More adventure, more risk, more challenge | SierraSun.com

More adventure, more risk, more challenge

Emma Garrard
Sierra Sun

Emma Garrard/Sierra Sun

TRUCKEE ” For five summers, dozens of local students who are learning to speak english as a second language have studied while being taught how to love the outdoors. Now, the program, called Adventure, Risk and Challenge (ARC), is expanding to be year-round.

Deb Colley, the outdoor coordinator for ARC, saw a need for the program to be extend past the summer months. Students wanted the same one-on-one support all year, she said.

“During the summer have a pretty significant transformation,” Colley said. “But they are going home to the same challenges. Even though they had this great experience, they needed to keep it going.”

Students meet on a bi-weekly basis for homework nights in both Truckee and Kings Beach and organizing fundraisers and social events. Ten students are now actively involved in the community through local internship programs and community service.

“(During the summer program) there’s a relationship that’s built that fosters that kind of growth,” said Jen Gurecki, ARC Director of Programming. “We’ve always provided follow-up (for students in the summer program) but this takes it one step further.”

Besides improving English and leadership skills, Gurecki said it’s important for Truckee-Tahoe’s youth to be connected with the outdoors.

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“You have students that are so withdrawn from the environment that’s right in their backyard,” Gurecki said. “It’s a way to connect them with the environment and understand their place (in the world.) The start to realize the importance of open space. You’ve got to get them out there.”

Since the program was founded in 2004 by now-director Katie Zanto, 80 students have gone through the program and 88 percent have passed the High School exit exam.

“It’s almost twice as much as the state average for English-language learners,” Gurecki said. “They have more potential to reach their goals because they will actually be able to graduate.”

Most ARC graduates say it was an opportunity they would recommend to their peers.

Israel Carrillo, who attended the ARC program in 2005, is now a psychology major at Sierra Nevada College. She helps tutor during homework nights, which provides a quiet place for students to do homework on a regular basis.

“It was definitely a life-changing experience,”she said. “It was very motivating.”

Mara Lopez, a junior at Truckee High School who attended ARC in 2007, was also grateful for the program. She plans on attending college when she graduates next year.

“It was a really good experience,” Lopez said. “I’m really glad people are interested in helping teenagers like us.”

Colley said she has noticed a difference in Lopez in the last year beyond learning English.

“Her self-confidence, conversational skills, motivation and initiative have grown so much,” Colley said. “She’s there at every activity and volunteers to take leadership.”

Yami Gutierrez, a junior at North Tahoe High School who attended the summer program in 2008, said she has seen her grammar improve since she graduated from ARC.

“It made my school work a lot easier,” Gutierrez said. “Now I pay more attention to school it made it more interesting. I like writing English papers now.”