What Students Say

“As I laugh with friends (old and new) in the midst of nature untouched, I can’t help but get caught in a daze. I’ve taken this experience to really look at myself and focus on what really matters. I am disconnected and without distractions.”  -Lauren


“We will return to our lives and schools and groups. We’ll overschedule each minute with projects and plans, each school day exhausting our mental capacities and threatening to strangle our characters and promising safety if we only conform.  But we will come back changed, we will come back knowing what it has been to breathe and walk and make and be. We will maintain a renewal of our consciousness and remember how easily creation comes when we move along unjudged and unscored.” -Claire


“Going into Summer Journeys I was sure it couldn’t change me, yet it did without me knowing. One day, I sat down, and it dawned on me how drastic of a change it made on me, all under my nose. I cannot imagine going back to the way I was, and I can’t imagine wanting to.” -Josh


“A time I felt completely free was when we were in the backcountry near the Teton Mountains. There I felt trusted as well. I would just walk away far enough away from everyone to where I could see them but not hear them. I would lay down in the grass and notice how beautiful it all is and how lucky I was to have the opportunity to be there.” -Abby


“I believe that someday in your life you’ll meet a special friend or person. That person will make you laugh so hard you are doubled over and crying. One that leads you to the door to your dreams. These are the people I’ve met during my Summer Journeys trip: my new family. I can never forget the times we had and will have.” -Adriana


“I threw up at 1:30 a.m. and had to sit in the bathroom. That was not the most pleasant experience, but one person couldn’t stop making me smile. This was Lydia. She gave up sleep to sit there with me. We had fun, talked about food and both of us made friends with a moth we named Robert.” Ann


“Now I’m happy that I can meet people with confidence. Now on the way back we went to rappel of at 70 foot cliff, and after that I’m confident that I am not scared of heights. Now I can do more in my life. This trip has taught me how to live life in a safe but fun way. Going out of your comfort zone can be awesome.” -Matt


“You get to release the bird on your card.” I had an American Robin. I was almost guaranteed to release one.  Ben, our counselor, came to our table and said who has the robin card. “I do!” I said. “Well there’s one right now,” he said. I made my hands flat like a plate. He put the robin on my hands with its back down. It lay there for a couple of seconds, the guy tickled her belly, and she was gone. Just like that. It was a remarkable experience.” -Ben


“Summer Journeys has been an amazing program because it really helped me get back to my old self, the boy that could recognize many different types of species of animals and plants .I also miss being able to see spectacular scenery on top of mountains. I wish I could go every year. Can you imagine all of what you could do? This was the greatest trip of my life. I’m going to truly miss of this.” -JP


“I learned about others, nature, science, life, and a lot about myself. I learned more science than my whole middle school experience. One of the most important things I learned is to stop, listen, and observe. I believe there is so much to learn from nature and animals. This journey has left me with great and funny memories and has inspired me. These 17 days honestly couldn’t have been better.” -Cecilia


“I realized that I HAD JUST CLIMBED A MOUNTAIN! I just stood there for a while taking it in. The sight was so unbelievably breathtaking. I couldn’t believe I had previously lost interest in the woods. I don’t think that day could have been any better.  Next, my group decided to go to the backcountry, a place with no civilization and where few people have the privilege to visit. The hike was grueling. I decided to just lie down and stare at the mountains so I could drink it in. The feeling of freedom it gave me was exhilarating.”  -Mackenzie


“On Summer Journeys you learn to accept each other. No matter what they have been through, what they have done, or what religion they are.  I tried my hardest not to think of myself individually, but as a team.  You share memories together, laugh together, eat together, listen to music together. You push each other to step outside your comfort zone. You are there to comfort them when they need to cry.” -Jill


“(What I learned) From the Forest: I’m not hopeless. I’m not someone who needs directions every step of the way, or the kind of person who relishes instruction when something shows itself to be a challenge. There is power in solitude, and every step you take has its purpose, no matter how lost you may feel in the moment.

