Project goal: Help Central Valley teens build connections to public lands, as well as the confidence and core skills they need to succeed in high school, college and careers.

Why this work matters: Adventure Risk Challenge builds bridges between students and public lands — and, along the way, engages participants in programming that helps them hone academic, leadership and stewardship skills.

ARC works with high schools in California’s Merced and Fresno counties, where students are at high risk of dropping out. Most ARC students come from low-income communities and immigrant families, and have limited or no access to their nearby national park.

ARC’s approach includes weekend hiking retreats; one-on-one mentoring; and a 40-day summer course in Yosemite that features a mix of outdoor activities, such as backpacking and rock-climbing, and academics, including environmental science lessons and writing exercises — all at no charge to the students and their families.

In 2020, your support is also helping ARC pilot a new eight-month school-based program that blends literacy, wilderness education and leadership training, with the goal of reaching students who cannot participate in the Yosemite summer course due to work or family commitments.

According to ARC program data, 98% of summer-course graduates have completed high school on time, and 80% have gone on to college. Alumni have become park rangers, pursued advanced environmental science degrees, worked with our art team in Yosemite and more; several program graduates have even joined the ARC staff!

How your support helps: During the past decade, thanks to Conservancy donors, ARC has helped hundreds of students experience Yosemite, build core skills, and develop a sense of connection to, and responsibility for, the natural world. This year, you can help ARC engage and inspire dozens more Central Valley teens through mentorship, immersive outdoor experiences and a new school-year community leadership program.

Partnering with Yosemite National Park and Adventure Risk Challenge.

Sarah Ottley

Executive Director, Adventure Risk Challenge

Project Notes

"Adventure Risk Challenge is embedded in Central Valley high schools where students are at high risk of dropping out and never going to college and where there are few extracurricular activities. ... ARC's programming helps these underserved students navigate life's most pressing challenges, feel a responsibility to their community and broader environment, and find their voice as community leaders and ambassadors for the natural world."