Young women from San Mar take on adventure

December 07, 2007|By MARIE GILBERT

BOONSBORO - The Colorado sky was a blinding blue on this particular summer day. And standing atop a mountain looking down on a view that she could only describe as "breathtaking," the 20-year-old confessed to having a life-changing experience.

Gone was the low self-esteem and the fear of failing.

Instead, she saw a future overflowing with potential.

"I felt a sense of peace," the young woman said. "I knew I could trust myself to handle any challenge that was ahead of me."

It was the opportunity to "do something different, something exciting," that drew nine residents of San Mar Children's Home to participate in Adventure Experience Inc., a program designed to challenge individuals physically, emotionally and spiritually through a variety of outdoor trials.

For one week last summer, the young women learned to scale sheer rock cliffs, backpack into the wilderness, go whitewater rafting and tackle a high ropes course.


They hiked more miles than they care to remember, went several days without showering and lost count of their aches and pains.

But if they could do it again, they would.

Members of the Women's Giving Circle of the Community Foundation of Washington County had an opportunity to hear two adventure team members speak about their outdoor experience during a luncheon meeting Thursday afternoon at Four Points Sheraton.

The organization had awarded a grant to San Mar, which enabled one young woman to participate in the Colorado program.

"Our grants are intended to improve the lives of women and their families in Washington County," said Jeanne Singer, co-chair of the Women's Giving Circle. By inviting two of the young women to today's luncheon, we get a better feel of how the grant money was used."

San Mar became involved with the outdoor adventure program several years ago, said Daniel Day, director of development at San Mar.

"More and more research shows that an adventure program can have a positive impact on the lives of adolescents, especially those in group homes," he said.

Participants are taken out of their comfort zones and put in situations they have never dealt with, he said. What they gain from the experience is a new level of confidence and accomplishment.

Day said nine girls, ages 13 to 18, and three staff members attended last summer's outdoor program.

The chance to participate was open to all San Mar residents, he said. Applicants had to be willing to complete all aspects of the program and have a record of good behavior on campus.

Ann Shilling, director of residential services at San Mar, said participants began preparing for their summer trip in January.

"They did a lot of research on where they were going and what they would need. It was a learning process. They also began doing a great deal of hiking - 5 to 10 miles a week - to build up their stamina," she said.

Though the program can present some grueling physical challenges, Shilling said participants come home feeling better about themselves.

"In a lot of trauma cases," she said, "there is a loss of continuity. Their lives have been interrupted, their homes interrupted. This program gives them a chance to start something and finish it. It gives them a sense of accomplishment, good memories and the ability to move forward in their lives."

"I feel like I'm worth something," one young woman shared about her outdoor adventure. "Before, I had low self-esteem and was unable to deal with a lot of issues in my life. But Colorado was a coping skill. Now I'm able to work through my emotions."

"The experience brought me closer to God," another girl said. "And it taught me that there is nothing that I can't achieve. If I can climb to the top of a mountain, if I can survive in the wilderness, then I know I can do anything."

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