Hello everyone, I am Edward Robledo, a Senior at KIPP Austin Collegiate, and a graduate of Explore Austin. Thank you all for being here tonight. We are all united here this evening for the same reason: to support an amazing organization that I can honestly say changed my life.
There wasn’t a day I didn't wake up excited to be out in the wilderness, there wasn't a day I didn't wake up overjoyed to be out learning from my Mentors. I learned how to start a fire, how to rock climb, how to be myself, how to mountain bike, how to be confident, and the most important of all, I learned how to believe in myself. Being surrounded by the beautiful landscapes is something I will always remember but when I think back to all of my trips and my six years in the Explore Program, I don't remember the crystal clear lakes or the powdery snow. I remember my friends, I remember the massive pine cone fight we had and most painfully of all I remember the hot sauce eating contest in which I ended up with Cholula in my eye.
It’s the emotions I remember the most. It’s the feeling of wanting to quit but being pushed by not just my Mentors, but my friends. It’s the family we created that will always be my treasure. There were most definitely times that I wanted to quit, times that I could not stand to be put in uncomfortable situations where I had to face my fears, but those experiences pushed me beyond my limits and molded me into a person that not only my family is proud of, but a person I am proud to be. Looking back, I see my friends faces., I see the way that I grew and the shell I came out of; I see the the shy and small person I once was. I see the growth I couldn't have achieved on my own. I cannot imagine having grown up without my Mentors. Although I only spent one Saturday per month and and one week in the Summer with them, those short days have equated to years of wisdom that have been my guiding light.