I started climbing in Boone, North Carolina the summer I was 15. It was the first time I felt truly comfortable and connected to something, it had been an instant connection with being outside, expressing myself and learning in my surrounding environment of nature. I returned home the end of that summer knowing exactly what I wanted to do with my life. Some two decades later I have an even deeper sense of connection to the outdoors and purpose through a life spent in pursuit of that same passion.
In early January we received an email from a young woman in North Carolina in regards to doing a possible internship with Sacred Rok for her senior capstone project. She’d been researching the mental benefits of climbing and came across Sacred Rok in an article with an interview with Ron Kauk and was wondering if we had any internship opportunities she could apply for.
Sacred Rok has never really had an Internship Program even though we have had mentoring programs for several years. With her being from North Carolina and my very first roots of climbing having sprouted there it seemed like a very serendipitous thing, as if I were coming back full circle. After a few days of consideration I proposed that she come to my hometown of Bishop, CA for her intern week. It would provide the perfect opportunity for her to see some of the daily business operations of running a non-profit, as well as an ideal playground for some world-class winter rock climbing. Essentially, it would be a little glimpse into something that could potentially be life-changing.
Much to my delight everyone was onboard and during the week of February 20th this young woman and her father made the trip out.
The following is Mary’s account of her time:
“Last week, I had the experience of a lifetime, one that I will never forget.
I am a senior at a small school called Woodlawn School in Mooresville, North Carolina. At Woodlawn, every senior comes up with a topic that they are interested in learning more about and we spend the whole year working on this big project, including journaling, interviews, internship week, and a big final project. The topic I chose was how climbing affects the brain. I fell in love with rock climbing not long over a year ago and since then, I joined a team and have just become obsessed with it. While climbing I’ve met the most interesting people. Everyone is just so incredibly nice and friendly. I think I first started wondering how climbing works the brain from one of my teammates. He’s nine years old and a die hard climber. I’ve never met someone so young with so much strength, dedication, and most of all maturity. My teammates and I always joke around how he is actually an old man trapped in a nine-year-olds body and I started to wonder if climbing made him like that. I started out my project researching how climbing affects developing brains and through that branched out. I discovered how climbing has started to be used to help people with mental illnesses like PTSD, anxiety, and depression and I was hooked.
I came across Sacred Rok through an article I read while researching my topic. Coincidentally, the first article I read was by Katie in Climbing Magazine. <https://www.climbing.com/people/out-on-a-ledge-the-mental-health-benefits-of-climbing/>
After looking into Sacred Rok more, I knew it was something I wanted to be a part of and I emailed Sacred Rok about interning with them for my internship week.
I had the amazing opportunity to fly out and spend three days with Katie and Sacred Rok. It may not have seemed like we did all that much, but I learned so much and am incredibly grateful for the opportunity. I got to talk with Katie and Ron for hours about their experiences and the non-profit. I got to climb in Bishop, California with Katie at some legendary Crags I’d never imagined I’d be able to climb in. Since going to Bishop, I found a new stronger love for the sport. I think it's an incredible thing how much we can learn from it. The physical strength, mental strength, connecting with people, solving puzzles, mental control, and truly connecting with nature and our surroundings, truly understanding our place in this world.”
We were very honored to have Mary come out for a few days. It proved to be not only beneficial for providing her with more inspiration and excitement about all the potential in her future but also gave us a fresh perspective on how little things like this really can be transformative and have a greater impact on the future of our youth.
With gratitude for all the potential that exists within ourselves and for the planet,
Chief Operating Officer