Archive for January, 2012

The ACJ & the ACCT

Just before Christmas, Blue Ridge welcomed a youth group from the YMCA-ACJ in Colombia! It is not very often that we get the opportunity to host international groups, especially in our slower season, so we were very excited to accommodate them during their two week stay in December.

The YMCA-ACJ (“Asociacion Cristiana de Jovenes” or Association of Young Christians) was first established in the capital city of Bogota in 1964, working primarily with low-income families who were victims of violence or natural disaster. The Federation of Colombian ACJ’s was later established in 1978 and currently operates branches in 14 cities across the country.

These particular youth were from a community southeast of Bogota called Florencia, in the province of Caqueta.The group was comprised of thirteen teens (ages 11-16) and their two adult leaders, Jorge and Yohom. The trip included many new experiences, the largest of which was simply: WINTER! Our frigid alpine climate proved to be quite different from the balmy temperatures of the tropics that they are used to.


Colombians seeing snow for the first time!

Colombians seeing snow for the first time!

Their unique mountain adventure was packed with both fun and learning, as it was an opportunity for the students to see American culture and practice the language first-hand.  In addition to daily English lessons, we planned exciting evening activities, and a sampling of Blue Ridge’s own environmental and adventure programs. The group enjoyed the majority of their meals in our Dining Room, but there were also a few occasions for them to make their own traditional cuisine in the kitchen of Weatherford. Delicioso!

The Colombian’s busy itinerary also featured visits to area attractions, where members of Blue Ridge staff served as “counselors” and accompanied them on all off-ground excursions. These day-trips were recreational and educational, but their favorite American pastime was, of course, SHOPPING! They are teenagers, after all.

ACJ-YMCA Colombia Student Trip

Off-Grounds Activities


Meeting American teenagers, the Leaders Club at Reuter Family YMCA

Hanging out with American teenagers, the Leaders Club at Reuter Family YMCA



Jorge leads the pack

Jorge leads the pack



Down on the (Nature Center) farm

Down on the (Nature Center) farm



Biltmore House!

Biltmore House!


Hittin' the slopes

Hittin’ the slopes


On-Grounds Activities

  • Odyssey Challenge Course
  • Indoor Linear Course
  • Indoor Climbing Wall
  • Candle-making in Craft Room
  • Alpine Tower and Giant Swing
  • Kickball Tournament
  • Mountain Biking
  • Archery
  • “High Windy” Hike


Group shot at the top of High Windy! We did it!

Group shot at the top of High Windy! We did it!

Evening Activities

  • Square Dance
  • Night Hike
  • Ice Cream Social
  • Movie Night
  • Pizza Party
  • Campfire
  • “Sumo Wrestling” Match


"Sumo Wrestling"

“Sumo Wrestling”

On the evening prior to their farewell home, we held a banquet dinner and awards ceremony in the Dining Room. The two weeks flew by, and our staff was sad to see the group depart. The trip was an unforgettable experience for these youth and we are so happy to have shared our language, culture, and mountain scenery with them.  And as always, Blue Ridge Assembly is proud to support the YMCA’s global mission!

Gracias por visitar Blue Ridge Assembly! Esperamos que todos ustedes disfrutan su tiempo aquí y que usted volverá otra vez pronto! Bendiciones para un Año Nuevo feliz y saludable.

Thank you for visiting Blue Ridge Assembly! We hope you all enjoyed your time here and that you will come back again soon! Blessings for a happy and healthy New Year.



Jeep Barrett reviews safety information before the group heads up into the course

Trainers review safety information before the group heads up into the course


In honor of the new year, and a fresh start to the season, this week we hosted a training for Alpine Towers International. Several leaders from North Carolina Outward Bound and other local adventure organizations gathered at Blue Ridge to familiarize themselves with our Odyssey Course.

Constructed in 2005 by Alpine Towers Inc, the Odyssey Course focuses on teamwork, leadership, and physical challenge. It is the Assembly’s most popular program option, accommodating around 3000 youth and adults each year! We are so fortunate to have this course as part of our facilities.

Several leaders from the Association of Challenge Course Technology (ACCT) also swung by to observe the training. The ACCT works closely with Alpine Towers, Inc and is the international organization responsible for all challenge course standards, inspections, and certifications. The training was a great opportunity for all three organizations to collaborate and show their passion for outdoor recreation, adventure, and experiential education. Participants not only learned valuable safety and facilitation skills to bring back to their workplace, but it was also a great way for  our Program staff to network with other industry professionals (and have fun, on the clock!) As Program Coordinator, Andrew McKinney said, “Days like this really recharge my battery.”  It was a fantastic learning experience for all.


Climbing the net!

Climbing the net!


The Matrix

The Matrix


"The Complex X"

“The Complex X”


"The Lateral Limbo"

“The Lateral Limbo”

A big THANKS to Jeep Barrett, Sal Clarizio, and the rest of the Alpine Tower crew who came out for the training! It is always a pleasure working with them and we are looking forward to seeing everyone again soon.  Cheers to a wonderful (and SAFE) 2012!



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