Senioritis and Mt. Whitney


A Blog by Ms. Julia Fanara P’01, ’03, & ’05, Head of School 

Mt. Whitney 2Some seniors may begin to experience senioritis now that we are in second semester. Here is a parable to help them through it.

When I was 17 years old, I belonged to Explorer Pack 181, a mountaineering pack. Yes, I was one of two girls in this group of Boy Scout Explorers and we hiked in the mountains around the state of California. To be honest, it wasn’t my love of the great outdoors, but rather the love of a boy that placed me there, but that’s for another blog on another day. The pack decided to climb the tallest peak in the continental United States –Mt. Whitney, elv. 14,508 ft. It is the great gem of the Sierra Nevada.

The climb was booked for Labor Day weekend. We trained for months in the local mountains around here throughout the spring and summer. Each hike was more difficult. I had to break in my new hiking boots – the serious kind that are steel-reinforced. I had to get use to hiking with a 30 lb full size pack on my back for long periods of time. I did it all. Some of the hikes were fun and some not so much. Many times I wanted to quit. What was I doing with all these guys hiking in the mountains! I was a girl! My friends were all going to the beach and hanging out and I was hot and sweaty with blistered feet and a backache from a pack that was as big as I was! But I kept training, knowing what the goal was.

When the Labor Day weekend came, we were ready. We started up the trail with the sunrise. The goal was to get to Trail Camp(12,000 elv) in plenty of Trail Cresttime to setup camp and get a good night’s sleep before attacking the 99 switchbacks and over 2000 ft climb up to the summit in the morning. Trail Camp is above the timberline, so there are no trees –just rocks. The next day, we started up the switchbacks (z-shaped trails making it easier to scale a mountain) with the sunrise. When we arrived at Trail Crest it was majestic. From that vantage point I could see the curvature of the earth on the horizon. The sun was shining on the mountain peaks and bits of glacial snow. It was a sight I will never forget. It was Sunday morning and I thanked God for His wonderful gifts.

We were still almost 1000 ft from the summit. We did get there. Victory! Where was my flag to put in the ground? I signed the book. We congratulated ourselves. We took pictures. Then the reality of what was next set in. We had to go back down. One would think that was the easy part, but it was harder. I could barely walk the last the 200 ft of the trail. Blood was soaking through my layers of socks. The weight of the 30 lb pack and the pressure of gravity were murderous on my feet, but I didn’t care. I had done it!

Graduation 2016 0816So how is this like senioritis? Your mountain was high school. It required goals, took training and practice; each year became more challenging; the pressure seemed unbearable at times; often there were only rocks in front of you and no trees; but, there were also moments that inspired awe. Reaching that summit represents you getting into the college of your choice – victory! But now you have to walk back down that mountain. Your 30 lb pack may get heavier and heavier. You haven’t completed the journey. Make the most of it. You’ve reached your goal. Don’t lose focus. Look at the gifts around you. Take it all in while you can because, although you will never forget it, it will become a fond memory as you have more life experience. Enjoy this time, but remember, you must complete the hike. Only then can you say, “I’ve done it!”

fanara-jMs. Julia Fanara P’01, ’03, & ’05 is the Head of School at Alverno Heights Academy. This is her 26th year at Alverno Heights Academy and she has previously served as a member of the English and Visual and Performing Arts Departments, Director of Activities, Dean of Students, and Assistant Head of School. Ms. Fanara became the Head of School in June 2014. She holds a Bachelor’s degree in Theatre from Loyola Marymount University, a Master of Education degree from Loyola Marymount University, a Master of Education degree in Inclusion from the University of San Francisco, and is currently working on her Ph.D. from National University. Her three daughters, Gina ’01, Alexandra ’03, and Jacqueline ’05, all graduated from Alverno. 

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