Adventure-Risk-Challenge (ARC), is our award-winning literacy, science and leadership program for at-risk teens (now also in Yosemite National Park). Sagehen is very pleased to team with Program Founder Katie Zanto, & Program Co-Director Sarah Ottley in offering the Adventure-Risk-Challenge Summer Literacy & Leadership Program (ARC) for minority teens. In 2007, we expanded ARC to students from both northern & southern California with a new program at the Sedgwick Reserve, UC Santa Barbara. 2009 saw the start of a new Yosemite program. ARC is now an independent non-profit.

ARC is an innovative leadership and literacy program for high school youth, linking wilderness to academics, adventure to leadership, environmental science to literacy, and confidence to activism. Our transformational year-round program improves academic skills, exposes youth to a range of natural environments and wilderness experiences, and inspires the confidence they need to envision and accomplish goals, succeed in high school, attend college, and become engaged, empowered citizens.

This 6-week summer school program has been designed for motivated, high-level English Language Learner (ELL) students with leadership potential. ARC combines an intensive literacy focus with outdoor education: place-based, experiential curriculum. The program addresses a few key issues:

  • Approximately 25% of our student population in the Truckee, Tahoe School District is designated as ELL, 90% of these students are achieving below grade level and will not pass the upcoming High School Exit Exam, and 60% of these students drop out of school before they graduate. Broader California statistics mirror these trends.
  • Motivated, high-level ELL students in California have virtually no summer school opportunities to raise their literacy skills to test out of ELL designation and enter mainstream classes.
  • Research has proven that literacy instruction combined with meaningful outdoor leadership curriculum can raise student grade levels up to 2 grade levels in one 6-week session.

After the intensive summer program, ARC graduates follow through with service projects in their local communities. Graduates also assist with public outreach presentations & new student recruitment. We offer tutoring & reunion opportunities throughout their high school careers. Many of our students are now leaders in their neighborhoods & are college-bound. These students are the first in their families to receive higher education. We couldn’t be prouder!

A.R.C.: Voices on the Rise from F. Felix on Vimeo.



  • Christine Hooper, Bridging the gap: the union of personal and academic growth. ARC: Delivering literacy and personal growth for English Language Learners through outdoor education. Master’s Thesis, 59 pp.
  • Eric Harssema, Examining the effectiveness of a standards-based, outdoor education summer program for English Language Learners. Master’s Thesis. 94 pp.
  • Shelley Gorin, Transforming Thought into Words: Using Photography and Dialogue to Help Immigrant Students Write with Voice. Master’s Thesis. 72 pp.
  • Lundahl, M., Place, Literacy Learning, and Civic Engagement: A Case Study of Adventure Risk Challenge. 2017, Ph.D., UNR

ARC is funded entirely through grants & gifts from the community. For more information about ARC or to become a program sponsor, contact ARC Co-Director Sarah Ottley ( or make a donation to the program by supporting Sagehen Creek Field Station: