Letter from Parents of Two Azusa Pacific’s High Sierra Semester Participants

This letter is published with permission.

We are the parents of two students who have attended the High Sierra Semester at Azusa Pacific University. Natalie attended the spring semester of 2006, and Luke is presently attending the spring semester of 2009. He is considering attending again in the fall of 2009. That alone, is a testament to this program.

Our experiences with the High Sierra Semester have been extremely positive. We are always quick to highly recommend it to other students and parents. It is a program that will push and test each student to their full potential. We have been very happy with the quality of the professors and the efforts they make in being available to the students. Both of our kids have mentioned the fact that their professors were not only teachers to them, but friends as well.

One of the things we have appreciated is the family atmosphere on the High Sierra campus. Students and faculty alike come together for prayer, meals, entertainment, church, work, service, fellowship and of course, academics. Everyone serves and participates as one would in a large family. It is evident that this brings everyone together and they form an incredibly strong bond with each other. It is not out of the ordinary to see a faculty member clearing a dinner table or a student shoveling snow from a sidewalk. Everyone pitches in and service is a strong theme.

We also love the idea of exposing these students to the great and beautiful, wild and wonderful outdoors. Some kids have never had the opportunity to see mountains or snow. They may never have hiked, backpacked, gone fishing, skiing, snow boarding, rock climbing, kayaking, or camping. High Sierra is such a wonderful environment to show these students the splendor of God. His creation is all around them, and it is amazing and overwhelming at the same time. For these students, and for the "seasoned" outdoors type student, High Sierra offers a challenging yet controlled opportunity for these kids to explore nature and it's forces.

Students are taught valuable wilderness and survival techniques and basic life saving skills. They are taught to respect their environment and protect it, while respecting and being protective of others. You can't help but be in awe of God when you LIVE in His magnificent wilderness. It is truly amazing to see how these students come together and team up as one unit while living together in the woods for a semester.

There are so many things we would love to go on about but it is just too much! But, the one point we do want to make is the fact that this is not just a fun semester away. Although it is fun, both of our kids have told us it was the most challenging semester they had in academic growth, personal growth, and spiritual growth. And it was evident to us!

We have seen changes in Natalie and Luke since attending High Sierra that has made us very proud and happy. They have come away from it with an inner strength and drive to succeed. Their study skills have improved. And even though they both were very exposed to the outdoors and wilderness growing up, they came away from High Sierra with new wilderness skills that they had never learned before.

The biggest change we saw in both kids was how much they had grown spiritually. It was amazing to talk with them and realize the depth that had not been there before. Even though both kids made huge spiritual changes during high school, it was like they really let God take over while they were at High Sierra. We think that is where they realized just how big the God who lives in their hearts really is. They came to appreciate Him in a new way as they surveyed the nature around them and their desire to follow His will grew.

We are so thankful for this program, and our hope is that it continues to succeed for many, many years. It is unique, challenging, demanding, and fun too. As parents, we feel very fortunate for our kids to have been able to participate in High Sierra. Natalie and Luke will always have a special place in their hearts for their High Sierra family.

Rick and Jayme Healy