North Tahoe youth becomes a leader among her peers | SierraSun.com

North Tahoe youth becomes a leader among her peers

Eve Giovenco
Special to the Sun

Maria Sanchez makes a climb at a recent ARC-sponsored adventure.

TAHOE CITY, Calif. — Maria Sanchez began the ARC Summer Course in Tahoe with little confidence in her ability to complete what she started.

Yet, as one of the most engaged and enthusiastic ARC alumni over the past two years, she has proven that pushing through is a benefit to herself and an example to others.

Joining ARC after an overwhelmingly stressful freshman year in high school, Maria faced her greatest fears — heights, public speaking, and trusting others — and discovered her ability as a leader.

The ARC Summer Course provides many opportunities to learn to be a leader: Leader of the Day helps the group stay on task, Aqua Bear keeps the group hydrated, House Mouse cleans up, Iron Chef prepares meals, the Great Eye ensures the group doesn't get lost, and the Journalist points out the group's accomplishments

A focus of ARC is to share the load with others, helping youth like Maria feel safer and more confident.

On her 16th birthday, as Leader of the Day, Maria said, "I felt lost and hopeless like a bird trapped in a cage unable to spread its wings."

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The next day, benefiting from group feedback, she said, "I learned that I can take on leadership, even though I am really shy and don't always speak up."

Maria feels the ARC community is a good model. "They showed me they are here for me for support and good advice … I asked them for help when I was having a hard time. I wanted to leave the course because I felt that I couldn't make it to the end. They said that they would do everything they can to help me finish the course, and I did."

Maria is a young woman with a lot on her shoulders. She is now working six days a week in internships and service projects to help her family and community in any way possible.

She has most recently been involved with the Boys and Girls Club of North Lake Tahoe and Jason's Beachside Grille in Kings Beach, gaining valuable cooking, teaching, and customer service skills.

Over the past two years since completing the course, Maria has continued to show leadership among her peers on trips to Yosemite waterfalls, the rugged Coast of Big Sur and the summit of the Sierra Buttes.

Maria will graduate from North Tahoe High School this June. Her patience, self-love, compassion and sense of optimism have continued to grow, as have the possibilities for her wonderful future.

She has recently turned her attention to a possible career in nursing.

ARC's 12th season begins this month. For more information, contact Sean McAlindin, Program Coordinator, at sean@adventureriskchallenge.org. Visit arcprogram.org for more information about Adventure Risk Challenge.