During my 8th grade year at Murray Middle School, my earth science teacher, Mr. Chase, had this dream of teaching a summer science program. Some fellow students and I became subjects in his experiment to see how it went during that first summer of 2013. In the program, called Murray E2 (Environmental Inquiry Immersion,) we had the chance to take an accelerated science class, get high school credits, plus go on a two-week trip to Wolf Ridge.
My first thought about going to Wolf Ridge was “Oh no. Bugs, mosquitos, hiking, and overnights, eww.” Yes I was worried about the distance of hiking, about all the bugs that might eat me alive, and the potential of not surviving in the wilderness during our three-day trip to Timber-Frear. Thankfully I overcame those thoughts. As a camper here at the ridge, I did activities that weren’t possible to do in the city such as the ropes course. I am frightened of heights but I’ve done the ropes course twice! Each step was scary, but it takes time to overcome those fears. Wolf Ridge wasn’t just a camping place for fun or learn to face your fears, but there were classes to learn about new things like the environment, getting the opportunities to collect scientific data, and observing habitats for animals, and many different things.
My last day here during my 8th grade year, I was extremely upset. I knew I would miss this wonderful encouraging place and the people who worked here. I knew I would miss all the friends I got close to, the ones I told all my secrets to because it was the last day of summer to leave our separate ways into high school. But experiencing new things didn’t stop at the ridge. During my time in E2 at Murray, I continue to meet and make connections with different people, like getting the chance to do an internship at the USDA Forest Service and the chance to do field work.
During the first two years in high school, Mr. chase had us older students work with his new 8th graders and I was able to keep in contact with him. He influenced me in many ways and helped me through many thins, which I am thankful for.. The internship was the best thing that could’ve happened and meeting and getting to know Wolf Ridge Executive Director through Mr. Chase was probably the best of all.
I’m glad I’m back at the ridge because never in my life have I thought I will be here at Wolf Ridge again but as a Wolf Ridge summer counselor this time. Honestly this place is magical with power. It changed me; my personality, my maturity, my mood, and how I handle challenges. I sometimes feel like a vulnerable person, but my co-counselors and directors are understanding people. I am lucky to have met these wonderful friends from all over the world. It’s not just about working here and having “co workers,” it’s about getting to know these generous people and building a family pack. They’re the ones who will be here for the next three months of summer who will guide you and help you whenever you’re feeling down or not yourself.
Getting to work with other students is great. Getting to know them and their culture is a wonderful feeling. I am excited to be Murray’s counselor and getting the chance to work with them because they’ll be doing exactly what I did as a camper. I will be able to help them with their projects as they get ready to enter into Science Fair 2017 during the school year.
Wolf Ridge is a positive “curse” — it keeps pulling me here year by year, telling me to come back, to stay. Each year I learn something new. I can’t wait to see where these opportunities lead me. I don’t think I’ll ever get over this environmental community because it feels like home.
A big thanks to Tim Chase for being such a dedicated teacher and for introducing me to Wolf Ridge, and also to my parents for supporting me in all of this. I appreciate this so much, and I am glad to have them in my life.
— Xeehlue Vang