Welcome Chipper Ambassador Luca Pelo

My name is Luca, and I’m the new intern at Let’s Go Chipper/It’s All Good Media. Currently, I’m attending the Team Program, a one-year academic and experiential program available to high school juniors from Tamalpais, Redwood, Tamiscal, and Sir Francis Drake High Schools. Team’s mission is to build its participants’ independence through wilderness exploration, community service, career exploration, and ropes course leadership. While attending the Team Program, I’ve made unmatched connections with the other students being isolated in the heart of the Sierra Nevada with them, I’ve witnessed sweeping sunrises I thought previously only existed in such beauty through filters and advanced exposure and saturation adjustments, I’ve been trusted with another person’s life while suspending them multiple yards into the air with only a rope at Fort Miley Ropes Course, and I’ve watched cancer patients lives change while making them healthy, delicious meals from scratch biweekly while volunteering at the Ceres Community Project. Now, for our workplace learning phase, I’ve been provided with a medium to get my voice out and make real change in my community through Let’s Go Chipper.

Last week, my class took a three day overnight trip to San Francisco Bay’s historical and mysterious Angel Island. We learned about the immigration history of the island, helped the National Park Service by completing service work, and explored all the amazing places that the island has to offer, like beaches with incredible microclimates, a spooky abandoned hospital, and lookout points with three-hundred-and-sixty degree views of the bay area. Although near armies of raccoons scratched on our tents and attempted–often with success–to steal our limited supply of food, it was worth it to sing campfire songs with twenty-three of my closest friends on a virtually empty island long after the tourists left on the last ferry. I’ve learned more about human relationships, social dynamics, wilderness survival, and usable life skills than I ever thought I would when I was hunching over on a faux-wooden desk in a classroom full of groggy teenagers at Tam High, and I can’t emphasize how happy I am that I took the leap of faith to apply for Team, despite the criticism from my skeptical friends and teachers.

Perhaps I wouldn’t have even considered applying for the Team Program if it wasn’t for my early exposure to nature through frequent family hikes, nature walks integrated into my primary school curriculum at Tam Valley Elementary, and a deep love of getting outside, if only to take a deep breath of the crisp Tam Valley air and walk around my tree-lined neighborhood. Although it’s not realistic to expect every public school, scraping by on local tax dollars, to take two week long backpacking trips to Joshua Tree National Park or the Sierra Nevada Mountains, it would make me very happy to see any nature integration at all in school districts, especially those in affluent counties such as Marin, which might be spending their leftover funds on other, arguably less essential things like structural aesthetics or fancier, more desirable technology to replace old, still completely usable computers and iPads.

Still, I’m amazed everyday that something like the Team Program exists, and it makes me incredibly happy knowing that it will continue to change the lives of high schoolers for hopefully many years to come. Even if it’s only twenty-four students of out of some-odd three hundred per class, the Team Program certainly has an effect on people, and I hope it will inspire others to create programs like it, to sway our erratically changing world in a positive direction!