As a 15-year-old student at Abraham Lincoln High School in San Francisco, Inez Vara chose to challenge herself and push outside her comfort zone on a two-week Outward Bound California expedition. Through backpacking, rappelling and rock climbing with a diverse group of Bay Area teens in the High Sierra, she found that she had the inner-strength to accomplish far more than she had ever imagined. Now a 21-year-old student at City College of San Francisco, Inez is proud to say that she has not stopped exploring or challenging herself ever since.
Inez was part of the Youth Leadership Corps, an annual Outward Bound California program which connects motivated Bay Area youth with merit-based scholarships to build their leadership skills and give back to the community through ongoing service projects. In embarking on the two-week summer expedition that kicks off the program, Inez was nervous because she had never been away from her family before. Nevertheless she dove into the program head first, determined to make the most of the opportunity.
Along with her crew of fellow students, Inez navigated routes and hiked long miles through the mountains, carrying a heavy pack full of her own gear and food, and setting up a new camp each night. In addition, she completed a hair-raising descent down the King’s Rappel, spent a day and two nights on her own as part of a “solo” experience, and conquered a five-mile run at high altitude.
She shares that there were times during this expedition that she found herself wanting to quit because it was so hard. But on the heels of this admission, she explains that what helped her push on was the great community that she found among her fellow students. She says:
“We learned to support each other; never leaving anyone behind. We thrived on the idea that if we could conquer this, we could conquer anything.”
Inez certainly took this lesson to heart not only on her course but also when she returned home to San Francisco. As a result of her Outward Bound experience, she says she became willing to take on challenges and adventures that would have seemed impossible to her before. The summer before her senior year, she spent three weeks in Nicaragua teaching English and building a small school. Then the summer after her high school graduation, she spent ten months studying abroad in Tuscany learning Italian language, history and culture, effectively on her own.
Inez is grateful to the City Skyline Challenge rappellers and donors who make it possible for students today to broaden their perspectives on the world through Outward Bound programs just as she did.
“Through all of this, my biggest lesson has been discovering that there is so much value in learning outside of the classroom. I encourage youth and people of all ages to go discover themselves and the world around them.”
By making a gift today, you’ll give a student like Inez the tools they need to succeed on course and in life!