Rock Climbing and Learning Trust at Brooklyn Boulders

July 23, 2013 Updated: July 24, 2013

NEW YORK— Moses Kamara’s agile hands and feet shifted between colorful climbing holds, his face focused and intent. The way he climbed up a wall at Brooklyn Boulders would have one thinking the kid had formal training.

“I feel good because I climbed that wall,” Moses, 11, said, beaming a proud smile. “I like it because I am able to trust myself to go up.”

Brooklyn Boulders is New York City’s only dedicated rock climbing gym, a bustling place with enormous climbing walls, mild rhythmic music, and a laid-back atmosphere. Moses was one of about twenty children, all wearing navy blue T-shirts, on a mentoring program from the Department of Youth and Community Development (DYCD). Some 300 kids will climb at Brooklyn Boulders this week as part of the program.

“It’s our effort to expose the kids to new challenges and new possibilities,” said Herb Barbot, DYCD chief of staff. “When they get here, look how fast they go up.”

The partnership between DYCD and Brooklyn Boulders was an opportunity for Barbot to get out of the office. Barbot and several DYCD staff and mentors went through several hours of training to learn how to belay for kids when they climb the walls.

There are 300 kids in the mentoring program, belonging to a larger Cornerstone program by the DYCD that serves 4,000 children and 2,000 adults. The mentoring program meets for 90 minutes a week and engages kids in a variety of activities. The group recently spent a night at the Museum of Natural History and went to see “Annie” on Broadway.

“One of the goals of our program is that the young people establish a caring relationship with an adult and what more to trust someone and to care about someone through an experience of rock climbing,” said Tracy Garcia, director of service learning at DYCD. “We thought this was an experience that’s part of our principles.”

Garcia said she had to overcome “a great fear of heights” when practicing for her certification. She was proud of Moses, who climbed the full height of a wall that she could only scale halfway.

DYCD partnered with the Brooklyn Boulders Foundation to bring the kids to the gym. The foundation offers discount rates to schools and nonprofits.

The kids spend two and a half hours at the gym and learn to climb rope, boulder (rock climbing without a harness), climb with a spotter, and witness a demonstration of lead climbing (when a climber secures a rope on different portions of the wall as he or she moves up).

“I like being in the program because I like to see and do new things,” Chyna said.

Her friend Natasha Herbs, 13, climbed for the first time.

“It’s fun because I learned how to trust my mentor,” Natasha said.

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