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On an adventure: Gaining new insights through backpacking

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“The people in the group reminded me that I’m not alone and that life is not a battle that’s meant to be fought alone,” junior Almarie Mata said. Photo courtesy of Orlando Beltran

When clean water becomes a treasure and shelter becomes a luxury, you are on an adventure. When navigation is dictated by a compass and scenery dictated by wilderness, you are on an adventure. When the only path is the path forward and the only choice is perseverance, you are on an adventure.

A team of 16 Lowell students had such an adventure with assistant principal Orlando Beltran and staff from Outward Bound, an international non-profit outdoor-education organization that offers specialized programs to different age groups. From March 2 to 4, the students spent most of their day backpacking ridges of 2000-feet elevation at the Henry Coe State Park. When night fell, they scouted for a new comfortable campsite where they cooked and huddled in their tents, listening to each other’s stories.

This trip was not completely out of the blue. Lowell and Outward Bound’s partnership had been in the works for many years. This year Beltran, Lowell’s new assistant principal with connections to Outward Bound, was able to expedite the establishment of Outward Bound’s branch at Lowell.

“The comradery and love everyone in the group showed is something that I will never forget,” Mata said. Photo courtesy of Orlando Beltran

With the partnership in place, Beltran quickly organized a trip and gathered interested students. To narrow down the list of these students, Beltran attempted to reserve this opportunity specifically for those with a teacher’s letter of recommendation and students without previous experience in backpacking.

Beltran’s goal in organizing the trip was to encourage students to temporarily step aside from their academic world and to immerse themselves in the surrounding nature. “I don’t think it is only outdoor education,” Beltran said. “It is more of character building, confidence building and global awareness.”

Indeed. This trip had endowed students a scarce moment to reflect upon themselves and others. Every night during their trip, the students gathered at their camp to share their ideas about improving the trip experience and express their appreciation toward each other during the day, according to junior Almarie Mata, a second-time participant in the Outward Bound program. In one of the activities, “Solo,” Mata, along with other students, immersed themselves in a tranquil meditation to merely wander alone with their mind, according to Mata. “After that experience, I’ve learned that it’s important to take time out of my schedule for myself and to listen to my thoughts, not ignore them,” Mata said.

Photo courtesy of Orlando Beltran

When she finally accomplished her goal of “standing on top of a mountain,” junior Stephanie Sunga, she could not forget the beauty of the scenery.

Another participant, junior Stephanie Sunga, decided to join the trip because of an urge to see the mountains. Without any backpacking experience, she had longed to explore the wild nature since she was a kid. When she finally accomplished her goal of “standing on top of a mountain,” Sunga said, she could not forget the beauty of the scenery. With that unforgettable thrill of climbing onto peaks, Sunga and her friends are now planning on starting their own backpacking club with a local youth organization.

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The trip was more than an impressive experience for the students. It helped foster a supportive network. After the trip concluded, according to Beltran, this group of students have now become close friends to each other and and found their shared passions, according to Beltran. “The comradery and love everyone in the group showed is something that I will never forget,” Mata said. “The people in the group reminded me that I’m not alone and that life is not a battle that’s meant to be fought alone.”

Having observed the growth of students experienced as a result of the trip, Beltran is currently preparing for another backpacking trip for next school year.

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On an adventure: Gaining new insights through backpacking