Kentucky students visit Seattle, year 2

 LCHS AP CS students visit Seattle, WA
TEALS Lee County High School AP CS Class from Beattyville, Ky visit Seattle, WA

 On Tuesday April 29, 2014, 7 Lee County High School students from Beattyville, KY joined over 1,000 Puget Sound high school students at the Microsoft corporate headquarters in Redmond, WA for what could be the largest high school coding event… ever! These students represent the impact of the Microsoft sponsored TEALS (Technology Education and Literacy in Schools) program in the region. LCHS is one of 4 schools being taught remotely this year, but was the only non-Puget Sound school in attendance for the event.

I can Give...

A visit with Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation sparks some thought around what each student can give to their community, today.

visiting facebook

Visiting Facebook

Their trip to Seattle included visits with Facebook and Google, which provided a venue for these students to learn more about the varied and exciting college and career paths in computer science. There were presentations, demos, 1:1 and group activities, which included building a turtle box and a flappy bird adaptation. They went head to head with other students for a chance to win an XBOX One.

A common sentiment from what they learned on this trip.

TEALS at Google

LCHS TEALS AP class visits Google

“Computer Science is not just programming, it’s much more.”

Among the exciting computer science related activities they were able to experience, there was also time to visit some popular Seattle sites such as the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Pike Place Market, the gum wall and the Freemont Troll. When asked what they liked best about the trip:

“The food! There was so much of it and it was delicious.”

Akhtar Badshah

Akhtar Badshah, Sr. Director Microsoft Community Affairs

Akhtar Badshah, Sr Director Microsoft Community Affairs met with Justin Austin, Senior at Lee County High School at the Microsoft event. Akhtar wanted to personally congratulate Justin on his success with the TEALS AP class and his acceptance to University of Pennsylvania next fall. Justin recently spoke out about his personal experience and impact with TEALS to Senator McConnell during the Senator’s visit to LCHS this spring.

Justin Touch Develop

Justin participating in the Touch Develop part of the Microsoft application developer day hosted on the main Microsoft campus and open to Puget Sound TEALS participants

“This program allows students with an interest in technology to learn the content, connect with current experts in the industry, and pursue their dreams…thank you to everyone who has played a part in bringing this program to our school.”

“I encourage any student with even a remote interest in computing to take one of these classes.”

Justin wants to study artificial intelligence or cryptography. He thanks TEALS volunteer and AP CS teacher for LCHS, Dan Goldin, Data Scientist at TripleLift for his help with his college applications.

TEALS is a grassroots program that recruits, trains, mentors and places high-tech professionals into high school computer science classes in a team teaching model with in-service teachers. Kevin Wang, founder of TEALS, is a former high school computer science teacher and software engineer at Microsoft. Kevin received his undergraduate degree in electrical engineering and computer science from UC Berkeley and his graduate degree in education from Harvard.

Audrey Sniezek climbing

Audrey Sniezek climbing in the Red River Gorge, photo by Daniil Magdalen

TEALS found a place in Lee County High School thanks to a current Microsoft employee and TEALS volunteer who enjoys spending time rock climbing in the region. As a professional rock climber, she has travelled all over the globe to climb but considers the Red River Gorge some of the best sandstone climbing in the world.

TEALS was responsible for $10,200 in employee matching donations to Lee County High School in 2012-2013. Microsoft matches employee volunteer time with $17 per hour up to $15k a year. Lee County High School used that money to send the TEALS remote learning pilot, Introduction to Computer Science, students to Seattle for a job shadow and Microsoft visit. This year’s trip was similarly funded for the remote teaching pilot of AP Computer Science A.

LCHS TEA:S Intro to CS

LCHS TEALS pilot Intro to CS visit Seattle 2013

LCHS now offers both Introduction to Computer Science and AP Computer Science A. 6 new Kentucky High Schools will be offering one of these classes in the next school year. Kentucky School Boards Association (KSBA) is in talks for how to offer this curriculum in every High School in Kentucky State.

Visit: to learn more.

All photos, unless otherwise stated, copyright Audrey Sniezek. To view more photos go here.

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Senator McConnell visits Lee County High School, part II

LCHS Senator McConnell

LCHS TEALS CS students get a photo opportunity with Senator Mitch McConnell during his visit to the school to learn more about TEALS in the region.

