Former Kings Beach Elementary student Yami Gutierrez is an example of the impact that a wilderness program can have on teens. This summer, Gutierrez, 21, will teach new participants literacy and leadership skills that she herself learned six years ago from Truckee-based Adventure Risk Challenge (ARC).

Gutierrez, who is currently studying biology and fine arts at Sierra Nevada College, will be an outreach coordinator for ARC, whose mission is to blend literacy and wilderness programming to empower underserved youth to make change in their lives and communities. Her focus will be to help Spanish-speaking families discover what the program has to offer their children, who often find themselves in the middle of two cultures, Latino and Anglo.

Because Gutierrez has a 4-year-old daughter, Miah, in lieu of going on ARC’s 40 day Sierra wilderness adventure that she once participated in, she will make appearances on certain days when her skills will be best utilized, such as helping participants navigate rope courses and mentoring them. She will have a special connection with them from her own personal experience doing the challenge, six years ago.

“I believe that ARC makes a difference,” Gutierrez said. “I would love to see the program grow and for our Latino community to become more involved.”

Gutierrez heard about ARC from a friend, and in 2008 decided to adventure forward. She was hesitant to leave her family for such a stretch of time but wanted to experience something new, for she knew all too well what it’s like to be stuck between two cultures. Gutierrez and her family moved to America when she was 3 years old from Mexico. She spent her childhood translating for her parents while living in a Latino community and attending school with mainly English speakers, which she says made life difficult.

While on her ARC adventure, Gutierrez went backpacking, kayaking, rafting, and rock climbing for the first time, all while learning science and literacy through outdoor education. These eye-opening experiences led her to become intrigued with sustainability practices. She also gained a continuous lifetime support system from the employees and volunteers at ARC, which became her saving grace when she became pregnant with her daughter at 16 years old.

After graduating high school, she was sure she would not be able to attend college and support her daughter. ARC, which also helps young people with college tours, SATS, and individual mentoring and tutoring, found Gutierrez a full scholarship to Sierra Nevada College. One would think that college and a child is enough to keep her plate full, but Gutierrez also works part-time as a program coordinator for the North Tahoe Family Resource Center and at North Tahoe Adventures’ ropes course.

“I was able to obtain these jobs through my leadership and outdoor skills gained during my summer of 2008 and continued involvement with ARC,” Gutierrez said.

“I can now create relationships through the agencies I work with and come together to offer more services to our students and families.”

For more info on ARC or to view a video on Gutierrez’s story, visit arcprogram.org.