Jake's Story

“I showed up late and don’t have any friends yet.”

What a worrisome phrase for any camp staff member to hear but in this case it gives insight into why we all should value outdoor experiential learning.

At Sierra Nevada Journeys’ campus at Grizzly Creek Ranch located in the Sierra Nevada just outside of Portola, CA, we host youth groups, the majority of which are among the underserved.

The staff at Grizzly Creek Ranch had the privilege of spending time with children sponsored by the Reno Housing Authority for a week-long overnight outdoor learning program that started on Monday. During lunch the next day, I met Jake (not his real name). My custom is to wander among the children while dining and ask how they are enjoying the program, the food, whether they’re making friends and, in general, if there is anything we can do to improve their stay. That’s when Jake spoke up and said that he had only just arrived and hadn’t made any friends yet.

“Well, Jake…where have you been that you’re only here this afternoon?” I asked.

“I was in court,” said the 8-year-old, blonde-hair, blue-eyed boy.

I gulped but plowed ahead, “Jake, why were you in court?”

It was adoption court and I now have parents, a brother, uncles and aunts and an entire family. It’s great!”

Everyone at his table was suddenly transfixed.

Blown away and with a huge lump in my throat I said, “How absolutely wonderful, Jake. I am so happy for you! What a terrific and huge morning for you but I have to ask, why are you here rather than spending time with your new family?”

“I had a chance to come to camp and just couldn’t miss it,” responded Jake.

Overwhelmed and with tears, all I could muster was a smile and some mumbled words.

Jake and children like him are why Sierra Nevada Journeys serves to bring outdoor, experiential science-based learning to the next generation of Americans. We give experiences that build critical thinking skills and awareness required for future environmental stewards. The Sierra Nevada Journey mission is important to Jake’s success as well as the future prosperity and strength of this nation.

Join us. Contribute to the Sierra Nevada Journeys’ mission and goals. You can make a profound difference in children such as Jake who is but one of 80,000 (and counting) whose lives are influenced by experiencing the outdoors and being exposed to nature’s inherent science principles.

- Mark Owen, Campus Executive Director