When I learned the Senator would be coming to LCHS to visit this April, I made every attempt to be sure I would be there. When he came to Redmond, WA for his initial “how did Microsoft find Lee County” visit, I was on the teleconference sitting in the classroom with the students. This time I was glad to see he wanted to visit the students in person. What I didn’t understand was that a lot of preparation and thought was going to have to go into this from the Microsoft side. Also, because I would be an MS representative on the ground there, it made sense to have me as the key liaison between the school and Microsoft.

Superintendent speaking

Superintendent, Jim Evans, gives the introduction and opening speech.

While I wanted the Senator to have the classroom experience to observe what I have described in part 1 of this post, it was clear that with the number of attendees, we would not be able to fit everyone in the room. Therefore, we moved the event to the auditorium and created a bit of a program for him. The Superintendent would speak, then I would represent TEALS and we would share our student’s stories  along with a short hands-on demo and include a parent voice.

Audrey Sniezek

Audrey Sniezek
Program Manager, Microsoft Corporation, professional rock climber and Volunteer TEALS speaks out about LCHS, local partnerships and TEALS expansion in the region.

The students and parent chosen were perfect. Personally, I felt I fumbled my part and was disappointed in that, but I know the student and parent presentations more than made up for it. He wasn’t there to listen to Microsoft’s blah blah blah about TEALS. He heard it last year, though I did want to share how we are expanding and speak out about the call to action. But, I did think it was good for him to hear how Lee County is progressing, to hear why I’m involved and so passionate about it’s success here and for the expansion of TEALS in the region. I wanted to give him some context to let him know that I understand the importance and impact beyond the stats and Microsoft agenda.

Kevin LCHS students

Dr. Kevin Wilson
Data Scientist, Knewton and TEALS volunteer
A casual conversation with some students from the TEALS CS class at LCHS while waiting for the Senator to arrive.

2 of the Intro to CS alums from last year’s class were in attendance and I was able to call them out and share their current story and impact the class had on them. Our Senior from

Justin speech

A Senior at LCHS, Justin volunteers his story with TEALS for the Senator

the AP class, Justin, who is attending UPenn spoke next. He’s generally a quiet person, but he spoke out just fine for this occasion. He wasn’t able to take the Intro class last year, but that didn’t stop him from teaching himself Python at the suggestion of the TEALs teacher that year. This year, he was absolutely thrilled to have the opportunity to take the AP course and stands out as our top student, poised to do well on the AP exam on the 6th of May.

LaShonda SpeaksThe second student to speak was LaShonda. She signed up for Intro to CS because it was a Microsoft course and she thought she would be learning Microsoft Word and such. Despite this confusion, she decided to stay in the class and give it a try. She remarked how important it was to be in attendance and fully present because she would find herself getting behind otherwise. This she comments, was a habit she had to adjust in order to do well in the class. Part of her speech included a demonstration of one of her projects, one in which she said she was the most proud: Ping Pong.

LaShanda demo

Another Senior, LaShonda volunteered to demo one of her CS projects for the Senator.

She invited the Senator up to the computer with her and did a wonderful job describing what her project did. She even had a part for the Senator where he would change the velocity of the ball and see the change. Her presentation was flawless. He was amused and grinning ear to ear the entire time. When she was finished, the Senator asked her if she thought she would use this (what she learned in the Intro class) after High School and LaShonda remarked, she wasn’t sure. To his curiousity, perhaps, Pong may not be the most representative of what computer science is about but it definitely is the easiest and simplest way to learn the concepts and set yourself on that path. If only there was more time to explain this to him…

Marian speech

Marian graciously volunteers her time to share her story with TEALS and its impact on her son, who is in AP CS this year and took Intro to CS last year with TEALS.

Finally, Marian Ross, Dakota’s mom (Dakota took Intro last year and is in AP this year) and Aunt to LaShonda, spoke. During rehearsal earlier that day, she melted my heart and brought tears to my eyes. Her speech was simply perfect. My only advice to all 3 of them in their prep was to be honest, share their story and express what they liked and challenges they encountered since TEALS entered their lives. Marian talked about Dakota’s 5th in State placement of a recent computer project he and fellow classmate (Tristan, also 2-time TEALS student) submitted. For this same project, they took 1st in Regionals. She described how these classes really make him think about what he is developing and how things work. But, she calls out the internet as their biggest challenge. There’s no place in town that stays open late enough to service them since he’s in Band and other extracurricular activities and the home internet quota is gone in 3 days. In fact, I enjoyed her expression of the situation: (Loosely quoted)

