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Seattle Challenge from A Leader’s Perspective

Photo of Seattle Academy 2019 Seattle Challenge Group Leader Willy Felton

Above Photo: Willy organizing food at Food Lifeline.

Last week, the Class of 2023 completed the annual Seattle Challenge experience. Below is a perspective of the experience from a trip leaders view. Willy Felton is our Dean of Faculty – STEM. He has led many outdoor trips but this was his first time participating in the Seattle Challenge. 

I had been hearing about the Seattle Challenge at Seattle Academy ever since I started, six years ago. I always saw it as a standout experience in the 8th grade year for our students but until this year was never in the situation to see the challenge myself. I have long enjoyed taking students into the outdoors because I know that not all classrooms have walls and not every lesson is shown on a whiteboard. So, with fifteen years of experience taking students on these outdoor lessons I said yes to trying something new and exciting, but little would have prepared me for what these three days would look like.  
My group of seven students met early in the morning amid a lot of hustle and bustle and organizational logistics. The students were given their lunch for the day and the small allotment of snack that had to last the whole journey. The first day was beautiful and sunny, and in addition to working at two locations, we were able to walk across the Aurora Bridge. I even saw the Fremont Troll under the bridge for the first time. With some extra time, we briefly went to Archie McPhee's and wore silly hats for entertainment. 
Our night at Emmanuel Church saw us helping with dinner for twenty-two gentlemen who stayed there. Our students made connections with a couple of these men, and it resulted in an hour of jokes, stories, and math puzzles. It was with a lot of reluctance that we all went to sleep in the church upstairs. 
The next day my little group walked seventeen miles and went as far as South Park to organize food at Food Lifeline. We sorted clothes, served snacks, boxed bread, and served dinner to two-hundred-and-fifty men at St Martin De Porres. 

It was a tired group that saw the snow start falling on day three at 6 in the morning. With three more organizations on our final day the group was thrilled to walk, as a group, up to the Sanctuary where they were met by applause and parents. 

In total the eight of us walked thirty-nine and a half miles, worked at seven locations, spent eight dollars, sorted one-hundred pounds of shampoo and conditioner, folded three-hundred pamphlets, made twenty pounds of fruit salad, faced snow, mopped floors, cleaned walls, sorted seven-thousand pounds of bread, served three-hundred meals, ate sixteen sandwiches, sixteen bagels, and had sixteen sore feet. 
It was a great experience for me and was unlike any hiking trip I have ever done. The kids ended up being proud of their work, effort, and togetherness. They made connections with people experiencing homelessness, and they will never see Seattle the same again. 

View the entire gallery of 2019 Seattle Challenge photos.

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