"I feel empowered to do more and I don’t feel as dependent on those around me. I have a better understanding for nature and really appreciate all it has to offer me.”
“The ideals, beliefs and determination to endure and push through obstacles that were instilled upon me during those two weeks out in the wilderness have carried me to this point today, and will continue to guide me as I walk forward in life.”
Rafael Soto grew up in a neighborhood where temptations and opportunities to go down the path of drugs, violence and gangs are ever present. “Almost all my friends in third grade had some sort of drug problem or involvement with drugs or an older sibling that was part of a gang,” Rafael recalls.
Rafael recognized The Woods Project as an opportunity for him to grow beyond the challenges of his community. As a freshman in high school, he participated in our after school club program, attended weekend trips and spent two weeks in Yosemite, backpacking through the Sierra mountains. A key aspect of TWP programming is handing leadership responsibilities to the students, encouraging them to work as a team to make decisions while on their backpacking trips. As Rafael recalls: “I don’t know what happened, but something inside of me sparked and I decided to take charge. We not only shared the roles as leaders, we shared tears, sweat, and the determination to keep pressing forward in our individual desires.”
Rafael credits The Woods Project with building the skills that allow him to persevere, no matter how big or small the challenge. “The ideals, beliefs and determination to endure and push through obstacles that were instilled upon me during those two weeks out in the wilderness have carried me to this point today, and will continue to guide me as I walk forward in life.”
Next fall, Rafael will be attending Carleton College with a four year scholarship from The Posse Foundation.