by EMH Senior Becca Wade
Nothing teaches bravery like hanging alone, 200 feet above the ground, by a thin yellow and green rope. No challenge teaches patience more quickly than when a sixty-five pound pack is weighing on your back, the sun is burning your scalp, and you must hike slowly up a mountain to stay with your friends. No experience grows unconditional love like sharing a little tent with three other girls for ten days through sweaty smells, irritation, and rocky beds. And no reward compares to soaking your sore feet in a creek or spotting a shooting star as you share your dreams with a close group of classmates. During the ten-day backpacking trips with Ekklesia Mountain High, I have been challenged to leap out of my comfort zone. EMH is hugely important to my life because it has grown my character and maturity so much more than any high school experience ever could have.
For example, looking at the average high school experience, few situations will drastically push a student out of a comfort zone. High school students usually focus on friends, homework, sports, and performing well in all activities in order to be the person that colleges want to have. Most challenging situations occur within the school walls: public speaking, conflict with friends, competitive sports. The biggest goals presented in these situations are not very big. Although the focus ebbs and flows, above all, students work toward success after high school. Although this is a valid goal, its self-focused nature does not necessarily teach students strength of character.
Ekklesia Mountain High completely changes the focus and goals of high school. Although education is still rigorous and highly valued, the focus is on growing the community and growing leadership within each individual. This outdoor program uses challenging outdoor situations to grow students. Not just simulated challenges within school walls, these challenges draw a student into real life past school. If students don’t take responsibility and properly follow through with taught outdoor techniques, one of their friends could get injured. If students don’t learn how to value each other and work together, they will have no food or shelter. EMH grows high school students to be not only intelligent people with strong educational backgrounds, but participating, others-centered citizens as well.
High school has provided me with many amazing opportunities. I am grateful for all the charts I have memorized and the books I have read. I love the friends that make me laugh. Although much of high school has been fun, I will always be most grateful for my trips with Ekklesia Mountain High because they have created in me a stronger character – a character that strives for patience, bravery, thankfulness, and unconditional love for the people around me.
Ekklesia Mountain High is a boarding and day-student program for high school juniors and seniors at Darren Patterson Christian Academy, in which approximately forty days of wilderness experience and leadership training is integrated with rigorous academics in DPCA's Biblically-centered environment. To learn more, please visit the school's website at www.dpcaweb.org, and the EMH program's website at www.emhweb.org.