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High school students get up close with nature
About 22 students from Turlock and Pitman high schools sit around a campground in Yosemite National Park and receive outdoor education by the Yosemite Institute who sponsors every student in the WildLink Club. These students spent over six days in Yosemite National Park enduring a 30-mile hike exploring the outdoors. - photo by Photo contributed by Ryan Hollister
Living about 100 miles from Yosemite National Park, most would assume that Turlockers have climbed Half Dome at least once or at least admired the mountain up close. But, surprisingly, there a lot of people who aren’t even aware of the world-known park.
The WildLink Club at Turlock High, and now at Pitman High, offers club members the opportunity to explore nature surrounding the Valley area, especially for those who have never had the opportunity before.  
“It opens up a new world to them,” said Ryan Hollister, WildLink adviser for Turlock High. “They didn’t have the knowledge of what exists out of the bubble of the Central Valley and now they get to see what is out there.”
Every year, the students that are a part of the WildLink Club participate in expeditions and a handful of stewardships. Each expedition is a week-long hiking and camping trip. Each stewardship involves the students helping clean up the environment.
All trips are free of charge to the students with the help of the Yosemite Institute, an organization that sponsors each student with hiking gear, food, lodging and camping materials. With all of the things provided for each student to take on the environment, it costs about $2,000 per student.  
Currently, there are about 25 students involved in the Turlock High club and about four students active in the Pitman High club, with this being their first year.
This year, students from both Turlock and Pitman WildLink clubs packed their bags and traveled to Yosemite National Park for a six-day camping trip including a 30 mile hike.   
“I have never hiked before and I never thought I was capable of hiking,” said Turlock High junior Daisy Ramirez. “There weren’t even toilets and we had to use the ‘facilitrees.’”
As part of their stewardship projects, club members have gone to Pacheco State Park to help create a new trail in the park, along with repairing existing trails and cementing in signs for the park.
Club members have also gone to the only private water bank in the United States, also known as the Delta-Mendota Watershed, to learn about the underground aquifers.
Along with fun outdoor adventures, the students learn about the wilderness and how to take care of the nature environment.
“This club has made me realize how much we do need wilderness and I want to take care of it,” said Aaron Simmons, a Turlock High sophomore.
“I didn’t appreciate what we have around us,” Ramirez said. “Now I appreciate it a lot more.”
To contact Maegan Martens, e-mail or call 634-9141 ext. 2015.