This month, we’re excited to profile Yoltzin Bonequi as our Super Camper. A 14 year old from Austin, TX, Yoltzin is an explorer with our nonprofit partner Explore Austin. Two years ago, Yoltzin joined the ranks of other young explorers who commit to a six-year journey of mentorship and leadership training in the outdoors.
Since he joined his boys group (they call themselves “The Wolfpack”), Yoltzin has proved himself a super camper who leads with adventure, community and love. Yoltzin’s mentor, Sean Banks, had nothing but praise to share. “Yolzin’s enthusiasm and excitement for our outdoor adventures is contagious… he goes the extra mile to be a strong communicator and excellent teammate, always looking to help his mentors and fellow explorers.”
At a recent Saturday training day, I caught up with Yoltzin, now in ninth grade, and asked him to reflect on the summer, ninth grade and starting his third year in the program. Here’s what he had to say:
So, how’s high school been so far?
“It’s been pretty good, a little harsh. It’s alright. Going pretty good.” Yoltzin chuckles as he says this. School started only a month ago.
I tell Yoltzin I want to hear more about Explore Austin. I start off asking him about his teammates. Explorers stay with the same cohort each year from sixth through twelfth grade.
“[Explore Austin]’s helpful. It teaches you how to communicate… help each other… how to be safe… mentors motivate you. My teammates, they motivate you and help you, they do not bring you down. They actually do the opposite. Yeah, it’s a good team… our team is Wolfpack, because we stay together. Last year, we were all going canoeing. It was our first time. We didn’t know how things worked. I think we all flipped over.”
Yoltzin joined the team when he was in seventh grade. This summer was his second week-long trip away from home with his mentors and teammates.
Where did your team go this summer?
“We went to Colorado. We went to different places to rock climb. For the first stop, we went to New Mexico to rock climb this little park. It was pretty cool. It was a lot of fun, actually. And then when we went to Colorado, it was more experienced rock climbing. It was definitely more challenging. But I think with all the experience and help we got, we got through it. It was a lot of fun, though.”
Yoltzin and his team trained for rock climbing in the year leading up to their week-long trip.
What was the most difficult challenge you and your team faced?
“I saw the wall [in Colorado] and I was like, “No way am I doing this.” When I was on the wall, it was a little hard to hold on, just hoping your partner catches you. I think that was the hardest challenge I faced. It was trust. But actually, when I got up, You just had to trust your belayer, trust what your mentors told you. I made all the walls actually.”
Yoltzin smiles at this.
What did you learn about yourself this summer?
“I learned that rock climbing is like life. Sometimes you have to jump for it, just have to go for it. You have to trust your belayer like you trust your family, friends… they’ve got your back. If there isn’t a way, there has to be another way like routes through life.”
Why is time outside important to you?
“I get off technology. I admire what Earth gave us… natural beauty.”
Has that changed since you started the program?
“Yes, it’s changed a lot. It’s started to make me want to go outside, do more stuff…”
Yoltzin trails off, and I’m distracted, too. What was just drizzle is now steady rain coming down.
What do you hope for you and your teammates?
“To accomplish new stuff, to accomplish our dreams, and to just keep moving on.”
When you think “super camper” what does that mean to you?
“I think a person that never gave up, that did everything their mentors told them to do… who loves going outside....”
Yoltzin smiles and chuckles again. The humility and optimism he showed in our conversation leaves me with no doubt as to why he was nominated to be our super camper. He carries an easy peace with him. As Yolzin’s team trains to canoe the Buffalo River next summer and as they finish their first year of high school, he’ll continue to “go the extra mile” to support his teammates.
If you want to follow along or learn more about Explore Austin, visit their website. The recruitment season for new mentors is underway now. Nominate a Super Camper in your life to be featured in our November newsletter.