Snagging a dangling rope, Brenda Alcantar carefully placed her foot on the taut wire 20 feet above the ground and started across the expanse.
Almost at her destination, the wobbling high school junior suddenly fell back, then immediately caught herself with a safety rope. Finally, she touched a second pole. Alcantar, 16, grinned widely and other students broke into cheers as the climbing instructor slowly lowered her to the ground.
"You think you're going to fall," the affable brunette explained later. "My heart was pounding. Everybody was screaming your name. It felt good being supported by those on the ground."
Alcantar was one of 32 local students who went to Alpine Meadows this summer for a three-day camp sponsored by Pathways in Education, a nonprofit organization that provides experiential learning programs for at-risk youth and works with local Options For Youth charter schools.
Options For Youth was started for students who have not been successful in the traditional educational setting, according to lead teacher Tim Peters. It has eight schools throughout the Victor Valley, including two in Hesperia. But starting this September there will be three, with a school moving from Victorville to 11975 Hesperia Road, near Sequoia Street.
The Alpine Meadows trip was organized to help OFY students learn confidence, work on team-building and make friends, teacher and trip chaperone Jessica Boucher said.
"I personally brought four students," Boucher said. "They've all done a turnaround in school work, social skills and confidence."
The high wire was only one of the confidence-building exercises at camp. Students also tried the "Leap of Faith," in which they climbed up a telephone pole, stood on another small platform and then jumped out to slap a cow bell before being caught in their harness.
Adam Palacios, 13, didn't quite make it his first try.
"The 'Leap of Faith' was scary," he exclaimed. "When I was down on the ground I thought it was easy. When I got up there it looked like a 100-foot drop. It was like whoa…"
Eventually, Palacios said he jumped, with much encouragement and a lower platform.
"It made me realize I could do things I didn't think I could do," senior Michael Cross said later, referring to the trip. "It's entirely different from home and being in the city. I had never been at a camp like this before."
Many of the students on the three-day camp had never been out of the Victor Valley, Boucher said.
Earlier in the day, a team of students strained to extricate themselves from a rope enclosure, learning to work together. A second group found out how many teenagers could stand on a small tarp without falling over.
"It was a good chance to meet new friends," Palacios said. "I have eight or nine new friends on Facebook."
The three-day trip is one of many programs offered by the school. Another highlight is a weeklong trip to a ranch in Colorado.
"Many local teens don't know these programs are offered with Options," Peters said. "Neither the trip nor the schooling cost students or their parents."
For more information about Options For Youth, call (760) 955-5900 or visit www.OFY.org.