For many, climbing is a passing hobby. For others it can offer a huge support system. At MetalMark in Fresno, climbing is helping to change the lives of local students and keep them in school.
Twice a week, a group of inner-city high school students climbs at MetalMark. Will Haskins, a high school Cross Country coach and teacher with McLane High School, first proposed the Project Reach climbing club in 2011 to the Fresno Unified School District. “McLane High School is an inner city high school where 25% of the student population is in the foster care system and holds the highest density of poverty in the nation”, stated Haskins. “McLane’s graduation and student retention numbers are atrocious.” Haskins added that, “participation in after-school programs and athletics is a determining factor in these students staying in school.” Haskins hoped that a climbing program would help students graduate.
Haskins confronted a number of difficulties when starting the club. After a six month grant approval process from the school district, Haskins faced the hurdle of funding the project. To achieve this goal, Touchstone Climbing partnered with Project Reach and offered a discount on purchasing equipment for the students. Other members of the climbing community supported the project as well. Haskins posted on various climbing websites looking for shoe and chalk bag donations and climbers flooded Project Reach with gear, and within months gear was arriving at MetalMark from all across California.
“Many of these students are from all ethnic backgrounds, all grade levels, all athletic abilities, and many of them are feeling hope and success for the first time in their lives,” said Haskins. A student approached Haskins and said, “Rock climbing is the first thing I’ve ever been excited about.” Haskins knew he was on to something big after more students approached him. “This is my first year rock climbing, and it has really changed me. I have learned that even though a route is really hard, I shouldn't give up,” said Project Reach student Alexis. “When life gets hard, don't give up. MetalMark is a positive place to hang out, and the rock climbing staff inspires me.”
“I had broken my arm, and rock climbing helped me recover. Also at that time I was having problems at home and it helped my life feel better,” said Tshaaj, a Project Reach student. “Not only did it help me physically, it also helped me mentally. I feel like rock climbing has helped me a lot.”
Haskins feels that along with the strong relationships he is building with his students, the climbing club also resulted in students staying in school, passing classes, building friendships with other climbers, and essentially building a positive community in which they feel safe.
Haskins and the other teachers at McLane High are excited about the rock climbing club. When they see a student needing extra help, not doing well in school, or how would benefit from an extracurricular activity, they know they can send them to Project Reach.
"Finding climbing changed my life," says Diablo Rock Gym manager Hans Florine. "Being able to share that with kids who might not have found it on their own is one of my favorite parts of the job." DRG is able to open their doors to organizations and introduce them to climbing and the outdoors. One group that recently came to the gym is the People Who Care Children Association. The PWC is a non- profit organization that serves at risk youth ages 12-21.
"We provide community service opportunities, mental health services, and have a unique vocational training program," said Julie Linsday, one of the coordinators. "The youth are able to learn about green jobs and environmental issues. We provide them with teambuilding, expressive arts and community outings, which is why we jumped at the chance to bring them rock climbing at DRG!"
"This gym has been there for our program since 2010. The youth benefit from the trips by developing trust within the group and are introduced to new experiences." The kids come to the gym to boulder and rope climb with staff.
As we all know, climbing is both physically and mentally demanding. "Most of the youth have never experienced rock climbing and it allowed for them to feel accomplished, thereby boosting their sense of self-worth, said Lindsay. "It was a very bonding experience, it strengthened their sense of competency in their bodies through exercise and allowed for a great time!"
"We are honored to be a part of the Diablo Rock Gym culture," said Lindsay.
Remy Orvis, a front desk staffer from The Studio, will be participating in an awesome event in Downtown San Jose. She submitted this report to the Touchstone Blog.
It’s a powerless feeling to know someone with a real addiction and not be able to get through to them. It’s even worse to watch them slowly slip into a deepened abyss away from family, friends, and everyone who ever depended on them for support.
