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      Touchstone Youth teaches kids about life & rock climbing

      The Touchstone Youth Project believes teaching children how to climb a rock wall will help them reach new heights as they become men and women. For the past 12 years, this group has partnered underprivileged with professionals.

      Steven Charles is the Executive Director. He says most of the children come from needy families.

      "Most of them are living in poverty," he said. "I'd say nearly 100 percent of them are living in poverty and just kind of coming from situations where they needed a positive adult figure investing in their life."

      Touchstone started with six children and now reaches about 75 kids that gather once a week. Each meeting begins with a lesson.

      "We have a character education lesson that we do with them every week, then they'll go and climb, and spend time one on one together," Charles said while referring to the mentors.


      After the lesson the harnesses are fitted, the ropes are attached and the climbing begins. Today's lesson is communicating. Using blindfolds, mentors shut off one of the climbers' senses so the children are forced to use another.

      Charles is mentoring Jesus Chavez who's a little nervous at first. But as Charles tells him where to place his hands and feet, Chavez begins climbing higher and higher. After a few minutes, he's climbing like a pro.

      When asked if there was anything scary, Chavez replied, "yeah, getting higher!"

      But the higher the kids climb, the more difficult it becomes to listen. So the group gathers at the base of the wall to decide how to alter communication before moving on. These lessons teach climbers how to solve problems, regulate emotions, manage stress, and form healthy relationships with adults who become involved in all aspects of their lives.

      When he's not mentoring, Evan Ward is an engineer at Tinker Air Force Base.

      "Ultimately through climbing we'll be able to affect their character, and teach them things like grit, what to do when you fail, how to keep trying, self confidence and life skills," he said.

      Although it can be nerve racking, these young climbers are pushing themselves to succeed.

      10 year old Camry Wilson is just learning how to climb.

      "It was kind of scary, but it was fun," she said.

      The end result is these kids are learning how to climb and learning what it's like to have someone to depend on should they fall.

      "We not only help them develop a bigger safety net, we are incorporating ourselves into that for a very long time," said Charles.

      ===

      If you'd like to be a mentor or know of a student who could benefit from this organization, please contact the Touchstone Youth Program at (405) 487-7795.

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