

Beating the odds everywhere I go.

I AM a river made up of tears.

Adventure Risk Challenge’s mission is to improve literacy and life skills, expose youth to a range of natural environments and wilderness experiences, and inspire the confidence they need to envision and accomplish goals, succeed in high school, and become engaged, empowered citizens.

In addition to weekly programming within the high schools, ARC offers outdoor adventures at least once each month. Upcoming opportunities for high school youth include skiing and snowboarding at Northstar on March 1, a weekend retreat including skiing/snowboarding March 14-16, and a weekend retreat to Yosemite April 11-13.

Contact Sean McAlindin to sign up at or 510-460-8542.

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