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Darrius Johnson is an Aim High graduate and a Teaching Assistant with Aim High’s Environmental Home program (AHEH).  AHEH is a hands-on outdoor experience that fosters environmental awareness, leadership, interpersonal understanding, and a stewardship ethic that extends into all areas of life.  For more than 15 years, Aim High’s graduating 9th graders have spent a week exploring the outdoors at Aim High’s Environmental Home site in the Marin Headlands.  In 2008, Aim High expanded its Environmental Home program to sites in Huddart Park, the Palo Alto Baylands, Redwood Regional Park, and Sausal Creek.  This is Darrius’ third year working for the AHEH program.

What do you do at AHEH?
I work with kids from Oakland, East Palo Alto and Redwood City. We take the students out into the wilderness and they have a week-long experience discovering the outdoors. The majority of the kids have never been in an outdoor setting, so they get to try new activities, overcome their fears and move beyond their comfort zones. The AHEH crew produces a different brand of the Aim High magic and camaraderie, and the AHEH experience creates a great balance with the rest of the Aim High program.

What’s it like to work with kids who are out in the wilderness for the first time?
While the kids are with us, they begin to realize that the Aim High Environmental Home is virtually located in their own “backyard.”  We show them that their home extends far beyond the building they live in. We really want students to grasp this, because it allows them to open up and become more comfortable in the outdoor environment. Our great is goal is to see the kids actively participating, taking ownership and accomplishing something new. Once the kids understand that the outdoors is a place they can call home, they get really excited and engaged.

What are you most excited about for this summer?
I love seeing the kids discover their self-identity.  My own 9th grade environmental week with Aim High made a big impression on me. I remember being a 9th grader, confused about who I was, searching and exploring. It’s such a crucial time. This summer, I’m looking forward to being able to provide that same experience for the kids.  I love bringing kids into this outdoor space where they can live in their own truth and find out who they are.

Do you think Aim High is making a difference in your students’ lives?
It definitely does. My little brother is attending Aim High for the first time this summer. He is nervous and scared about it, so I’ve been helping him feel more confident about entering the program. I tell him, Aim High can change your life.

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