Youth Development Program with Adventure Risk Challenge (ARC)

This unique program transforms the lives of high-school students, who learn that higher education and a career in the National Park Service are tangible dreams. Through a series of weekend retreats and a 40-day summer immersion in the park, ARC participants and their UC Merced college mentors participate in a range of academic and physical activities, including backpacking, hiking, rock-climbing and wilderness solos. They also focus on English-literacy skills, culminating in a poetry-reading festival upon the program’s completion.

Since Conservancy donors began funding ARC in 2011, at least 60 young adults every year have had the chance to explore Yosemite through intensive summer immersions and academic-year trips, adding up to hundreds of transformed lives. Data on ARC alumni show that 99 percent of past participants have graduated high school on time, and 82 percent have gone on to attend a 2- or 4-year college.

Alongside such powerful academic results, comments from ARC alumni illustrate the broader impact of this donor-funded program. One recent participant reflected on how the program helps set young people up for success: “ARC opened a door to my future. It showed me the right way to go in life and school.” Another remarked on being exposed to the natural world through the program’s Yosemite-based experiences: “In ARC, I have learned just how crucial everything is in the wild … From the smallest grass tufts to the biggest sequoias in the park, everything here has a place, and it all comes together to make our home.”

Your donations ensure that dozens of underserved young Californians every year have the chance to develop valuable skills in leadership, environmental stewardship and community-building that will help them shape and achieve positive goals.


ARC participant

Project Notes

My life has changed since I’ve been here at ARC. The 40-day course has led me to make good choices in life. The people in ARC care about me and about my education. … The ARC course is pretty hard, because you have to commit to facing a lot of challenges. Facing those challenges actually makes you a better person.