Published: Thursday, 06 March 2014 16:07
For many, climbing is a passing hobby. For others it can offer a huge support system. At MetalMark in Fresno, climbing is helping to change the lives of local students and keep them in school.
Twice a week, a group of inner-city high school students climbs at MetalMark. Will Haskins, a high school Cross Country coach and teacher with McLane High School, first proposed the Project Reach climbing club in 2011 to the Fresno Unified School District. “McLane High School is an inner city high school where 25% of the student population is in the foster care system and holds the highest density of poverty in the nation”, stated Haskins. “McLane’s graduation and student retention numbers are atrocious.” Haskins added that, “participation in after-school programs and athletics is a determining factor in these students staying in school.” Haskins hoped that a climbing program would help students graduate.
Haskins confronted a number of difficulties when starting the club. After a six month grant approval process from the school district, Haskins faced the hurdle of funding the project. To achieve this goal, Touchstone Climbing partnered with Project Reach and offered a discount on purchasing equipment for the students. Other members of the climbing community supported the project as well. Haskins posted on various climbing websites looking for shoe and chalk bag donations and climbers flooded Project Reach with gear, and within months gear was arriving at MetalMark from all across California.
“Many of these students are from all ethnic backgrounds, all grade levels, all athletic abilities, and many of them are feeling hope and success for the first time in their lives,” said Haskins. A student approached Haskins and said, “Rock climbing is the first thing I’ve ever been excited about.” Haskins knew he was on to something big after more students approached him. “This is my first year rock climbing, and it has really changed me. I have learned that even though a route is really hard, I shouldn't give up,” said Project Reach student Alexis. “When life gets hard, don't give up. MetalMark is a positive place to hang out, and the rock climbing staff inspires me.”
“I had broken my arm, and rock climbing helped me recover. Also at that time I was having problems at home and it helped my life feel better,” said Tshaaj, a Project Reach student. “Not only did it help me physically, it also helped me mentally. I feel like rock climbing has helped me a lot.”
Haskins feels that along with the strong relationships he is building with his students, the climbing club also resulted in students staying in school, passing classes, building friendships with other climbers, and essentially building a positive community in which they feel safe.
Haskins and the other teachers at McLane High are excited about the rock climbing club. When they see a student needing extra help, not doing well in school, or how would benefit from an extracurricular activity, they know they can send them to Project Reach.
Published: Wednesday, 26 February 2014 19:53
Under the guidance of GWPC member and Oakland Tech P.E. Instructor Carlos Bover (affectionately known as "Coach" to his students), students are redefining what's possible in a P.E. class by pushing their limits and haveing a blast. This is the programs 4th year running, so we decided to turn over control of our monthly outreach series to Coach Bover and this year's group of "A Period" students.
My name is Carlos Bover. I teach Physical Education at Oakland Technical High School. I teach a 10th-12th grade, A-Period class which goes from 7 to 8am. A few years ago, I suggested the possibility of offering an A-Period physical education class, for those students that did not have time to take PE during the regular school hours. I started A-Period and after the first year, I realized that this class had the potential to offer a unique and diverse P.E. experience by taking the students off-campus to vist local recreational businesses. After receiving approval from my school's administration, I started contacting various local businesses to offer my students the best, most interesting P.E. experience possible.
I contacted the staff at GWPC and quickly made contact with their manager Jeremy Yee. Mr. Yee loved my idea and worked with us to develop a program that was both enriching and affordable for my students, many of whom come from economically disadvantaged families. Thus, rock climbing was introduced to the A-Period P.E. class, as a way to increase the physical fitness of the students, and to grant them an opportunity to learn sport/activity that can contribute to their health & wellness for the rest of their lives. We go to GWPC once a week for the entire school year where the students are introduced to climbing in a controlled and safe setting. They learn basic belaying and climbing techniques, as well as ongoing lessons about safety, reliability, support and how to work together. The number of students in my A-Period class can vary from 40-50 (sometimes more).
I've also tried to structure this class so that it's more than just "free-time" at a Climbing Gym, so my student's grades are dependent on a series of monthly climbing "tests" which include their retention of safety rules/techniques as well as challenging them on new routes & boulders. Since we spend 1 day a week at GWPC, rock climbing is 20% of their semester grade. The students are also tested on their knowledge of the history of rock climbing, climbing techniques, and the geography/geology of various climbing areas.
Most of the students that take this class have never been climbing or even heard anything about it. Over the course of 8 months, most students improve from struggling on V0/5.6 to completing multiple V3/5.10 climbs, and many students show even more rapid improvement. Some of my students have even gotten hooked and continued climbing on their own time even after the class is over. Rock climbing is the reason why many of my students take this A-Period class. It gives them an opportunity to enjoy the process of learning, have a good workout and share a unique experience with their peers.
Through it all, GWPC has been amazing to Oakland Tech. They have been accommodating to the specifics of our group, they provided staff to help teach and test students, they made it affordable for Oakland Public School students and most importantly have provided a safe and supportive environment for the students to learn and develop a love for climbing. On behalf of all the A-Period students for the past 4 years... thank you so much.
Thanks to you too Coach!