40-day summer adventure course bring classroom to Yosemite

UC Berkeley’s Adventure Risk Challenge program is offering Merced County youths a chance to explore Yosemite this summer.

For six weeks, teenagers will trek amid the park’s waterfalls, alpine lakes and granite cliffs.

Outdoor adventures such as rafting, kayaking, rock-climbing and backpacking will be combined with an academic curriculum that strengthens students’ English literacy and leadership skills.

ARC is celebrating its 10th anniversary this year. The organization and its 40-day summer immersion course was founded on the Outward Bound model and supports reading, writing, public speaking and academic study skills through outdoor adventure and reflection on students’ experiences.

Katie Zanto, the program’s founder, wants to connect more people to the outdoors.

“Our participants didn’t have access to the outdoors like the rest of the community. I had the idea that I wanted to combine outdoor education adventure with literacy instruction,” she said.

Zanto founded Adventure Risk Challenge in 2004 in Tahoe, and the group has served Merced County students for five years. Since its creation, the program has helped students become more goal-oriented, improve their English language skills and develop leadership abilities.

All Merced County ninth- through 12th-graders are eligible to apply for the summer course. ARC is a scholarship-based program and partial to full financial support is provided to all accepted students.

First-generation youths, English language learners and all students who are motivated to experience a life-changing outdoor and academic adventure are especially encouraged to apply.

Visit to learn more about the program and download applications for the summer immersion course. Applications are due by April 25.