Outreach: Community Service

Soccer Without Boarders at BIW

We are always happy to welcome community groups into the gym to build confidence, get active, and have a blast. Last month, Soccer Without Boarders, an Oakland non-profit, visited Berkeley Ironworks for a day of climbing. SWB Oakland creates positive team communities for recently arrived refugee and immigrant youth. Harnessing the power of soccer as a universal language, the Oakland program engages newcomer, English Language Learning youth from more than 25 countries. As youth adjust to their new and often difficult circumstances, their SWB team provides an avenue for positive engagement. In a safe and supportive environment, youth build meaningful friendships, community connections and powerful mentor/mentee relationships, which play an important role in their successful integration into their new lives in the US. 

Soccer Without Borders Trailer from Reinhard Cate on Vimeo.

We received this thank you letter from founder Ben Gucciardi:

On behalf of all the youth in Soccer Without Borders, I just wanted to extend my sincere thank you for taking the time to host our young people at Berkeley Iron Works . The kids really had so much fun, and the experience challenged them and brought them closer together. For 98% of our kids, the trip marked the first time they have ever been climbing, and they were all beaming when we returned from the trip. As refugee and immigrant students who just arrived to the US and are living in East Oakland, our youth are some of the most vulnerable in the East Bay, and it meant a great deal to them to have this experience.

You and your staff, especially Ryan, Michelle, Jeff and Jerome, have been so great to work with!
With much gratitude and appreciation,

Ben Gucciardi

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Project Reach at MetalMark

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.

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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. 

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“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.”

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“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.”

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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.


P.E. Class from Oakland Tech continues to reach new heights

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.

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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.

936103 10151428466527725 124966475 nI 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! 

Upcycling ropes from Mission Cliffs

We always jump at the chance to help out local schools and encourage fun ways to stay active. Mission Cliffs and the Touchstone Route Setters donated some old climbing rope, and it went to a great cause! We just received this Thank You note from one of the teachers. 

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Instead of chocolate candy parties on Valentine's Day, Flynn Elementary School decided to do something healthy for their hearts and host their first JUMP ROPE FOR HEART DAY! With the help of donated rope from our neighborhood climbing gym, Mission Cliffs, we were able to supply enough jump ropes for the whole school to enjoy. With blasting music, "Kris Kross'll make ya!" the kids jumped their hearts out....literally! Thank you so much! 

Allison Shoule

Teacher, Flynn Elementary School



Community Outreach at The Studio

As The Studio Climbing expands its outreach to San Jose State University students and San Jose City residents with student rate nights and discounted memberships, its relationship with inner-city organizations is also developing as it donate services to schools, women's shelters and at-risk children programs. EMQ Families First is its latest big fan of top-rope sessions and Intro to Climbing Classes, finding the Studio Climbing to be a great place to foster excellence and boost confidence in their youth.

“Touchstone has been a wonderful partner in supporting at-risk children and teens,” said Nicole Garces with EMQ Families First. “These youths are able to set goals and work on facing their fears, while trying something new. They were able to push themselves ways they never thought possible! It is such a positive experience for youth and teams to try something difficult that requires forethought and persistence.”

Studio Climbing-67 EMQ Families First staff brings their children groups to the Studio Climbing often to rock climb at discounted rates. One youth said “rock climbing makes me feel good about myself, because even though I get scared I love it when I get to the top!” Garces added “It becomes a beautiful experience to see children surprise themselves when they are able to succeed in this. It has also been an excellent place for youth to practice coping skills because they are faced with different challenges when rock climbing.”

The Studio Climbing doesn't limit its efforts to only providing discount day passes for kids. The Studio often awards certificates to organizations for Intro to Climbing Classes for community groups, non-profits, and neighborhood companies. "We see it as a great way to introduce the local community to climbing, and provide fundraising opportunities for local organizations," said Touchstone Marking Director Lauryn Claassen. 

Outreach has been a priority for The Studio Climbing since day one. Manager Diane Ortega mentioned when the gym opened in March 2012, “I really want to foster a community environment and keep people psyched on climbing and make it really easy to introduce people to it as well… I am also very excited to introduce San Jose kids to climbing and get a great kids team going.” Ortega said the Studio Climbing’s location makes it easier to get inner-city kids involved rock climbing; it’s about enriching lives, boosting confidence and helping solve life problems.

Stacey, with EMQ Families First added, “We see kids who have a hard time follow rules and believing in themselves. They’re excited when they think about rock climbing, and their confidence goes up when they get to the top, but also in trying a wall harder than they expect. The walls at The Studio causes them to think seriously about safety and listening to directions.”

These are some of Touchstone Climbing’s main goals: safety first, customer service, creativity and community. To take a note from Touchstone Climbing’s Mission Statement, “We give to the community. This is good business practice as a service organization. What we give will come back.”



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