Earlier this autumn, the Princeton-Blairstown Center hosted students from the Village Charter School to create memories and lessons that will last a lifetime.

The Village Charter School, located on Sullivan Way in Trenton, is a charter school whose mission is to nurture and enrich the lives of Trenton-area children. Rooted in the belief that these students are Trenton’s future, the facility provides students with a safe, productive learning environment. True to its name, the Village Charter School is a coalition of friends coming together to learn, play, and live life to the fullest.

Ready for adventure, the Village Charter School hit the road and brought their 7th-grade class to visit the Princeton-Blairstown Center. As a school, Village Charter prioritizes experiences that encourage personal and educational development, leadership skills, and overall well-being. On this trip, the children were encouraged to tap into their inner strength as they took on unfamiliar challenges and reached new heights.

The Princeton-Blairstown Center (PBC) is an experiential education center that promotes leadership development and social-emotional learning. Accredited by both the Association of Experiential Education and the American Camp Association, the Center utilizes evidence-based programming to help school and youth leaders facilitate leadership skills, unity, and synergy amongst their peers. Participants at PBC can try a variety of activities, including climbing walls, canoes, an adventure course, evening activities, and more. According to the Princeton-Blairstown Center, 80%-90% of students and 93% of teachers and chaperones reported improved 21st Century skills after five days at Blairstown. A few days in the outdoors can create a lifetime of difference, as evidenced by the transformative experience of the Village Charter School students.

Per Brindley Dane, science teacher and chaperone for PBC trips for over seven years, “it is still an incredible experience.” Discussing some of her student’s favorite activities, it was clear that canoeing was a fan favorite. “We had several students that tipped over due to inexperience, but everyone was safe and smiling! The campfire and s’mores were also a huge success. But I think the high rope activities, for those who participated, were the most exhilarating.”

Although there were several students afraid of heights, many dared to take on the challenge of the Cat Walk, a heart-pounding high rope course. Brindley went on to share a story of a student that captures the very essence of what Princeton-Blairstown Center aims to do.

The student was petrified as she climbed up the staple heading to the top. She stopped several times and it seemed that she would not be able to continue upward. But she climbed on. At one point she started to cry, and the facilitator asked if she wanted to climb down. This seemed to give her motivation to continue, and she climbed up another staple. She finally reached the top but stepping onto the beam seemed to be beyond her. At this point, she was sobbing uncontrollably and dry-heaving because of her petrifying fear. 

The entire group grew silent as she hugged the pole seemingly unable to move. After great coaching from the facilitator, she decided she could get onto the beam and make it to the middle where she could be belayed down rather than climb down. After more sobbing and greater distress, she made her way to the middle of the beam, but much to our surprise she did not stop. Rather, still in physical distress, she took slow, tentative, step after slow, tentative step until she reached the end of the beam and high-fived the pole!

WOW! That was incredible and so moving to watch unfold. As a result, many other participants were encouraged to attempt this challenge. The amazing part of this story is that this student did not realize what an accomplishment she had just completed. Instead, she thought she was a failure because of her fear. It took a lot of convincing on my part to help her see she was a STAR! A ROLE MODEL! A LEADER! When I finally convinced her that she was amazing, the look that she gave me was just so beautiful – a look of triumph, success, and the beginning of new confidence.

 

This young lady’s show of courage was inspirational to her peers, her teacher, and most importantly, herself. These quiet moments of assurance will serve participants for years to come, igniting in them the self-reliance needed to know they can do anything they set their minds to. Headed back to Trenton with a new-found confidence, the Village Charter School students are sure to carry this experience with them for the rest of their lives.

If you’re interested in reading more about the Princeton-Blairstown Center, please check out their website here: PBC – Home.