Stanford University Students - Sacred Rok


This Autumn, Stanford University students came for a weekend trip to walk amongst the beautiful changing colors and be in the presence of this reflective time. This trip inspired our senses to communicate and facilitate our commitment to learning from nature.


Kenji Hakuta, emeritus of Educational at Stanford but still involved with the university, really took the lead on this trip with his own personal relationship to nature and respect for the Sacred Rok mission - which is to help youth to respect nature and through that to respect themselves. For the Stanford students to be with Kenji provided the unique opportunity for them to leave their academic minds behind and delve into the possibilities of learning more about themselves and their place in the world through time spent in nature.


Kenji’s example of having a good foundation in academics in conjunction with his own personal nature experiences of solo-backpacking trips and rock climbing provided a great reference for the students of what life-long education is.


Simply being together on the 6 mile Valley loop trail promoted a meditative walk which many of us did barefoot through long sections. It’s always an incredible exercise to flow freely - meaning on natures time, to stop and observe the cliffs above, the autumn leaves, and whatever may seem interesting to the group.


“I feel encouraged to develop my own relationship with land and nature. I am drawn to pay more attention to what I am walking on and to take off my shoes more. Thank you for the work that you do.” -- Stanford Student


I love being a part of this flow that always seems to evoke a deeper conversation from a more open mind to consider the beauty we're seeing; a result of the obvious effect that nature can have on our senses which can awaken the beauty inside us as well.

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Iris Garrett Juvenile Justice Complex - Sacred Rok


For our last camping trip of the season in Tuolumne Meadows we had two young men who were doing time at Juvenile Hall. It’s nothing less than a miracle that these kids can join us while being incarcerated due to their good behavior and the respectful relationship Sacred Rok has built with Merced County.


Our Treasurer, Kenji Hakuta - founding Dean of UC Merced, introduced myself and our organization to Brian Cooley in 2009, who at the time was the Chief of Probation and is now a Sacred Rok Board Member. Cooley fully supported our vision of bringing the youth into nature as a way to destress, connect and create relationships.


For all of us involved in these day trips and camping trips it always creates an opportunity to naturally enjoy our time together. As we’ve said before, Sacred Rok is here to facilitate the ceremony of nature, which we observe as a very powerful opportunity to engage with our senses.


Our youth get a kind of nurturing from this experience that can promote healing as a way to find balance in a modern and stressful world. Through these experiences together we are shown the value of what it means to be human and to respect each other and the world around us.


Through the diversity of our board members and your support all of these possibilities have come together to help promote this kind of education for our youth.

Sacred Rok is committed to making a better day.

Keeping it Sacred,

Ron Kauk - Executive Director

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The North Face Explore Fund Event


In 2010 The North Face (TNF) started a grant program called The Explore Fund. Part of their emphasis is on “Introducing underrepresented communities to outdoor adventures, in potentially new and interesting ways…” Additionally, a goal of the program is to “work with nonprofits that are helping change the narrative of outdoor exploration by teaching independence and self-awareness through outdoor adventures, demonstrating partnership and trust through outdoor activities, and developing outdoor leaders through innovative programing and trips to public lands.” All of this resonates deeply with Sacred Rok’s work. As most of you know we operate solely on funds from grants and donations; the Explore Fund has been instrumental in helping us achieve our mission.

Board Member, Steve Shackelton, manning the table at The North Face event.

Board Member, Steve Shackelton, manning the table at The North Face event.

As a recipient of this grant we were invited by TNF to present our story late October at the Craneway Pavillion in Richmond, Ca for a North Face employee event. Our Executive Director - Ron Kauk, our COO -Katie Lambert and one of our Board Members - Steve Shackleton represented us and presented alongside a few other youth serving organizations to a few hundred people on what our mission is, how we accomplish that mission and how the Explore Fund helps us. It was an honor to share our vision and experiences with this group and we really appreciate the questions and interest that was garnered.

Part of our goal is also inspire our peers and community members to engage with the outdoors as well as to think about how to get youth in their respective communities involved with nature. Through events like this one we can not only express our gratitude for the help we get but it also provides us with a unique opportunity to reach a broader community and ignite new ideas.

