WWVA Seniors Survive the Wild Bonding with Each Other and God

The September air was charged with anticipation when 73 Walla Walla Valley Academy (WWVA) seniors made the five-hour journey to the Idaho wilderness for a course in wilderness survival. For five days they would be at the mercy of the elements . . . and their own cooking.

The goal of this nine-year-old WWVA tradition “is to make students realize they all need God and each other to survive,” says John Deming, principal. By creating an environment where the students must work together to survive, teachers hope to instill in students unconditional friendship with each other and with God.

Two Bible teachers, Gayle Norton and Daniel Perrin, along with several other brave adults, volunteered to each lead a group of six to eight students. The resilient seniors withstood four days of rain beneath their shelters of tarp, stakes and twine.

Activities revolved around three classes: wild edibles, which included cricket roasting and eating; survival, which taught shelter building, orienteering, and fire-making; and the notorious “Norton’s Challenge,” a series of Herculean acts accomplished by working together.

“The last evening, we had a sharing time where people gave their personal testimonies. It was incredibly spiritual and emotional,” confides Sydney Boyd, senior. “It was helpful to realize that many classmates have the same spiritual struggles.”

These components, along with the honey bucket facilities, made the trip an unforgettable bonding experience. According to class member Jenny Woolever, Senior Survival is “an excellent experience that everyone should have.” Judging from their glowing faces, all felt the same way.

December 01, 2004 / Upper Columbia Conference