When asked what stands out most during her six years in the Explore Austin program, East Austin resident and recent high school graduate Victoria Uriostegui has no shortage of tales about heart-pounding, stomach-churning, adrenaline-pumping challenges. In her calm and frank way, Victoria narrates her first trip with the EA program. She recalls the anxiety of boarding a plane for the first time, the nerves of spending her first nights away from home, the exhilaration of mountain biking down steep and slippery gravel trails, the terror of sleeping in a tent in the freezing wilderness, petrified that every bump or rustle was a hungry bear lumbering into the campsite for a late-night snack. While riddled with pure emotions, these memories are punctuated with evidence of personal growth and a continued sense of community, as Victoria shares that she learned to channel her fear into determination and began to lean on her teammates and mentors to give her the little push of courage she needed to scale a boulder or press on through aching feet to cover the last miles of a backpacking trek.
As trust between mentor and mentee was built challenge by challenge, the pushes to climb a little higher or paddle a little faster evolved into candid conversations about the future. Victoria’s mentor began to discuss what her life could look like past high school and the EA program. They pushed Victoria to weigh her interests against potential careers, giving her the opportunity to take career assessments and personality evaluations. During this time, while working with the homeless population in her community, Victoria realized that she wanted to be a force for good, continuing the community-oriented work that benefited her so greatly. Now, accepted to the University of Texas at Austin’s Moody School of Communication and Leadership, Victoria plans to pursue a career in the nonprofit or public sector. She’ll begin her journey in Fall 2021, with UT’s incoming freshman class.
Bringing the story full circle, Victoria is headed back to the place that spurred her path to leadership. Interning with Explore Austin’s fund development team, Victoria is playing a key role in advocating for the financial support that is required to achieve outdoor equity. In her own words, Victoria shares why the Explore Austin program is so important to her.
“It wasn’t until I entered Explore Austin that I truly blossomed. The program was like a long retreat for me, where I discovered myself and refined my abilities. I began to form leadership skills my younger, timid self wouldn’t have believed. I look at all I’ve done, and I think about all about the opportunities I missed thinking they were “too hard.” Reflecting on my teammates and mentors, all amazing women, seeing them persevere through numerous challenges, has made me confident and proud. I am determined to be strong like them. I am determined to steadily hold the reins of my future.”