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Teen Voice: That was intense
September 16, 2016 Faith Reisig   

Read more by Faith Reisig
“I promise to keep your heart safe,” said 60 kids into the open air of a camp in Colorado. I looked around the circle, surveying the faces of people I trusted completely, even though I’d known most of them for only a few days.

This was the CHOICES intensive, a two-day camping trip designed to help students get to know each other and form a cohesive group.

The trip started at 6:45 on a Thursday morning. All of the CHOICES students assembled at our school building and we loaded the bus. Getting a group of teenagers together that early in the morning is nothing short of an adventure, but we all managed to show up on time and leave a few minutes after 7:00.

On the bus ride up to the camping grounds, there were the usual high schooler antics, singing along to pop songs, creating inside jokes, telling stories, and even an impromptu round of 20 questions-style guessing games.

Once we got to the campsite there was a rush to unload the vehicles. While teachers and staff made lunch, the campers organized piles of sleeping bags and backpacks before taking a look around at the scenery. A group of more adventurous students vaulted to the top of a rock pile, while others sketched the mountains or walked purposefully down to the outhouse.

After eating lunch and pitching tents, students were divided into groups and went off to participate in the various outdoors activities.

I had my first experience with frizbee golf. With 13 holes, I managed a staggeringly high 64 points. I may not be on the Olympic line up for “frolfing” anytime soon, but I did have fun.

I tried archery next. I thoroughly enjoyed that. After a few safety lessons and tips on how to shoot a bow, I began shooting arrows, running out of my allotted number in what felt like a matter of seconds.

After archery, my history teacher, David Bollish led a group of us on a hike. After heading down a trail for about half a mile, Mr. Bollish took the group up a steep incline to the top of a hill. The view was amazing. He sent us off on our own for a few minutes, instructing us to stay within voice range and enjoy discovering a part of the world that nobody else would get to see.

From a seat on a fallen tree, I looked out at a peaceful valley. Mountains sat on either side of me, looking like piles of lumpy, fragmented clay left over from an art class sculpture. The view was breathtaking, as was the hike back down. As we slipped and scooted our way back down the incline, I joined a group of girls I barely knew before the trip. As a group we helped each other over the steepest sections and caught one another if anyone started to slide. We made it back to the campsite laughing and smiling.

Suddenly, I found myself laughing and talking to a group of people I never knew before. Honestly, I don’t think I knew all of their names at that point. The trip had forced us together, made us face some obstacles, and brought us together, just as it was designed to do.

However, the most challenging part of the trip was still to come. After swimming in an icy lake, sleeping on the lumpy ground, and more team-building activities, we assembled as a group. We formed a circle and passed around a purple rope.

Each person said whatever they wanted about their choice to come to CHOICES and what they had learned since coming there, and, as they did, each tied a knot in the rope. When they finished speaking, they said, “I promise to keep your heart safe” before allowing the next person to speak.

There were all kinds of stories, some sad, some hopeful. Most made my heart hurt. When we finished I knew each person a little bit better. Not only could they trust me with their hearts, but I believed I could trust them with mine. Over the course of a two-day camping trip I had come to love a group of messy, beautiful people and trust them explicitly.

Editor’s note: Faith Reisig is a junior in Choices, an alternative education program at Scottsbluff High School.
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