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SEP. 23, 2014

School of Rock

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After scrambling over 70 feet up the granite face of Cedar Rock, I finally turned around. The view that greeted me, of Pisgah Forest – vibrant green mountains, blue sky, and not a single road in sight – was absolutely breathtaking. Once I regained the ability to take in oxygen, I couldn’t help but yell down to Georgia, who was belaying me, “Can you believe we live here?! This is our backyard!”

This past weekend students were split into two groups for three days of paddling or climbing. My group headed into Pisgah National Forest to climb at some of the Southeast’s best crags. When we left on Friday morning, the group was both eager and enthusiastic, but also a bit nervous. Before we began our climbing adventure Katie Harris, trusted English teacher and Wilderness Leader, took a page from Eleanor Roosevelt challenging each member of our group to do at least one thing that scared them.

Witnessing these students rise to this challenge was perhaps even more breathtaking than the views. I watched students Eleanor and Georgia, who only two weeks ago were nervous lifting their feet off the ground, climb well over 100 feet up the rock putting all their trust in their belayers. I saw Leo and Jessica push past frustration and physical fatigue in attempts to climb tough routes that would challenge even the most advanced climbers. I also watched students grow in their eagerness to support their peers, including jumping up to belay someone, offering encouragement to a struggling climber, or asking how they could be helpful.

Like many of our students, I did not consider myself a climber before arriving at OA, and it is quite possible that the views took my breath away in part because that moment when I turned around I realized just how high above the ground I was. But I’ve realized that is a big part of what OA is all about, finding ways to push yourself past what you thought were your limits, or choosing to give more of yourself to help others.

The reward of this new challenge – an incredible view, the euphoria of accomplishment, a stronger community – are well worth it in the end.

Amanda Wheelock
Resident/Wilderness Leader