January 6th 2017
You could see it on his face- the truest expression of joy and wonder. We were visiting the Apple Pie fire tower to look out over the Pinelands of southeast Jersey, and Alejandro's face just lit up as he climbed higher and higher up the tower. Well, climbed doesn't really describe it justly- it was more of a bounding up the metal staircase. As we reached the top, we could see for miles in either direction. To the east was the outline of Atlantic City, and off to the west you could just make out the skyscrapers of Philadelphia- we literally had all of New Jersey in our viewscape. Alejandro asked for picture after picture on each level of the tower- the camera capturing glimpses of the amazement he had exuding from his face.
Alejandro started at UrbanPromise Academy in the middle of his sophomore year. Prior to coming to Camden, he had lived in El Salvador, and didn't speak much English before starting at UPA. Now in his Senior year of High School, Alejandro is preparing for his Rites of Passage trip in May by participating in a series of outdoor leadership trainings designed to prepare him for his final UrbanTrekkers experience at the end of the school year. On this particular trip, Alejandro got to have his first ever experience of camping, eating over a camp stove, and paddling down the Mullica river.
After posting photos of our adventures online, Alejandro commented with, "The best experience in my life!!! Thanks for everything guys." I love being there when students experience something for the first time. My hope is that Alejandro's love and enthusiasm for life will continue on in our next steps of preparation for the Rites of Passage. My greater hope is that beyond high school, he enters life equipped with a continued sense of intrigue, wonder, and joy, just like the day on the fire tower.
Kris Schnepf, UrbanTrekkers Program Director