September 14, 2017

A few weeks ago, the last of our students returned home from their summer programs, bringing a close to our 2017 travel season. We CONGRATULATE all of our young leaders on their incredible accomplishments this summer, and THANK all of our summer partners and our staff (mentors, program managers, on-call specialists, and many more) for making these life-changing experiences possible for our students.

Earlier this summer, we introduced you to Bay Area alumna and outdoor enthusiast Jessie Holtz, who works for one of those summer partners, Sierra Nevada Journeys (SNJ). She had the exciting opportunity to lead one of SNJ’s special Summer-Search-only wilderness programs in late July.

Jessie-tentSummer Search alumna and Sierra Nevada Journeys trip leader Jessie Holtz.

After returning home, putting away her gear, and reflecting on this 15-day journey all over the beautiful Sierra Nevadas of California, she shared her thoughts with us on this unique experience.

“It felt amazing to be on the other end of the Summer Search trip as a leader, like everything came full circle,” Jessie explained. “Ever since 2008 when I went on my Summer Search wilderness trip, I have been inspired to some day guide others through a similar experience. Having led this trip now allows me to be able to say confidently that I have completed a life goal of mine!

Jessie Rock Climbing selfieJessie with an awesome rock-climbing selfie.

Achievement unlocked!

Jessie, her co-leader, and the group of Summer Searchers from across the Bay Area packed in a lot of awesome achievements into 15 days. They spent four days rock climbing in Truckee, seven days backpacking trip in Lakes Basin (including choosing as a group to hike four miles out of the way to reach an additional mountain summit), and finished off the program with a thrilling day of rafting on the American River. In between those challenges, Jessie relished the chance to connect with her fellow Summer Searchers.

SS-SNJ-collage-v2Bay Area Summer Searchers rock climbing, hiking, and rafting with Sierra Nevada Journeys. Click to enlarge.

“I loved that I was able to be someone for the students who was a support like I had on my trips, and someone who they could relate with having gone through a similar experience as a Summer Search student.”

She also remarked how inspired she was by the group.

“I have been working with youth for a while, guiding a variety of outdoor programs and haven’t met any young people quite as unique as Summer Searchers. These high schoolers showed tremendous strength as they supported each other, worked together as a team, all while being away from the comforts of their home and their normal support systems. They created a very positive community for each other, and they seemed to have an impactful, meaningful experience.”

SNJ-SS-groupSummer Searchers taking a break on a mountain top in the Sierra Nevadas.

In closing, Jessie reflected on how that inspiration gave her hope for this group of future Summer Search alumni, saying, “the hope I now have for my students, their futures, and the other people they will positively influence, is something that will certainly be with me forever.”

Photos courtesy of Sierra Nevada Journeys and the Gateway Mountain Center.

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