Senior Adventure Transformed: Community Service at Pathfinder Paradise

Of all the events that Columbia Adventist Academy (CAA) seniors share in their final high school year, few are as highly impacting as Senior Adventure. This year’s class of 22 students and four staff spent nearly three days in early October at Pathfinder Paradise near Molalla, Ore. The primitive camping area offered just the environment needed for the bonding, introspection, and growth so vital to starting a positive senior year.

The days were full, but not hectic in the way a regular school schedule can be. There were the usual chores of cooking and cleaning, but more interesting pursuits were Bible class and interactive activities.

The focus of the Bible class was prayer. Matthew Butte, Bible teacher and campus chaplain, designed the class to be interactive yet personal. The students studied prayers from Scripture and then spent time alone praying and journaling. When they gathered again, they would share their experiences and encourage each other in their spiritual growth. Melissa Morauske shares, “It was a blessing. I feel privileged to experience what I did.”

When the books were put away, the students joined teacher Ed Tillotson, CAA vice principal, for creative, yet challenging group activities. Sometimes the group would be given simple objects and asked to design a solution to a problem. When the initial attempts would fail, the students would be forced to persevere. By doing so, they learned a lot about each other and about problem-solving. Other activities were designed to foster reliance on their guides. There were no dull moments during these interactive activities.

During the debriefing session on the last day of Senior Adventure, an idea emerged that became reality within the month. Several students commented that while Pathfinder Paradise is a great place, some of the meeting shelters in the woods were in disrepair. The seniors wondered if they could be part of the solution. Later, when the seniors were asked in Bible class what they would like to do for their upcoming Community Service Day, the answer was quick and easy. It was a unanimous vote to go back to the campsite and begin repairs.

On Nov. 3, Tillotson and more than a dozen seniors donned work clothes and gloves, drove to Pathfinder Paradise, took down two of the shelters, then stacked the wood and cleaned up the area. The goal is to go again and begin the process of rebuilding. Using the cooperative skills they learned at Senior Adventure, the CAA class of 2005 intends to give future visitors a better experience at Pathfinder Paradise.

Students who didn’t go to that job site were involved in their own activities to improve the quality of life for strangers. They put together a music program, baked fresh cookies, and spent the day at Our House, a hospice in Portland for AIDS patients. The day always yields positive interactions when CAA students visit this facility. And that’s what this year’s seniors have as their goal: to be accepting and to make life better for others. Praise God for such positive leadership at CAA!

Featured in: January 2005