For the past few years, I have had the privilege of working with some of the most dynamic and inspirational young people I have ever met. Year after year, participants in the ARC (Adventure, Risk, Challenge) Program amaze me with their courage, determination, and commitment to their future, their family, and their community.
ARC is a program for ELL (English Language Learner) high school students that combines summer leadership and literacy immersions in the outdoors with year-round mentoring and academic support. Working with students who lack access to enrichment of any kind, ARC has guided 80% of its graduates to pursue some form of higher education, a remarkable outcome for this population.
As part of their work, ARC participants prepare video essays on topics of concern to our community. This year's video essays will be presented by the kids at ARC's annual Food for Thought Tamale Dinner on March 13, 2010, from 6 to 10 p.m. at the North Tahoe Boys & Girls Club.
ARC participants' video essays are the result of the students' actively exploring and examining their personal lives, their families, and their neighborhoods to identify issues that directly affect them and their community. Over the course of the project, as students have explored critical concerns within our community, they have generated a rich collection of stories and have developed multiple literacy skills using digital media tools to express their voice and content through writing text and incorporating sound, images, and graphics.
ELL high school students in the Tahoe/Truckee region have a multitude of obstacles to overcome: they have identified literacy gaps, come from families living below the poverty line, and in many ways live in the margins of our community. They lack access to local resources due to language, transportation, and economic barriers. Many of their parents lack formal education, are ill-equipped to support their children's learning at home, and cannot help their children navigate the public school system. This results in academic failure, making higher education opportunities inaccessible. Students who fail high school lack incentive to further their learning through vocational or academic training, and have little chance for self-sufficiency. Essentially, there is no pathway to living wage careers that could ultimately break the cycle of poverty for the next generation.
ARC began in 2004 to address these significant barriers with a curriculum that incorporates the study of self, family, and community action, gearing participants toward meaningful civic contributions as they transition into adulthood. ARC links wilderness to academics, adventure to leadership, environmental science to literacy, and confidence to activism.
Like most programs of its type, ARC is continuously raising funds, both from foundations and from local sources. Events like the tamale dinner help, but they're not sufficient – if you or someone you know wants to support this worthwhile program, let me know and I'll see that they contact you.
The food at this dinner is great - homemade tamales, rice, and beans as well as soft drinks will be served at the dinner, with all proceeds benefiting the program.
Tamales can be ordered (by the dozen) in advance by visiting the ARC website (www.arcprogram.org) and downloading an order form. ARC participants have requested that guests bring two cans of food to support Project Mana, and in return, they will receive a free drink. The students also will be collecting spare change to send to Haiti. Immediately following dinner, they will premiere their video essays. This event is free and open to the public. I hope to see you there.