Bella Martin couldn’t communicate well verbally with the 12 U.S. newcomers she led last month on a rafting trip on the Snake River.
“Everything they did, I wanted them to feel it and touch it versus me talking,” Martin said. “I wanted them to go fishing and hold the fish. See the snake. Feel the water — feel how cold it felt. ... I want them to be comfortable around all that Idaho is.”
Martin took the dozen students enrolled in a bridge program at Boise’s Hillside Junior High on an overnight trip as part of a “culminating leadership project” that stemmed from her studies at the Alzar School in Cascade. The project is named EmpowerOut. She attended Alzar for the Fall 2015 semester and has returned to Boise High, where she will be a senior in 2016-17.
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The learning experience for Martin included trip planning, permitting, acquiring parental permission and other tasks.
The group, which included guides from Wild Science Explorers (where Martin has worked), teachers from Hillside, a Dutch-oven cook and Martin’s parents, floated the Snake from Swan Falls Dam to Celebration Park.
“It was just a really nice, mellow, flat section, but it has some bumpy, tiny waves, so they could see what a rapid may be like,” Martin said.
On the way to the river, the kids were scared, she said.
“I felt terrible,” Martin said. “The girls were just holding on to each other’s hands.”
But it didn’t take long for all of the kids to want to row the rafts.
“They all rowed,” said Martin, who is an avid kayaker and backpacker. “That was a really cool thing to see, to see them in awe as they turned the boat around.”
The group stopped at interesting points along the river for lessons about the history and natural features. They hiked around the area, viewed petroglyphs, saw a snake one of the guides caught and spent the night in a dormitory.
The students on the trip moved to Boise from Africa, Asia and South America. They were selected based on who was interested, who the Hillside teachers thought would be best suited to the experience and who might not otherwise get an outdoors experience.
“They were a great group,” Martin said. “Most of them have only been in the country for one to two years. ... At the end, they were calling each other nicknames and they asked, ‘When’s the next one?’ ”