Youth learns importance of friendship Adventure Risk Challenge |

Youth learns importance of friendship Adventure Risk Challenge

Special to the Sun
Karla Hernandez in 2014.
Courtesy photo |

“Something or Nothing” | a poem by Karla Hernandez


I am a yellow pond lily

Bright yellow neon color  

Heart shaped leaves


When people walk by me,

I get their attention

By the bright colors that I have

And how happy I always seem


When I was little I started under the water

So afraid of everything

I did not want anybody

I felt like nobody would understand me

I felt like if I let somebody else into my life

I would eventually regret it.


I always had my family around me

Protecting me and taking care of me

They are the green leaves that surround

My gentle petals

But sometimes the water gets choppy

And my parents begin to fight

When I watched their leaves sink around each other

It made me think that everyone in the world

Eventually gets hurt


Protection, that is all I need

Protection, that is all I want

Protection, that is all I have


And I thought their protection was so big,

So much that nobody could get near me

But I was wrong  


I made friends with beavers and ducks who promised

To never eat my leaves

But I was blind to see

That all they did was fool with me

Animals take advantage of me

They just don’t understand that I can give them shelter

And anything they need


Awesome! Bullfrogs are coming to me

They understand the big heart that I have

And all the help I can give

I can’t stop smiling


No! Where are you guys going?

Don’t leave me just like this

I’m all by myself

It makes me feel like I’m not good enough

Just when I finally thought I was good for somebody


I need somebody

Snakes and rats are attacking me

My yellow flowers are falling into the dirty, muddy water

I cannot deal with this by myself

It’s the time of the year when everything is so dark

The time of the year when flowers die


People’s words bring me down

My family is there but they cannot do anything about it

They try and they do try so hard

But it is not enough


I’m so afraid of everything

I don’t want to be here

Wild animals keep attacking me

And they don’t stop 


What do they want from me?

I’m just so confused

And their words are killing me little by little

As my petals fall one by one into cold, dirty water


All the heart that I have

And feeling I can share

Are gone and under the water

With my silent leaves


There is no other place

Where I think I can go but down

To the dark and lonely place

Deep deep under the water


People’s words have killed me so much

That now I’m nothing

I don’t even exist


And for a long, long time there are no more pond lilies to be seen


But the moon light

Starts to hit my eyes

I am alive

I had enough time to think to myself, and ask the question:

Why do these animals keep lying to me?


Oh! I get it I should act another way

Not a target for them to use

When they get near me I will attack them

That is what everyone is doing so why shouldn’t I?


This is working so much that now

Animals don’t even use me as shelter

Okay! I can deal with that

I have my friends who keep me happy and they understand


Wait a minute, this is not the real me

I have feelings for others

I love everyone who wants to come close to me


Am I strong or am I tough?

Am I something or am I nothing?

What is a pond lily anyway?

TAHOE-TRUCKEE, Calif. — When Karla Hernandez participated in ARC’s 24-day Summer Immersion Course in Lake Tahoe in 2014, she learned that she’s capable of doing whatever she sets her mind to, and that she can be in a new environment with strangers and make them into friends.

ARC was not Karla’s first experience of fitting into a new setting. She remembers moving to Lake Tahoe as a young child, and the daunting first day of school among strangers — unfamiliar surroundings, new language, and finding her first friend.

After moving from Tijuana, Baja California, she felt shy and hidden in her new town.

In the personal poem Karla wrote during the ARC course, “Something or Nothing,” she compared herself to a pond lily, used by the animals of the forest for shelter and food, but then abandoned and left in the lonely dark.

She spoke of having to create a tough outer shell to protect herself from bullies who wanted to bring her down. Her gentle, giving heart had hardened from the cruel words of her classmates and so-called friends.

What Karla gained from ARC was the importance of true friends. Karla remembers “the day we were at Gilmore Lake in Desolation Wilderness. We connected with each other and that’s when we came up with(the name) JGFF (Jiātíng, Gia đình, Familia, Family). This stands for Family in all the languages of our group — Mandarin, Vietnamese, Spanish, English. We knew we had each other and we were a family. We still had our ups and downs but we knew we had each other.”

Even though learning how to pack a backpack or how to pick a campsite are two important aspects of the ARC course, for Karla the most essential takeaway was that “I should always be myself.”

Karla was able to sort through much of her personal history during the first two weeks of the course. In the final week, what emerged was the true beauty of the pond lily – a giving, smiling, loving friend to all who crossed her path.

After the summer course, Karla said, “My personality has changed. Now I don’t just try to fit in. And I don’t try to be somebody that I’m not. I trust myself. Finishing the course made me feel proud about myself.”

In ARC, Karla was challenged to be herself; something that she may have forgotten how to do. It was as if the true Karla had reemerged, for the benefit of the entire ARC family.

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

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