MONUMENT VALLEY, Utah - Ten students from Monument Valley High School (Utah) rafted down San Juan River as part of Native Summer Teen Guide in Training Pilot Program 2012 to learn about health and career choices. The five- day trip began on June 4 from Mexican Hat, Utah and covered 57 miles.
"The first two days were devoted to developing leadership skills, hiking, and obtaining first-aid certification," said Marlene Valentine, health education technician with Navajo Nation Special Diabetes Project, Kayenta Service Area and one of the chaperones for the river excursion. "We left Mexican Hat on three rafts and finished at Clay Hills on Friday, June 8. In all, the group rafted 57 miles through the Goose Necks, and at one point, negotiated Class 3 rapids which brought some anxious moments for our students."
The Native Summer Teen Guide in Training Pilot Program 2012 grant was secured by Karla VanderZanden, Canyonlands Field Institute Director, and she recruited students from Monument Valley (UT) High School to acquaint youth with nature. The educational rafting excursion was aimed at decreasing sedentary lifestyle, improving health, developing career interests in natural resources such as outfitting, guiding, field biology, etc.
The trip gave students an opportunity to acquire hard and soft skills necessary for a river-rafting trip. The students participated in various activities along the way to gain experience about river rafting.
"Students rotated and assisted with preparing and cooking meals each day. They set up and broke down camp each day," Valentine said. "Students received hands-on training on reading the river current to select the path on which to travel and rowing with oars, and paddling with paddles."
Students actively participated in group sessions about the environment (hydrology, geology, Colorado Plateau, etc.) They also gleaned more technical information from the guides through interviews and riding along on different rafts each day.
Of course, group members played in the river to cool off and have fun. During the week, youth learned, worked, and played together to form a close-knit group and friendship, according to Valentine.
When students were asked what was the most memorable thing you'll take with you - responses included "the view from the groover (commode)," "sun burn," "I caught myself laughing in my sleep," and "keep your shoes on."