Francisco del Rio turns life around in the Sierra Nevada |

Francisco del Rio turns life around in the Sierra Nevada

Special to the Sun
Francisco del Rio was a 2013 Adventure Risk Challenge summer course participant.
Courtesy ARC |

I am a Giant Sequoia Tree

A poem by Francisco del Rio


I am Big,


And Afraid,

Afraid of Falling,

Disappointing my Parents,

My Father the most.

This year I got home,

With an all time low GPA,

I saw the disappointment in my father’s eyes,

Felt like I needed water,

But it wouldn’t rain,


Not knowing what to do,

Failing a class,

In danger of being ineligible,

And not playing Tennis this season.

The sadness in my Father’s eyes when I walked in with the report card,

Burned down my branches,

So much disappointment in them.

The Giant Sequoia Tree he was looking at,

The one he loves

And cares for,

Who he taught how to ride a bike,

How to kick the ball in the back of the net,

The one he would take to the park every day,

After work,

After his long 12 hour shifts in the hot sun,

Has weakened.

Instead of seeing me as a strong Giant Sequoia,

He looked at me as if I were a sapling,

Instead of letting me be independent,

He had to look after me all the time.

It felt like torture,

Like I was removed from this Gigantic Forest of Freedom,

With a great view,

To a small reduced place,

Where no plants grow,

Where the sun doesn’t shine,

Where all my plans of going out,

Having fun,

Are crushed,

Spending lonely nights in this shrunken space,

With my thoughts spiraling in my head,

I did this to myself,

No one else,

But me.

I hate this feeling,

It is deep inside of me,

Deeper than this thick Fibrous Bark,

This feeling wrapped around my throat,

Like termites are eating my timber.

But when I left for this 40 day course,

As I saw my dad with bags under his eyes,

Leaving to work,

I vowed to myself,

When you look up at me,

I’m going to make you smile.

Now that I’m here I’ve looked in the mirror,

And my personality is growing in a positive way,

I can finally see the Sun during the day,

And the stars at night.

I feel like I took my Father for granted,

How could I do such a thing?

The Giant Sequoia that dropped the cone full of seeds,

And gave me life,

I have stepped on him,

Made him feel like I didn’t care,

And neglected him.

I’m even more determined than ever,

From now on every conversation,

Every interaction,

Will show how much I appreciate him,

Because he is my Father,

I will raise my grades up,

For myself,

For my future,

And especially for my Father,

I want him to see me as the strong Giant Sequoia Tree I am.

TAHOE-TRUCKEE, Calif. — When you’re a high school sophomore who has never experienced life away from home, 40 days feels like a long time to be separated from your family.

Francisco del Rio, a 2013 Adventure Risk Challenge summer course participant, described the feeling of leaving home like, “the Pacific Ocean was ready to release its massive waves on my face.”

He said he held the tears back and took a step toward a new beginning, “to become a more disciplined, appreciative person who has a better idea of his future.”

Before participating in the ARC summer course, Francisco was a student who rarely studied for tests.

Like many teenagers he says, “I would wake up in the middle of the day without thinking of what my goals for the day were.”

He was an unmotivated student who didn’t see the connection between his classwork and his future.

Francisco also described taking his parents for granted. He says that “at home, I would stay out with my friends and not come back until my parents were asleep.”

He remembers lying around on summer days while his mom was at work, instead of helping with cleaning or laundry.

On the ARC 40-day summer course in Yosemite, Francisco lived in the wilderness, slept under the stars, wrote and performed poetry, and began reflecting on his future.

The turnaround point for him was four weeks into the course when he had some reflection time alone, overlooking the Sierra Nevada and journaling his thoughts.

At that moment Francisco says, “I wanted to prove to myself that I had changed and that I was a more disciplined person.”

His summer course teammates noticed his transformation. On the group’s final backpacking expedition, they selected him as one of their two leaders.

For four days, Francisco was responsible for navigating the group for over twenty miles of hiking and for the well-being of his peers.

ARC instructor Ann Reynolds said, “Francisco’s positive attitude and light-hearted spirit made him a strong leader. There were points during the course when he adeptly assessed the mood of the group, helped resolve conflict, and encouraged his teammates when morale was low.”

Francisco’s teammates also admired his playful, fun, enthusiastic charm. When the ARC students taught students from the Boys & Girls Club about water conservation issues, Francisco put a new creative spin on these lessons.

He taught the younger students about the effects of pollution in the Central Valley in a hands-on exercise where students donned ponchos, symbolizing run-off as rain storms (sprinkler water) pushed them to lower ground. The younger students loved the active learning on a hot summer afternoon.

Francisco, a 6 foot, 4 inch high school sophomore, also demonstrated great compassion and love for his family. During the ARC graduation, he read a poem that he wrote about his relationship with his father. The poem was appropriately entitled “I am a Giant Sequoia Tree.”

In well-constructed stanzas, Francisco described coming home with an “all-time low GPA” and seeing the disappointment in his father’s eyes.

Francisco pledged “to be more determined than ever” to raise his grades and show his father how much he appreciated him.

Since his participation in the 40-day course, Francisco has become active in his community and started coaching youth soccer (his team won the league championship this year).

He applied and was admitted to California State University, Fresno and he is excited about studying broadcast journalism.

He hopes to one day share with a television audience the experiences he had as a young man with Adventure Risk Challenge, seeing the beauty of Yosemite and imagining a brighter future for himself in college and beyond.

This article was submitted to the Sun by Adventure Risk Challenge. Visit to learn more.

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