Sacred Rok Board Members Reflect on Experience with Incarcerated Youth

Sacred Rok Board Members Reflect on Experience with Incarcerated Youth

Last week Board members Kenji Hakuta and Nancy Goodban were privileged to accompany Ron Kauk as he led five young men on a hike in Yosemite.   

These young men are incarcerated at the Iris Garrett Juvenile Justice Correctional Complex in Merced, otherwise known as Juvenile Hall.  They are enrolled in the Bear Creek Academy (BCA), which adds a classroom component for selected youth at Juvenile Hall.  Ron visits Juvenile Hall every two weeks, bringing organic lunch fixings, and joins them to share reflections about their trips to Yosemite. The BCA youth have worked with Ron and their classroom teacher to create the BCA Mission I’mpossible program – they also set up a website at and they shared their thoughts and feelings in our collaborative book, Voices From the Inside Out.

Kenji and Nancy walked with these young men and Ron and the Probation staff on a warm springtime day in Yosemite Valley.  We first stopped at Fern Spring, the entrance to Yosemite Valley, to appreciate the fresh water coming right out of the ground, filling our water bottles and enjoying sitting in the shade.  We then took a hike around Mirror Lake, past the rushing roaring waters of Tenaya Creek and up Tenaya Canyon with its spectacular views of Half Dome and other granite peaks.  The young men were respectful and kind. There was a lot of talking and laughing, as well as playing in the placid waters of Mirror Lake  – a sense of freedom and of appreciation for the magnificence of the springtime of newly budding trees and wildflowers, and the joy of being in nature.

A few days later, we joined them for their lunch meeting at Juvenile Hall where they looked at photos of the trip and reflected on what it meant to them to be in nature.  Each young man had written down his thoughts about the trip and the impact of being in nature, and took turns reading them aloud to the rest of the class. 

Articulate, poised, and well spoken, these young men have their whole lives ahead of them.  We hope that their experiences with Sacred Rok in nature and the classroom will help them to see the world beyond their own neighborhood, and make positive choices in their lives when they get out.  More than ever we realized the need for a place they can go to after they exit Juvenile Hall, for a day or a week, to feel again the sanctuary of time in nature and time to reflect. Our Sacred Rok Board is committed to help raise funds for a house, a vehicle, and a staff to assist Ron as we do our best to transform lives in a meaningful way, one person at a time.

- Nancy Goodban and Kenji Hakuta