Edward Shares His Story

Hello everyone, I am Edward Robledo, a Senior at KIPP Austin Collegiate, and a graduate of Explore Austin. Thank you all for being here tonight. We are all united here this evening for the same reason: to support an amazing organization that I can honestly say changed my life. 

There wasn’t a day I didn't wake up excited to be out in the wilderness, there wasn't a day I didn't wake up overjoyed to be out learning from my Mentors. I learned how to start a fire, how to rock climb, how to be myself, how to mountain bike, how to be confident, and the most important of all, I learned how to believe in myself. Being surrounded by the beautiful landscapes is something I will always remember but when I think back to all of my trips and my six years in the Explore Program, I don't remember the crystal clear lakes or the powdery snow. I remember my friends, I remember the massive pine cone fight we had and most painfully of all I remember the hot sauce eating contest in which I ended up with Cholula in my eye. 

It’s the emotions I remember the most. It’s the feeling of wanting to quit but being pushed by not just my Mentors, but my friends. It’s the family we created that will always be my treasure. There were most definitely times that I wanted to quit, times that I could not stand to be put in uncomfortable situations where I had to face my fears, but those experiences pushed me beyond my limits and molded me into a person that not only my family is proud of, but a person I am proud to be. Looking back, I see my friends faces., I see the way that I grew and the shell I came out of; I see the the shy and small person I once was. I see the growth I couldn't have achieved on my own. I cannot imagine having grown up without my Mentors. Although I only spent one Saturday per month and and one week in the Summer with them, those short  days have equated to years of wisdom that have been my guiding light. 

I was short tempered and an emotional mess in the first years in the Program; I couldn’t see beyond my own point of view and I lacked empathy and confidence in myself. I was on track to take a back seat to my own life and allow others to take opportunities meant for me, to let others decide my life for me. I fought my Mentors every chance I got for the first couple of years because I lacked trust in them, but slowly and surely, I saw they truly cared for me and  that’s all I ever wanted­, for someone to care for me and worry about me. I had grown up without a father until then and had been made bitter because of it, but this group of men, my Mentors, took it upon themselves not only to care for me, but for all others everyone else in my class, too- a feat not many can accomplish. 

Now that I am almost grown up I feel as if I can connect and understand the people around me. I’m a working human being because of the lessons I learned from my struggles and my mentors. My years as an Explorer were a short time in the long run but the wisdom and the happiness I gained are worth a lifetime.
There's one year that set the tone for the rest of my future trips. It was a day we came to call Black Tuesday, it was filled with torrential  rains and an eleven hour hike in which I was ready to quit on the program. I was cold, exhausted, and on the brink of tears because I was so tired. I was twelve at the time and had never been pushed like that before, it was as much a mental battle as it was a physical one. We had gone off trail and hiking with what felt like one hundred pounds. I told myself and everyone that I was never doing this again, that I hated being here. I went to sleep that day after making base camp in the rain and having a hot soup  delivered to me. When I woke up the next morning I felt as if the grueling day before wasn’t so bad, and  ever since then, any challenge has never seemed insurmountable because I feel as if i can accomplish anything set in my path. This Program is beyond special to me not only for the opportunities it offered me to better myself, but for allowing me to find who I am and who I want to be, for giving me role models in a time that I had none and for setting me on a path to success where I want to share what I’ve learned here and pass it on to the next child in need of it. I hope to become a Mentor who can impact other’s lives just as my Mentors impacted mine. My only greatest hope for his program is that it has a significant impact on many more kids, as it did on me.