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FEB. 4, 2016

Facing Challenges

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Paige Lester-Niles, Camp Director

As hard as it is for me to believe, my youngest child will be starting high school next year. A few days ago we drove past the high school that she’ll attend. It was early afternoon during dismissal, and there were kids everywhere – so many more than at the tiny K – 8 school that she has attended since before she was 5-years-old. As we drove by I said “Wow! There are so many kids! Are you nervous about high school next year?” She responded that she was excited, but I’m sure that she has some trepidation about the transition from the school that has been home to her for so many years, to the much larger one. We’ll actually be going to her high school open house tonight. I can’t imagine what it will be like for her to walk through those halls for the first time, and to begin to see herself as a high schooler.

To help with transition to high school my daughter will be participating in Hante Appalachian Trail Trek this summer. She’s a little nervous about the Trek, and is worried that the hiking will be challenging at times. I know that she’ll encounter other challenges on the trip – group dynamics, setting up camp at the end of a long day of hiking, making the most of a burned meal, inclement weather, etc. – and I say “bring them on!” These challenges are not insurmountable. They will strengthen her character and build her confidence, which in turn will help her as she navigates the challenges of high school (challenges that make hiking a 100-miles with a backpack look like a walk in the park).  Growing up is tough, and I want to give my children as many tools as they can to help them be as successful as possible. I know that participating in a Hante is a great tool.

I also know that it’ll be a lot of fun! On Hante, my 14-year-old daughter will be able to live simply for 3 weeks. She’ll be able to hike 100-miles through the beautiful mountains and balds of North Carolina with everything that she needs on her back. She’ll be able to wake to the songs of the birds, and to relax by a campfire under the stars at the end of the day. She’ll be able to feel the pleasure of cooling her feet in a mountain stream, and taste how good simple beans and rice are to a hungry hiker. She’ll enjoy being part of a small group of teens who can let go of being self-conscious and truly be themselves.

I know that she’ll come home filled with stories and trials and triumphs. I’m so excited for her journey and for how it will prepare her for her high school years.

Paige Lester-Niles, Camp Director