By Mary O’KEEFE
What does it take to crawl over the edge of a bridge, grab a rope and repel down the side for the first time? It of course takes courage, a little bit of daredevil and most importantly trust. That is what kids from Crescenta Valley High School Bridge’s program found out last Saturday as they took that leap of faith and repelled the 75 feet over the edge.
Crescenta Valley Sheriff’s Deputy Scott Shinagawa who is also the school’s resource officer started the Bridge’s program last year. The program gives students who are struggling to find a career goal a chance to explore a variety of opportunities.
“We have had [representatives] from different careers come and speak to the group,” Shinagawa said. “But you can see how important hands-on experience is.”
On Saturday hands-on was defiantly the word as members of Montrose Search and Rescue team prepared areas from the boys to repel off the bridge at Devil’s Gate Dam in Pasadena.
About 13 boys are part of the program this year. They met early Saturday morning at La Cañada High School and walked over to the bridge.
“I like the program,” said Samuel Fink. “I think it gives us a chance to hear from business people about their careers.”
The group arrived at the bridge and was instructed by Montrose Search and Rescue members on all the safety measures to follow while preparing to repel.
“You have to let yourself go down easy,” instructed Dr. John Rodarte, team member.
The boys listened intently all a little nervous about that first time over the side. The first one to put on the safety harness was Michael Hall. Janet Henderson, the team’s captain, explained the purpose of the ropes and the harness itself. Hall looked over the side, then climbed up on the edge and slowly went over. As he hung just over the side he received more instructions. He began to lower himself then stopped.
“Scott,” Hall called out to Dep. Shinagawa.
“I’m here buddy. You’re doing fine,” he replied as he looked over the edge at Hall.
That was all that was needed. Hall repelled down to the bottom of the bridge as if he had done this a million times. When he finished he walked up the 85 steps from the bottom back to the top of the bridge.
“At first you feel that you’re going to fall. It was actually fun it was just climbing over the edge was hard. Everything else was easy,” he said.
When it began the Bridges program has some funding through a counseling program but that money is no longer available. That is when Crescenta Valley High School counselors and teachers stepped up. Counselor Sarah Rosas and teachers Peter Kim and Lucy Witkop joined Shinagawa who all volunteer their time for the program. Montrose Search and Rescue also volunteered their time as well to help the students.
“It is good to see the kids [test] themselves,” said Dep. Jeff Martin. “When they got here every one of them said they were afraid of heights but they went over the edge anyway.”
That empowerment does not leave them at days end according to former student Brian Sterner.
“I did this a year ago. Since them I have thought about it a lot. It is nice to know that not only can you depend on someone to have your back but you can depend on yourself,” Sterner said.
“This kind of program is invaluable. And Scott [Shinagawa] is so good with these kids. He is a great mentor,” Rosas said.
The boys’ began the day with a fear of heights but ended it with a sense of accomplishment.
Anyone who would like more information about the Bridges program or would like to know how to donate their time or funding can contact Deputy Scott Shinagawa at Crescenta Valley High School (818) 249-5871 or at the Crescenta Valley Sheriff’s Station at (818) 248-3464.