Adventure Risk Challenge

ARC Students

Adventure Risk Challenge (ARC) is an intensive leadership and literacy program that bolsters the skills of high school youth in literacy, leadership, and life. A program of UC Berkeley and UC Merced, ARC links rigorous academic instruction to wilderness experiences. Presenting students with a combination of leadership challenges and outdoor adventure, ARC encourages them to accomplish goals, succeed in high school, and become engaged, empowered citizens.

ARC melds English, environmental science, social justice, and leadership in a curriculum linked to California State Standards. Teamwork, research, and public speaking, but also resilience and personal responsibility, are key ARC goals. Participants receive specialized attention, enabling them to build on strengths and engage their diverse talents, skills, and interests. Small student cohorts and a caring family environment help students feel safe and build trusting relationships.

Summer Literacy & Leadership Course

Outdoor expeditions interspersed with intensive English academics and environmental science at UC Berkeley’s Sagehen Creek Field Station and UC Merced’s Yosemite Field Station. The language curriculum focuses on reading, building vocabulary, improving grammar, writing projects, critical thinking, and public speaking. Environmental science studies introduce students to the natural world around them, incorporating concepts such as their personal role in conservation. Three backpacking expeditions, including a final youth-led expedition and a solo overnight wilderness experience, plus kayaking, whitewater rafting, rock climbing, and ropes course activities, are interspersed throughout the course.

Academic Year Program

After-school tutoring workshops and college preparation combined with wilderness weekend retreats and community service projects. Participants tour colleges, get SAT prep help, and assistance with college applications and financial aid. Outdoor activities are integrated with leadership lessons and writing.

Making a Difference

ARC has a proven track record of both immediate and long-term success for summer immersion participants:

  • 92% pass the Language Arts section of the California High School Exit Exam, versus a state average of 42% for English Language Learner students and 72% for socio-economically disadvantaged students.
  • 77% enrollment in college, compared to 36% nationwide for Latinos and 46% for Anglos.
  • Increase in community engagement and exposure to outdoor recreation, sports, and student club leadership. These factors are associated with those who stay in school and avoid drug and alcohol use, as well as teen pregnancy. Each year, ARC participants complete hundreds of hours of community service.

ARC students testify to the impact of the program:

  • “Being in the wilderness has calmed me down and taught me not to take everything for granted. I want to protect the parks and make sure everything isn’t urbanized. We need to work with nature instead of against it.”
  • “ARC has taught me to take challenges and do well in school. It allowed me to create a goal to graduate and attend a 4-year university. It opened my eyes and I realized that education is the key to success.”
  • “You don’t realize how this program has changed my life and the way I view things.”