…found the best internet option was Excede Satellite, which costs $60.58 a month for 10 GB, which she thought was a lot. After 3 days, her 2 boys said ‘Mom, something’s wrong with the internet’ to which [she] learned they had maxed their quota. “I guess 2 boys can go through 10GB in 3 days.” Excede said she could buy more at $10 per 1 GB but she can’t afford that…

At the end of the presentations and the final remarks from the school’s Superintendent, the Senator turned to me and said: “Boy am I glad you love to rock climb.” J Cropped group photoWe took a group photo and that was the end of our time with him. All of the prep done for this by everyone involved, made it run without a hitch. He arrived late, didn’t stay too long, but we managed to get everything in we wanted to….I just wish we had more time to really talk about program and challenges.

There was much more that I wanted to say to him to help him really understand what is happening in the region since TEALS stepped foot. The program is expanding, we’ll be in more schools in Kentucky next year. Remote work spaces are being developed and internet is only $$$ away. In other words, the technology ball is rolling and picking up momentum. It’s the people’s vision, resilience, creativity and hope that will change the area and make a difference during these difficult times. Hopefully, they can ebb the job loss tide and create new opportunities in the long and short term that will keep these places habitated and from becoming desolate holes. I know from a climbing perspective, it’s a place I’d love to continue to come back to and experience and see prosper.

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Senator McConnell visits Lee County High School, part I

Kentucky Spring

Spring in Kentucky Photo by Luke Humphrey

I’ve been working with Lee County High School in Beattyville, Ky (for climbers that would be part of the Red River Gorge area) the last few years, collaborating as a volunteer on behalf of Microsoft and their non-profit TEALS (Technology Education and Literacy in Schools) incubation. Lee County High School (LCHS) was one of two initial remote pilot programs that were undertaken to see if TEALS could expand beyond Washington State. It is also a rural school, which is an atypical focus for most STEM initiatives in the Nation today. The school has gone from only offering an Introduction to Computer Science course with 6 students to offering both Intro and AP Computer Science with 22 students in the Intro class and 7 students in the AP class. 50% of the enrollments are girls, which is huge!

Forward in the Fifth speach

Presenting TEALS to attendees at a recent Forward in the Fifth AppLe awards event.

Computer technology makes up a large portion of most occupations these days. It is estimated in the next decade that about 1,000,000 CS jobs will be available but only ~440,000 graduates in the US to vie for these positions. It’s estimated that only 29% of our rising CS workforce in the US is capable of meeting this demand. For Kentucky, that equates to about 36,000 jobs in the next 4 years. With mining job losses continuing to rise in Eastern Kentucky, there is a lot of focus on reinventing the region. Sarah Gardner of NPR did this wonderful article asking the question: “is there life after coal?” Technology is one part of what it will take to forge a new economic frontier for the area, and CS education for their youth plays a significant role.

Dr. Jim Evans

The Superintendent of Lee County School District recently was awarded his doctorates and is now “Dr” James Evans.

The more time I spend in the region getting to know the administration, the school staff, the students, regional issues, educators and state influentials, the more I realize how important this program is for the State. LCHS might be small but we have computer enthusiasts, some that will continue exploring computer education long after high school. The bottom line is that computers are everywhere, and these kids need exposure. Not just exposure to word processing, administrative management, or web development, but they need to understand how to make computers work for them. By enabling this, they have the power to create and take charge of applications to make them do what they need.

Learning remotely has significant impact for kids in rural areas, like Eastern Kentucky. When these students come into class, they sit in front of their workstation, log on and get to work/learning. The class teacher is on the teleconference, broadcast in the front of the room as well as in front of each student. The students log in independently but can see each of their classmates online and the teacher and teaching assistants. The room is mostly quiet, except for the online teacher. Every now and again, if you were an observer, you would hear giggles and twitters, but not much more. The students speak through texting in the conferencing window. Pauses and silent gaps means the students are communicating with the teacher and with each other. I’ve even observed side chatter but it is quick and mostly unobtrusive. The in-service teacher walks the room looking over their shoulders, popping in from time to time to interrupt and get a pulse on the students engagement and comprehension level. She provides this feedback back to the remote teachers who can then address anything in the next class.


Students in the AP CS class.