(What I learned) From the Mountain: I’m not someone who quits when I find my limit. The only person who can get in my way is me, and I need to stop listening to myself. I’m capable of so much more than the box everyone else puts me in. Shooting for the sky isn’t a metaphor: I’ve been there. I’ve looked down from the top of the world and seen that everything isn’t flat, and neither should be my expectations for myself.” -Alex


“Over the course of the last couple of weeks and months, I learned that everything is a learning experience. I learned how to cook in the backcountry, how to work efficiently and as part of a team. I started a journey of character development and learned how the will can take over when the mind lets go.”  -Peter


“I don’t know who I’m going to be tomorrow when I wake up. I’m scared to find out. I’m scared I’ll be the person I left behind that early Monday morning in July, not the person I discovered on the side of the Grand. I’ve been 13,770 feet above sea level and 127 stories under the ground, and in the space between I have achieved, learned, and grown more than I could have ever imagined was possible.” -Sky


“Spending 20 days across seven different states with 26 of the most unique people has been a culminating experience. This Summer Journey has provided me with the memories, events, and relationships necessary to create a better me. With a chance to escape from the vicissitudes of our daily lives – the expectations from our parents, teachers, and peers, and the opportunity to be 100% present – I have become me – more than I ever thought possible.”  -Eve


“Not only have I become more open to activities, but also meeting and trusting new people! This trip has taught me to be openly grateful and friendly. It turns out, making friends with people I don’t know is a lot easier than I thought. From random hikers on the trail, to waitresses in restaurants, every person I met was kind and curious about our group. I hand-wrote thank-you letters to show their friendliness made a difference. When I get home, I’ll carry on the habit of a welcoming and appreciative attitude toward new people. My adventure has taught me so many things. It has shaped and molded me into being a more outgoing person who tries new things without being afraid. I’ve revived my dying love for the outdoors, and in a way, I’ve found myself again.”  -Megan


“I finally reached that point. A few of the last hikes in the backcountry were hard. My mind didn’t want to keep going. This is when my will power stepped in, and a voice told me to keep going. Jack Turner writes, “the mind lets go and the will leaps forward.” That was happening. I was experiencing that first hand. I had defeated the thought of not being able to do something and I did it!” -Emily


“I discovered that I love climbing. I never knew that before this trip. Another thing I learned is that I really can do anything I set my mind to; all the negative stuff is all in my head, and it is not true. I CAN climb up that mountain, I CAN carry a heavy canoe all by myself, I CAN make it through a night in the wilderness on my own. I learned that I persevere through everything.” -Gabby


“One of my favorite things to do on these trips is to see how they mold me into the person I will become. This particular trip molded me more than the two trips previous. I got to learn how others perceive me through heart to heart talks and learned how to be more of a leader and positive role model for all the others.”  -Kali


“On this trip I learned that living simply is the best way to live. Living without everyday distractions and technology from home has really brought out the best in me. Over the past three weeks I have experienced more than most people do in a lifetime, and that would not be possible with the use of running water, a toilet, and a TV. Being away from these artificial means of temporary happiness has helped me see myself in a whole different light.”  -Christian


“I vividly remember standing on the exposed rock at climbing school, tears rushing down my face and legs shaking as if an earthquake had just hit. I had nowhere to go and felt like giving up. I was forced to ask for help. So I did. I called to anybody around that I needed help. And believe it or not, people helped me. I had never felt so good. They called footholds and handholds all over the place to help me get to the top.” -Anya


“I’m so thankful I was able to be a part of such an adventure and blessed to have all these people in my life.  They have taught me more than anything I would learn in any school year and lessons I don’t think I could learn anywhere else. Not book lessons, but life lessons. This trip was more than just the lessons it taught and all the fun times: it was life changing.” -Ali


“I plan to bring this caring, friendly attitude home with me. If it impacted my trip that much, I know it can impact my everyday life at home. If I walk around school and downtown Grand Rapids with a friendly and warm smile on my face and say “hi” to everyone I see, I will draw people in, show them how fulfilling it is hear people’s stories, spread a more friendly vibe throughout my community, and encourage other people to act that way too.” -Maddy


“I journeyed not only to the Teton Mountains, but I also journeyed to find out more about myself.  I journeyed to find happiness and complete peace, and I found in the mountains. I travelled far and wide during my journey: to the Tetons, to Yellowstone, to the corners of my own mind, I went many places over the course of three weeks.  Overcoming so many physical challenges and the more difficult mental obstacles was trying, but I learned so much about myself and what I’m capable of.”  -Faith


“I looked up from the rock I was scrambling over, and I saw where the mountain face ended, and where this fantastic view of Icefloe Lake and the surrounding mountains began.  I leaned on that rock and looked over the edge, and just thought, “I made it.  I’m finally here.” -Madalyn


“The concepts I learned on this trip are ones I know most kids I know, or will know, won’t get opportunities to learn.  Hopefully one day I will be able to show friends what I have acquired.  I will definitely carry these traits with me throughout my life and hopefully make an impact.  These last twenty days have been an incredible experience, filled with adventure, friendship, and life lessons.”  -Emily