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SOUTH LAKE TAHOE, Calif. – Youth at the Juvenile Treatment Center (JTC) in South Lake Tahoe recently had a unique experience. Through a partnership with the El Dorado County Office of Education (EDCOE), Lake Tahoe Community College (LTCC) and the El Dorado County Probation Department, the LTCC Wilderness Education and Outdoor Leadership program has introduced a 40ft climbing wall in the JTC.
The young people, who attend the Blue Ridge Court school housed in the JTC, were able to test their skills and comfort level on the wall.
The student body is made up of court-incarcerated youth from grades 6 to 12. Members of the Judicial School Program team, in partnership with the probation team, are dedicated to creating safe and productive learning environments where positive experiences enrich students’ alternatives and choices. They also strive to create a positive and productive learning environment that promotes the development of social and emotional skills by engaging students in activities that improve self-esteem, help students learn to interact positively with others and use conflict resolution, anger management, and decision-making strategies.
â€œIt’s fantastic for young people. The more activities they have are definitely good for their mental health, as well as for bonding youth and staff, â€said JTC physician Dr. Chapman.
The youngsters immediately lined up to use the wall and it didn’t take long for the first youngster to reach the top. Other young people quickly followed suit and spent the next few hours testing their skills in new ways. Damion Estrada and Savanna Thomas, expert climbers at LTCC, were able to share their expertise with the young people.
â€œIt’s very positive. They learn things about each other and it shows that they can listen to each other’s instructions, â€said Dustin Wekekind, AOD advisor.
The youth received a lot of support from EDCOE members and the probation team, community members and Encompass Youth volunteers.
Lake Tahoe Community College President Jeff DeFranco was also in attendance and said, â€œI am happy to see this event act as a great confidence-building factor for the youth. This event is good for their development, while helping young people to gain confidence. “
The young people and the staff had a competitive and fun race to the top of the wall. The peer support that the young people offered to each other by constantly encouraging each other, as well as helping to provide direction on the next best move, was immediately evident.
J. Schindler, a probation officer, said: â€œThis event was great for skill building, mutual encouragement and confidence building.â€
The young people were able to practice and recognize their leadership skills, gain personal confidence through the completion of wall climbing, as well as overcome their fear of heights.
â€œThis is definitely a positive event and one that fosters the building of self-esteem, confidence, confidence and camaraderie,â€ said Tina Miranda, member of Encompass Youth. â€œIt was amazing to see the teamwork and the way the kids were helping each other. “
Young people were quoted as saying, â€œI had a great timeâ€, â€œIt’s really cool. I’ve never done this before and didn’t think I could do it â€andâ€œ I really like it and it really increased my comfort level, but I agree.
â€œNot only does it make kids happy, it’s also great for building teamwork and increasing self-esteem,â€ said Sally Williams, mental health consultant.
Carey Buchanan, Director of Alternative Programs at EDCOE, and Shane Reynolds, Director of the LTCC’s Inmate Student Program, had planned this event two years ago, but the event was delayed due to the impact of Covid- 19 and the Caldor fire. Carey and Shane noted that this event was long overdue, and they were excited to finally host it.
â€œThese types of events really allow students to focus on their socio-emotional well-being,â€ said Carey. â€œIt provides the opportunity to develop leadership skills, support peers, overcome fear and learn to trust. All the skills our students need.
Shane and Carey both said they hope to make it an annual event. For more information on EDCOE’s programs and services, visit edcoe.org.