This spring, Bonham attended the H. E. Butt Foundation Outdoor School, the school’s first year time to participate in the program. Students and teachers let the Frio River Canyon be their classroom, paddleboarding on the river and ziplining with their teachers.
But their retreat almost didn’t happen.
“Bonham faced really steep financial challenges to come out here,” says Erik Silvius, director of Outdoor School. Although the H. E. Butt Foundation provides facilities and staff at no cost, schools are still responsible for their transportation and food, and those costs can add up quickly. Thankfully, an additional scholarship from the Foundation helped the group address a funding gap.
Seventy one percent of Bonham students are at risk, 26% have limited English proficiency, and 61% are benefit from a federal free lunch program. As a “choice school,” Bonham’s bilingual program does not pull its students from the immediate neighborhood. The area around the school was once considered economically distressed, but in recent years it has quickly escalated. The house next to their parking lot is valued at $852,000. Another home two lots south is valued at $1.36 million.
Why add unnecessary complication of coming to camp to the school year when the students and teachers already face so many challenges?
“It’s such an easy ‘no’ from Central Office,” Erik says. When you add in the logistical challenges, recruiting volunteers, and evening programming, it’s no surprise that so many schools find themselves unable to participate in Outdoor School. Only a truly life-changing experience would be worth so much effort.