It’s a dewy Tuesday morning in San Francisco. A class of 9th graders is out on the school’s soccer field, attempting to cross a metaphorical sea of challenges that stands between them and college acceptance. They are 20 of them, and they are huddled together on a path of 9 small plastic tiles, their resources to help them through the unforgiving sea. And so they move forward, working together to shuttle the last tile forward and inch their way toward the finish line. They don’t know it yet, but this will be the day that the class experiences its first group success. This will be the day that they have their first “a-ha” moment. As one student put it during the group debrief, “The harder the challenge is, the more we rise to meet it.”
Abraham Lincoln High School, in San Francisco’s Sunset neighborhood, is the Outward Bound Bay Area Center’s newest in-school high school partner. ALHS partnered with OBCA this fall to work directly with its 9th grade Strategies for Success class on a weekly basis to help incorporate a sense of community within the class and to further emphasize leadership, problem-solving and diversity and inclusion.
As the semester drew to a close, the students had an opportunity to put their new skills to the test and to again “rise to the challenge” by participating in a one-day rock climbing day at Mt. Diablo State Park. In the weeks leading up to the trip, and in preparation for the technical climbing and belaying portions of it, students discussed the topic of trust.
Students voiced various opinions about their roles. “I feel more comfortable being a belayer than being a climber,” one student admitted before the trip, “because then I know what’s happening with the rope at all times and I can control it.” Another had the opposite view, “I don’t want to belay. I don’t want that responsibility!”
Whether they were nervous about trusting their classmates or trusting themselves, the class arrived to Mt. Diablo State Park full of enthusiasm. After a strong lesson in belaying and climbing, it was time for them to rise to the challenge once more – this time perhaps more literally than before. And they did.
As one student reflected, “For me, the most challenging part of the rock climbing trip was when I was coming down, because the person belaying me had never done it before. I had to trust that he had my rope the whole time. It was really scary, but now I know that I can trust someone in a scary situation.”
Outward Bound California will maintain its partnership with Abraham Lincoln High School and this particular class throughout the rest of the school year, continuing to give these students even more opportunities to rise to the challenge.