- Special Events
Our stories are truly inspiring!
Read what participants, volunteers, parent, and the organizations we work with have to say about the positive changes Environmental Traveling Companions (ETC) has brought to their lives:
"Before this trip, I just lived day to day without a future, but after spending 24 days with the ETC Youth LEAD School, the path to my future has emerged from the darkness." (read more)
“By getting me out in the mountains and on rivers, ETC gave me a chance to gain confidence and to connect with other kids like me so I didn’t feel so alone with my disability.” (read more)
Even as my legs grow weaker, because of ETC we are still able to get outdoors and embrace nature. ETC helps everyone realize that despite disabilities, anyone can soar!" (read more)
“ETC gave me courage. They saw potential in me, something I could not even see. They helped me harvest that potential and turned me into a leader.” (read more)
Anthony Ng, ETC Youth LEAD Graduate
“I participated in the 24-day ETC Youth LEAD course, where I was given a chance to shine along with 13 other students. Before this trip, I just lived day to day without a future, but after spending 24 days with the ETC Youth LEAD School, the path to my future has emerged from the darkness. I grew up in an abusive home, and I turned to the streets and to gangs for a sense of family. At ETC I was given a chance to openly express my feelings, something that was outlawed back home. With each experience, whether it was backpacking, river rafting, farming, or sea kayaking, I learned so much more about the environment and myself. After experiencing the Youth LEAD School, I have to say that there is no other program out there that can change and impact lives like ETC, at least not for me.”
Anthony has broken the chains of family violence, drugs, and gang membership. With tons of tenacity and the financial help of an ETC donor, he graduated from the California Maritime Academy in 2010 and has now taken his first on-board job as a marine engineer. We are so proud of him! Recently, he sent an email sharing the following:
“So this is it... I’m actually graduating from the Maritime Academy as a Marine Engineer! I still can’t believe I went from a person that hated school to someone who is sad that it’s all over now. It was so hard to believe that all the good feelings that I felt when I was at the Lost Coast during my Youth LEAD course could lead to this. I never expected that taking the first step and participating with ETC could make such a big difference in my life. Thank you, for pushing and motivating me all these years, and believing in me even when I didn’t believe in myself. Thank you for being there and helping me grow and discover myself and my passion in this world.”
Nat Gleason, ETC Volunteer with a visual impairment
“The milestones of adolescence, like team sports and learning to drive, simply were not available to me as a teenager who was visually impaired. There were few outlets where I could take a break from feeling clumsy and awkward and different from everyone else. By getting me out in the mountains and on rivers, ETC gave me a chance to gain confidence and to connect with other kids like me so I didn’t feel so alone with my disability. Now I love guiding on trips with the same group that brought me to ETC as a youth. I know first-hand what these kids are going through. I want to help them have fun and feel supported to succeed in ETC adventures and in life. And, I hope to bring this same empathy and understanding to my patients as a doctor. In retrospect, ETC helped give me the courage and tenacity to apply for medical school and to persevere when so many told me that it would be impossible to become a physician!”
Nat was born with achromatopsia, a visual impairment that results from a lack of cones in his eyes. He started as an ETC participant on a sea kayak trip, then became a volunteer guide, and finally stepped up to become an ETC Board Member. In 2009, Nat graduated from UCSF Medical School, earning their prestigious Gold-Headed Cane Award, recognition from his classmates that he embodies the qualities of a true physician who will change the face of medicine in the future.
“When I was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis in 1988 I became frightened about the possibility of losing the use of my legs. Little by little, my fear became a reality and I needed a wheelchair. Dave and I could no longer do many of the outdoor adventures we had always enjoyed. Then we found ETC. There are not enough words to express what a blessing our Baja kayak trip was. It helped us look beyond the disabilities we were facing to the possibilities ahead of us. ”
“Even as my legs grow weaker, because of ETC we are still able to get outdoors and embrace nature. Last weekend we took another ETC trip, this time to Mendocino. The highlight for me was surfing the ocean waves in our kayak… what a thrill! We would never have tried this on our own, and it was a wonderful experience. We had come to this weekend weary from the trials of everyday living, but we came away with a renewed spirit. ETC is a wonderful organization that brings this renewal to all that come their way. ETC helps everyone realize that despite disabilities, anyone can soar!”
Lana Salvador, ETC Youth LEAD Graduate
“Before I was a part of ETC, I was shy, pessimistic, and kept to myself most of the time. ETC gave me courage. They saw potential in me—something I could not even see. They helped me harness that potential and turned me into a leader. I found my voice and learned how to use it, and to my surprise, I am doing things I never thought I would ever do. I am leading sea kayaking trips for my peers and guiding my fellow students through whitewater rapids by shouting out the right commands. With these newfound leadership skills, I have been inspired to educate my community about environmental stewardship and sustainability.”
Lana graduated from our Youth LEAD Fellowship program in 2010, and is now studying nursing at Dominican University where she has convinced the administration to let her also nurture her creative side with minor in writing.