Imagine what it would be like to be a teenager locked in a jail cell over the holidays.
After every Yosemite trip Sacred Rok meets with the kids at the juvenile hall classroom for lunch and to share stories and reflections from being in Yosemite. There are also writing prompts. Here are some responses to the prompt, “If you could have one Christmas wish, what would it be and why?”
“I would wish to be with all my family so I could spend the holidays and time with them.”
“To have my older brother home because he is in prison for 28 years, and we have a bond that we share like no others.”
“To spend time with my loved ones that are gone and the ones that are here.”
“If I could have one wish granted, it is that I could go home for the holidays and spend time with my family, most importantly my grandma because she is not doing well.”
“If I had one Christmas wish it would be for me and my two older brothers (who are in prison) to spend the holidays together whether it be in prison or on the outside. The reason why I want this wish granted is because I have not seen or held my brothers in almost two years.”
When the kids get out of juvenile hall, they lose this support. They often stay in touch with Ron through Facebook and text, and express the desire to come back to Yosemite. We want to offer them the support they need to rebuild their lives.
“My name is Anthony and I'm glad there was a program like Sacred Rok to give me another chance. Without Mr. Ron Kauk making it possible for us and our Yosemite trips I don't believe I would have come this far.”
Anthony is one of our Sacred Rok youth from juvenile hall. We cannot use his real name because he was incarcerated as a minor, after growing up in a family fractured by poverty and substance abuse. Sacred Rok is like family to him. He said about one Yosemite trip:
“One of my favorite memories is when we went to a restaurant with Ron and sat down like we were a family gathered up at the dinner table, enjoying a great meal, joking around, and enjoying life.”
The trips to Yosemite are transformational – experiencing the healing ceremony of nature and developing mutual respect with trip leader Ron Kauk.
We want to continue to offer the opportunity for Anthony and other young people to experience nature after they get out of juvenile hall.
"It's really a blessing when you realize how much a person cares about trying to teach the world and not only what he knows. It was a type of privilege to be with Sacred Rok and achieve more knowledge and motivate me to do better. I lost time with my family but now I'm working as a construction interior repair team member and I'm only seeing me doing better. Thank you Sacred Rok for giving me another chance.”
Imagine helping these young people feel safe and find their voice, knowing that they are loved and trusted. And the Sacred Rok model is all about building relationships - we need a mentor/staff to support Ron Kauk, help with transportation, and build a connection with the kids.
And this is a bargain - it costs more than $90,000 a year to keep a youth locked up.
As we reach the end of the year, we want to thank all of our supporters for helping us to connect youth with nature.
Best wishes for the holiday season and the New Year, hoping for peace and human kindness, and thinking of those less fortunate.
- the Sacred Rok Board - Ron, Nancy, Kenji, Brian, Lamar, Lucy, Milbrey, and Steve