Originally, Ailen planned to take the backpacking and rock climbing course. However, after being encouraged to take the backpacking course, the most difficult course offered, she embraced the challenge. And a challenge the course was. After wanting to give up after a 5 mile hike on the first day, Ailen kept going and said the experience was worth it in the end. Besides hiking, the group also had a solo in which they spent 28 hours in silence, reflecting on their experience. Ailen’s favorite moment of the trip was hiking to the top of one of the mountains and realizing how incredibly peaceful and beautiful nature is and being able to share that moment with her new friends.
Ailen, who is currently in 10th grade, has been coming to HOLA since the summer before she entered 6th grade. She is currently participating in the PAT high school program and for the past two years, she has been involved with the Leadership program working as a youth facilitator.
As Ailen heads back into the school year, she is planning to organize a food drive and volunteer day for a local food bank. She started a food drive last year and it was such a great experience for both the students who participated and the food bank it benefited that she hopes to continue the project again this year. Last year, in addition to the drive, she organized a service day during which she worked with her classmates at the food bank cleaning and packing food.