As climbers, we can relate to relying on people because we are dependent on our belayers to catch us when we fall. And I fall often because I keep climbing things that are a bit dangerous. So what’s that old saying? Beat addictions with addictions? Let’s do that.
On December 5, I am going to rappel down the Marriot building in San Jose to help families of real addiction. Please join me in raising $500 to support them with Shatterproof – a nonprofit organization paired with Canadian-based Over the Edge that aims to create a country too tough for addiction through pledges and exciting events, such as descending city structures.
It is money that families need to get through tough times, and the rappel is a symbolic act to show that Touchstone Climbing and the Studio are in the battle against addiction. That’s why the rappel-for-a-cause trend in San Jose is so great! What better way to emphasize our love for those lost to addiction by rappelling down the side of a major city skyscraper? And what better way to show those that we might lose to addiction that we care by rappelling down the side of a major city skyscraper?
Call me crazy, I think it’s romantic. Also, I really want to rappel down the side of a major city skyscraper.
So join me, Touchstone Climbing, and Shatterproof for the amazing outreach opportunity by pledging for these families so that they may become shatterproof against addiction!
Click here to donate! Thanks Remy!
Last Sunday, the Children's Hospital Adaptive Sports Program stopped by MetalMark. The climbing at the Fresno gym is an integral part of the program, which provides recreational and athletic experiences for those with disabilities.
Read more: Adaptive Sports at MetalMark
On March 1st, MetalMark held the first Touchstone Wine tasting. Over 50 members headed to the Fresno gym to taste wines from Ceja Vineyard, a Napa Valley Winery, and Englemann Cellars, a local Fresno Winery.
Read more: MetalMark Wine Tasting
MetalMark Climbing and Fitness is under an hour from the Valley floor, and yet many Fresnopians have never made the drive, let alone climb there. Having a world class climbing gym in the Central Valley allows people who would never consider climbing to give it a try with our friendly and helpful staff.
On February 27th, the Madera Adult School came to MetalMark to climb. They have made several trips to the gym over the past year as part of a program to introduce their students to unique extracurricular activities.
Aurora Garcia is a teacher at MAS, and brought the group of students to MetalMark this month. "I work with the students ages 18-22, and our program is designed to assist special education adults in providing them with transitioning skills to adulthood. Two of the components of our program are community and fitness." Climbing is a great chance for the students to build confidence and challenge themselves in a safe and supportive environment.
Daniel, a staff member at MetalMark, worked with the teachers before hand to teach them to belay, so that when the students arrived they were able to climb with instructors that they knew and trusted. "It was super fun," said Daniel. "Especially to see everyone working together to cheer each other on."
Climbing for the first time can be both physically and mentally demanding, but the feedback from the students was positive. "I feel like I was on top of the mountain," said one student. "It was my first time climbing, it was awesome. I enjoyed climbing all the way to the top."
"I was very excited to see our group gain more confidence with each climb and challenge themselves to do something new. Students continue to set new goals to reach higher each time," Said Garcia. This has been a wonderful experience for our students and staff."
Each Touchstone Climbing and Fitness gym has a strong commitment to outreach and supporting their local community. If you have a group you would like to bring to the gym, please contact the gym manager for details!
Recently, the Children's Hospital Adaptive Sports Program stopped by MetalMark. The climbing at the Fresno gym is an integral part of the program, which recreational and athletic experiences for those with disabilities. Based out of the Central Valley, the program takes disabled people of all ages and health impairments and encourages them to take part in athletic activities and exceed expectations.
During the last visit to MetalMark, 12 kids got to climb through their various handicaps. The kids climbed out of their wheelchairs, walkers, and leg braces and had a ton of fun. Approximately 15 volunteers, came in, took the belay class, and facilitated and encouraged the kids in their climbing.
Katie Walker, who wears a prosthetic leg and climbs regularly at MetalMark, volunteered to encourage the kids as well.
The program scheduled another visit for the middle of November. The kids are definitely excited as it is a great opportunity for them to get an incredible experience.