Adrienne: The Courage to Grow

By BRIAN SMITH

Adrienne remembers her first ah-ha moment.

Her group leader had the students spread out on rock in Canyon de Chelly. He told them to fully listen to the world around them, to be mindful.

“That was really, really powerful and I felt very connected to the natural world and everything that was around me,” she said. “I don’t think I had an experience like that before.” From that sense of connection and the vacuum of the cacophony of growing up, she started to think about the big picture and where she wanted to fit into it. She could see, for the first time, a horizon beyond.

“I don’t think I fully understood it at the time, but I started thinking about it and that was really important for me,” said Adrienne, now an 18-year-old intern with No Barriers Youth.  She wanted more, to water the seed she found in the Canyon de Chelly. It came in the summer of 2012 when she signed up for two more No Barriers Youth programs – a trip to Cambodia and then a journey through the Grand Canyon.

The combination of service projects, environmental and cultural education paired with experiential travel, rooted everything for Adrienne. Being a normally reserved person, she now felt comfortable being vulnerable.

“I learned a lot about myself and what’s out in the world. One of the things that No Barriers Youth programs do really well is make kids question everything. I was willing to let the people on those trips and the natural world around me reveal a different part of me that I was a little scared to show before,”

After graduating high school, Adrienne decided she wanted another experience – a gap year. In February 2015, she will leave with Carpe Diem Education for a three-month program in Tanzania, Uganda and Rwanda. There she will work at orphanages for youth affected by HIV, special needs schools and campaigns to end the poaching of rhinos.

“I don’t know where I would be if I hadn’t gone on those No Barriers trips, but I think I would be looking in different direction.”

From her experience with No Barriers Youth, she knows her rare decision to take a gap year will pay dividends when she returns to start college at Butler University, where she is currently listed as an early education major. Adrienne said she wants to pair that with international studies either as a dual major or as her minor.

“Now I am always looking for the opportunities to go places and have those transformative experiences,” she said. “Every time I do, I’m able to keep that feeling a little more when I come home.”

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