As always, we appreciated your support and we look forward to a future filled with the nurturing of nature.


Katie Lambert

Chief Operating Officer & Nutritionist

Merced Youth Council: Starry-Eyed

Once again the Merced youth council made a trip to Yosemite to further their commitment with each other and their community in Merced as well as in the nature of Yosemite. It’s always a great inspiration to be with these young people as we’re open for any adventure that might come our way. Our first day together I decided to take them to the Merced River where I went swimming just days before. As I was swimming there by myself, the realization of living in such beauty and being able to literally and figuratively soak it up for the last 45 years, has helped me to understand how profound it can be for human beings to find a sense of place and a sense of belonging to the natural world in a way that you feel no separation from it. This was how it felt swimming in the river that day. I thought to myself that I would really like to bring the kids here when they show up.


Thinking it would only be the first stop of possibly many, the kids didn’t seem to want to leave, so we spent five hours there. On a hot day in the cool water, it was the obvious place to be. Hearing the kids laughing and enjoying themselves while slowly getting more and more comfortable within such beauty is always so confirming to the importance of our relationship with nature to keep us in balance with ourselves and with each other.


When we left the river, we went to Fern Spring. We spent some time there visiting and drinking the refreshingly cool water. This day in nature continued to nurture all of us in a way that was very relaxing. Then we went to the Yosemite theater, where each week I present the film Return to Balance: A Climber’s Journey. Before the film, we sat outside the theater on picnic benches and Katie laid out a beautiful dinner of healthy food.


Then we all went in together and watched the movie. When we came out of theater it was dark. They all noticed right away how starry the night sky was. So I said we should go to El Capitan Meadow where you can really see the stars. Here are some of their words written about their experience in these few days:

- “The city: its bright lights, the sound of traffic, city lights blocking out the shine of the stars.

Here in nature, your adventure is not measured by the number of likes or views. It’s all about the thrill, the beat of your heart and your pulse becoming one with the sound of the falling water. Adventure is measured by the laughs and the splashes, the warm sun hitting your skin, the cool water rushing in between your toes. No camera or post could capture the vibrant green of the plants, the clarity of the water, the blueness and infinite coverage of the sky. When you see the pictures of it, you see the waterfalls and the ocean of trees, the rushing creek and the tall majestic mountains. You marvel at the pictures showing the wonders of this earth but usually 20 minutes later you rush to go watch tv and your marvel becomes only a distant thought. But while here, there’s no escaping nature because it surrounds you. You can hear the waterfall and its power, see its beauty and the way the water looks, turns white with its speed.”


- “It is so different to be up here for the weekend. The city is full of people running around constantly, trying to make money to provide for their family and be able to live. But here, here people just live. They’re able to appreciate the earth each and every day because they live in nature. So many people forget where we came from. “We are never happy with what we have.” My mom always says these words whenever I complain about something. I have never heard words more true than that. As humans, I feel as though we are always wanting more. A bigger house, a nicer car, the biggest TV, the fastest computer, the newest phone, a richer life. In nature you just focus on what you have and you don’t take anything for granted. As I swam around in the clear, peaceful water I observed the people around me and saw something that I’d never seen before. STRESS-FREE FACES. As teens, there is always so much going on in our lives and there never seems to be enough time for me to get everything done. Once I got in the water it felt like the time was just going by so slowly. “The sun is our clock around here,” Lam says. The water welcomes me each time I come and each time I am in it I make more memories with my peers. There are a lot of different ways to bond with people, but I believe that the best way for our group is being in the water and just enjoying each other’s company. Nature is what is bringing us together and because of it we have made memories that will last us a lifetime.

I’ve never felt more relaxed then when I was laying down in the cool sand, looking up at the stars. Looking up at that reminds me of just how little and insignificant I am compared to the rest of the world. Looking up I see the Milky Way and imaging just how tiny this Earth really is compared to everything else.”

- “There’s divinity in nature. I’ve never felt closer to God.”


We continue to learn from each other. Our youth have so much to say when given a voice. Sacred Rok is honored to support the Merced Youth Council and honored that you as well have supported this commitment to education nature’s way.

- Executive Director, Ron Kauk