Here it is; the beginning of a new journey for both myself and our new 9th grade cohort. I remember driving to JRLA with so many feeling and emotions. Wondering if the kids would respect me, am I the right person? what the heck am I doing? David & Kuhu really trust ME to do this? does the bus driver have the correct address? did I have the sign in sheet? did I call the right Hungry Howies? did I remember the pledge? and the list goes on, haha! So, I parked my car and as soon as I walked up I hear yelling from a car, “Hi Ms. Erica!” Students began to get on the bus tired, but excited, and perhaps with some similar feelings and emotions as me.
Seeing Paige, my co-lead was also a breath of fresh air. Once everybody was on the bus, I shared my excitement and probably talked more than I should have, but the great thing was my anxiety was slowly dissipating. On the way there Rachel and I checked in often with any updates and students kept asking what we were doing. We had one student who had participated at the Adventure Leadership Program before, and was very eager and excited to share his experience with his classmates. Paige, Ms. Hoisington (our JRLA liaison), and I had never been only having heard stories from my team about how fun it would be. Upon arrival, Rachel and the mentors are there to greet the students. This was our students’ first time meeting the mentors, as well as, some of their classmates. The Adventure Leadership Team staff seemed very excited to have us and treated us as if we frequently visit. It was great!
My anxiety was pretty much gone until it was time to do the pledge. OMG its back (anxiety)! Rachel said it with me and I messed up on one part but it was still great. Before it was time to break up into our groups the Leadership Team led a couple icebreakers which the students seemed to enjoy. We were off to a great start and I was pretty darn happy about it!!
The students were broken into three groups, and Paige, Rachel, Ms. Hoisington, and I rotated between the groups throughout the day. The first group I was with had Kerric, Andria, Gabriel, Eric, Keith, Semaja’Na, and Shiya. Kerric is a natural born leader, so I was worried he would over talk everyone in his group, but he surprised me. The students were placed in a circle inside of a big rubber band that could not touch the ground. They had to figure out how to help one another get out of the rubber band one at a time without touching or letting the rubber band fall. I wanted to help soooooooo badly, but I couldn’t!
Kerric came up with the initial idea of how they would all leave but he stopped and remembered Keith could help because he had been there before. The team agreed that Keith would take the lead and were able to get each other out without touching or the rubber band falling. I was amazed!
As the day went on, and I traveled from group to group, they were continuously amazing me with their ideas and thoughts. At times they were frustrated with one another because some ideas were not working, but they continued to push. Some activities did not go as planned, but they were able to see what went wrong. This excursion definitely set expectation and excitement for the remainder of the year. We were able to take our students, and myself, out of our comfort zones and introduce something new. I was thrilled with how smooth everything went and laughed profusely at myself for worrying so much. It was a great way to kick off FATE with our new 9th graders!
- Erica Bender, Program Coordinator
Photography By: Allison Farrand