TCA Students Share Their Thoughts On Education

The Climbing Academy is not a “normal” high school. This week, a few students discuss some of the things that make TCA special — the relationships they build, the people they meet traveling, and the ways in which they can learn.

What “Athletics, Academics, Character” really means  

TCA Sophomore Olivia Ogier recently competed in the American Bouldering Series Open Nationals and Youth Nationals competitions. While away from the rest of the TCA team, she reflected on her journey to The Climbing Academy and her experience at the school.

Ten Sleep Walking
TCA staff and students walk from the crag in Ten Sleep, Wyoming. Photo by Olivia Ogier

I found out about The Climbing Academy exactly one year ago, on a short ad while watching the ABS Open Nationals live stream. Curiosity got to me, so I went to the website that was listed on the ad.

Within an hour, my sister Riley and I had sent in the mini online application, just to find out more about the school. Within three weeks, we had filled out the master application and answered a whirlwind of essay questions and phone calls.

I had been accepted! I had a billion questions about The Climbing Academy: How would classes work? Would I be getting a real education? Where would we stay? Would I get to climb enough? Who else is going? Looking back, I realize I didn’t really know much about the school, and because it was the very first year, I didn’t get very many answers either. I remember how daunting the final decision was, not only for my sister and me, but for our parents. Sending your kids halfway across the world for a year isn’t easy; neither is going. It takes guts and an unbelievable amount of trust in the program to decide to attend.

Now, I am currently a student at The Climbing Academy. I have been to premier climbing locations all over the world: Ten Sleep, Wyoming, where I climbed my first 5.13b; Lander, Wyoming, where I got to really know the other students; and Joe’s Valley, Utah, where I didn’t shower for two weeks and I was totally okay with it. I’ve also been to Siurana, Margalef, Albarracín, Bishop, and now Salt Lake City. Soon I’ll be in Mexico with the school.

The friends I have made in TCA are lifelong, and I can say without a doubt that I’ve had some of the best experiences of my life with them. The relationships I have built this year with the students and staff have not only helped me build my character, but they have helped me better myself.

The academics are also another amazing piece of The Climbing Academy. In this past semester, I have learned more in my classes than in the past two years of school combined. The class sizes are small, and it’s obvious that both the students and the staff love being at the academy, with thought-out activities and classes that benefit all students.

The academy is truly an amazing opportunity to change the way we think about learning. I feel capable of so much more now than before I attended TCA, and I know the future students of The Climbing Academy will feel the same.

A utopia for uniqueness

TCA sophomore Emma Price and TCA senior Sean Meehan took advantage of an afternoon trip to the town of Bishop to talk with a local artist.

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Dingo. Photo by Emma Price

The climbing scene in Bishop is extensive, and we probably could have talked to and found a lot of climbers who have some cool stories, but climbers aren’t the only ones who live there and contribute to the city’s diversity.

Sadly, we only talked to one person in one week, and honestly I wasn’t expecting much. We only got to go to the town of Bishop once or twice, and it was just a time crunch, but our efforts and opportunities were not in vain, and we got to talk to a very interesting character. He talked to us a lot longer than I initially thought he was going to and had some thoughtful sentiments.

Everyone called him “Dingo,” so that’s what he introduced himself by. He told us about his art and interest in drawing astronauts and space as the main focus of most of his drawings. He has created spectacular drawings from military sergeants to Gene Cernan, an astronaut, in only colored pencils. Dingo shows that in a climbing town there’s many different types of interesting characters not just climbers, but amazingly talented artists.

He told us that he does everything for himself: “With my art, I do whatever I want. I don’t like commissions — I do it for myself. No one else.” This statement really cemented the concept that Dingo is an artist for himself, by himself. This reflects the amazing area Bishop is and the talented and diverse place that has captivated people for many years and attracts people from all over.

Finding a niche at TCA

TCA Senior and class president Jonah came to TCA from a public school background. Here, he shares his thoughts on what sets TCA apart from traditional education.

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TCA reviews belay techniques before climbing at El Potrero Chico in Mexico. Photo by Aaron Rettig

Everyone has different learning abilities. We all are raised from different backgrounds and perceive life apart from others. Society thinks we are all the same, or wants us to be the same. In today’s education, we are on a production line, categorized by age. However, with The Climbing Academy, you have this unique blend of character building, athletics, and a one-on-one experience with your teachers.

Education currently isn’t efficient for the chaotic world we live in. If you’re twelve years old, it doesn’t necessarily mean you think like a 6th grader — you may work as well as an 8th grader or maybe on the lines of a 4th grader. With my experience in the United States, the public schools are treated poorly, with roughly 2 percent of government spending funneled into schools. Some states, including California, have a rule on property taxes based for financing of schools. This results in lower income equaling less of an education because neighborhoods that have low property tax income will have low amounts of tax money for schools and faculty. This creates an unfair disadvantage and further gap between social classes.

We have been using the same teaching methods for hundreds of years. These methods were conceived for a different time, the 17th century to be exact. Now we need find a new way for each child to experience a healthy classroom. A major piece includes economics, finding incentives for students and teachers, and not categorizing children.

School funding needs to rise to make education feasible for families and the government. If the government would raise funding from 2% to 3% you would encounter well-paid faculty and students wanting to learn. The incentives would be less students per teacher and interesting activities.

Another reason why kids don’t like school is because we destroy their self-confidence. We categorize them into Smart and not smart. Not every person learns the same way, yet we’ve taught the same way for three hundred years.

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TCA students study math in the great outdoors. Photo by Aaron Hjelt

Some very lucky kids have found their niche here at The Climbing Academy. Belonging to this environment are teachers that genuinely care about each student. Our class size ranges from 2 to 11 students, allowing them to get to know their peers, which leads to less fear of failure and asking questions. Improvement is achieved through the teacher not only giving verbal responses but writing weekly reports on academics, character and athletics. As of now TCA has two international students! One is from Mexico and the other is from Canada.

With everyone combined, we all share love for being a rock climber and a global citizen. High incentives of homework before climbing, classrooms outside, teachers loving their job, and strong peer relationships make for the perfect education.


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