BRONXVILLE N.Y. – Three Bronxville students wearing helmets and pads sprinted to the gym wall as the whistle blew. However, they weren't racing to it, they were racing up it.
The Bronxville School installed a rock-climbing wall, 24 feet wide by 16 feet high, in July after it received a $24,000 grant from the Bronxville School Foundation . The rock-climbing wall grew out of the school's Project Adventure curriculum, which was adopted in 1983 to teach students how to work together.
Brian Parise, physical education teacher and rock-climbing instructor, said students need as much mental strength as they do physical strength to conquer the wall.
"The wall breaks all barriers and literally makes everyone equal when they come in," Parise said. "It's really great for the kids to be able to step into unknown territories and grow. There are always some kids whose interpersonal skills aren't too good, and by conquering the wall they are able to build confidence and self-esteem."
Many students whom one never would have pictured climbing a wall find out they really enjoy it, said senior Alina Atayan.
"There was a girl in my class who was terrified and didn't want to go an inch off the ground," Atayan said. "Finally she did and everybody was cheering for her, and it was just great. Everybody is required to take Project Adventure at some point, but instead of complaints, people try to take more classes."
The goal of Project Adventure and the rock-climbing wall is to help children grow into confident individuals in every aspect of their lives, Parise said.
"There have been students who have been deathly afraid of heights, but before you know it they're racing to the top with a smile on their face," he said. "We teach the kids the safety steps and the importance of trusting their partner, and they really take to it. It's all about baby steps, but in the end a lot is achieved."
Junior Grace Yienger, 17, was one of the students who conquered her fear of the wall.
"I'm afraid of heights and was skeptical about climbing in the beginning, but I was determined to give it a go," Yienger said. "It's great to work with people you wouldn't normally associate with and then rely on. It's about stepping out of your comfort zone and just feeling good. I did something I never thought I could have, and I'm very proud of it."
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