Yoseline Castillo snuggled deeper into her sleeping bag, trying to warm up during solo. It was the first snow of the season in the Sierra and she had two more nights of solo. The first day had been beautiful and sunny. The second day, she awoke to a cold morning … snow everywhere she looked. She was cold, she was hungry. Hours passed and she began to wonder about her family, what they were doing which turned into worry, were they okay? She was lonely for them, missed them greatly. The negative thoughts kept creeping in and she wanted to quit, ready to go home. What am I doing here? she questioned.
Yoseline heard the click of the camera and her instructor, Stump, snapped a photo of her. He must be here to tell her the solo was cut short by the snow. She looked for any sign he was calling it. He grinned broadly and stretched out his arms and mouthed to her, so as not to break the silence, ‘It’s so beautiful!’ Then he gave her a thumbs up. This was a question in their world meaning: Are you okay? This exchange and his relaxed attitude about the snow, helped her to realize that she really was going to be okay. She was struggling, but she was okay. She returned the thumbs up.
She continued to think about her family, just shifting from worry to thoughts of how proud they would be – how proud SHE would be – when she finished this course. If she could get through this, she could get through anything. Besides, her normal life was filled with chaos – work, chores and school. So this was a blessing, she had time to think, to reflect, and to snuggle back in her sleeping bag.
Yoseline Castillo’s life was changed from her experience. She was a recipient of the Instructor Development Course (now Educator Semester) scholarship for those who want to work in experiential education, but face barriers of entry.
Read below more of Yoseline’s experience on course, as well as advice to future students.
During finals in Joshua Tree, we woke up around 4:30 am to climb Quail Mountain on our own – it was pitch black, people were sleepy and grumpy and we needed to get up to the mountain quickly. As we were 30 minutes into our trip, the sun started to rise, and we really wanted to make the sunrise at the top, so we all just started running. It was such a beautiful sunrise – there are so many colors over the desert – it was a moment to share only at that time and only that group of people would understand what it meant. I’ll never forget it.
I learned how to take care of myself emotionally, mentally and physically. At home, I do things because I need to get them done, and I don’t think about how that affects my body and mind. I’m go go go. I learned to slow down and enjoy what’s around me first. I can give energy to the things that bring positivity in my life. That improves my spirit. On course, I was learning how to let things go – trauma in my past, I had a lot of hate towards my dad. I could reflect on how that impacted my current relationships. It was healing to be outside and process things outdoors. And I learned how to tie a knot – so small yet so cool!
Ever since I was a little girl, I knew I wanted to be an outdoor leader. Now that I’m older, I’m trying to figure out how to get there. My instructors on other courses told me to try to do an instructor course but it money I didn’t have. I saw this scholarship as my opportunity to gain more skills and see if I had what it took to be an instructor. I was surprised when I got it. I underestimated my ability. It was such a unique and awesome experience – I thought this is it. It’s a once in a lifetime opportunity.
I’d say that I think about this course every day, how amazing it was and how much stronger I got because of that course. Not a day goes by that I don’t feel thankful for that experience. A lot of times, I remind myself of the lessons I learned. I will never forget. I’m really thankful for that opportunity. And to you all for offering me that scholarship. I couldn’t have done that without someone donating money to make that possible.
Advice to Future Students
This trip is very, very challenging and it’s life changing. Come in with an open mind with a humble spirit. There’s so much to learn. I came in thinking I knew a lot, but I didn’t. If you come in with a humble spirit, you’ll learn more. It will still be really hard – physically, mentally and emotionally but this is a beautiful journey you’re about to take.
I loved Joshua Tree. I had never been to a desert, I felt close to home. Home for me is Mexico, though I haven’t been back since I was 2. In the desert, I felt closer to my roots. The vegetation was different, the plants were spiky, trying to protect themselves from the things around them. It was hot, there were tarantulas. And the rock climbing there! That was my favorite by far, the rocks were hot, but that view made it worth it. It’s harder than it looks, and it’s more rewarding. We appreciated food and water so much at that time. We slept under the stars, without a tarp since it was warm enough. That was really cool!
I want to be a field instructor either with Outward Bound or another org. I currently work with Environment Travelling Companions (ETC). I want to work primarily with youth from underprivileged backgrounds like myself. I always wanted to see someone who looked like me in my outdoor trips, so I had someone to role model, but now I want to be that person for other students. To show them that they can do something they love too.
Outward Bound California (OBCA)
As part of OBCA’s investment in equity and inclusion, we are committed to expanding access to training and professional development in the technical and interpersonal skills needed to work in outdoor experiential education.
In the past two years, Outward Bound California has offered 5 full scholarships on our Yosemite, Joshua Tree & San Francisco Outdoor Educator (previously Instructor Development Course) and will have two more recipients this year. Donors along with staff fundraising make this scholarship possible.