From this experience it was clear 2 things, as stated by visiting observers over time as well. First, the students come in, sit down, log in and the room goes quiet. The teacher never has to tell them to get to work. Next, the kids have a natural affinity to this social media type learning style. These remote skills they are honing in this class will play a critical role in the skills necessary to build and sustain jobs from rural areas such as Lee County. However, I am acutely aware that the corporate space today does not invite nor foster these kinds of skills, which will make it difficult for these kids to go away and get an education and then feel that they can come home one day and take their work with them.

AP CS class

Students eager to learn.

As it is, every student in the Intro class when polled recently, said they were leaving Lee County and never coming back. When asked what it would take to keep them, there didn’t seem to be anything that could be created or enhanced. It seems as a demographic, they are following the trend of more and more youth moving to urban places. But, that’s ok, isn’t it? Kids should leave home, explore the world, get an education, but at some point, they may feel the tug of their hometown or a yearning to nest where they grew up. Family circumstances may force them back sooner than they would like. But salary, life passions or ambitions might be sacrificed to make this change. Or, they’ll never consider it and all of the talent being developed will disappear from the region. These are real issues Eastern Kentucky faces and issues of which the Senator is keenly aware. Jobs and educational opportunities were the gist of his visit.

Senator McConnell

Senator McConnell addresses the community at Happy Top in Beattyville, KY

I had the privilege to hear the Senator speak to the community at lunch that day prior to his visit to the High School. I had never been to one of these types of rallies before. I’m not that politically minded, except when it comes to helping these kids in Eastern Kentucky. Whatever political stance he holds, when it comes to this town, he’s actually doing something to help solve their number one issue: Broadband.

Without internet and decent bandwidth, the county suffers as a whole. They are now the last county in the entire state to not be wired. With the Senator’s support and Microsoft’s TEALS program making an impact, AT&T is motivated to help solve the problem. The situation does not lend for a trivial solution and it’s taking too long for progress to be made here. It’s been over a year and though we finally have fiber to 1200 homes, it’s still not enough and worse, it’s not turned on. Satellite internet is the best you can get and it costs $49.99 for 10GB a month for ‘high speed’ internet. You can buy up to 10GB more for $10 a GB, but once you use it up, you are on the slow speed and those rates don’t allow for video playback let alone teleconferencing with desktop or application sharing, which are important to my job. This is what I have at the house when I am staying there and it’s simply annoying. I can use 2GB a day easily just for work. Rationing internet usage is a foreign concept these days anywhere else.

Robert Stivers

Robert Stivers, Senate President, speaks out about the ATT Bill at LCHS, which will help alleviate some of the internet depravity they are experiencing in the region.

Naturally, when the Senator confirmed he’d be visiting the TEALS program at LCHS, broadband constraints were going to come up and they did. Funding, private sector and university support were the other areas he needed to hear about as expansion of TEALS depends on not only LCHS’s and schools like Lee County’s ability to sustain this type of program but these other interests to provide the resources to support that expansion.

It’s hard to know from his whirlwind tour if any of this resonated to a degree that he will do something during the rest of this term or if he’s too busy trying to drum up votes to secure his seat. So far, there has been zero press on his visit to Lee County High School from his campaign side or even in the local press. Microsoft was all over it, of course, but I’m not sure what it means that general press was not more social about it. I had expected something at least locally and was surprised to find his other regional stops tweeted but nothing on LCHS. :(

In my next post you can read an overview of the events at Lee County High School, which includes personal stories of how TEALs has impacted individuals and the community. This class is changing lives. It’s incredible to be a part of that change.

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Summerlin Half Marathon 2014

Go Audrey

Go Audrey!! photo by Luke Humphrey

This is my first half marathon and I give the Las Vegas Summerlin course two thumbs up! When I said I was training for a half and people would ask me which one, when I said Summerlin the response was always the same: “hilly” and they would smile sometimes chuckle at me.

I thought from all of the hiking I had been doing, and now with all of the trail running I was doing, that the hills wouldn’t be a problem. But, their remarks left an impression and I made sure to run the course once before the actual race. Turns out, they were right. Nearly 7 miles of sustained incline, which is over half of the race. The last mile of uphill feels unbearable, but at least at race time, I knew what to expect and was prepared for the mental battle.

enjoying the race

Enjoying the race. Photo by Luke Humphrey

Now, most of my long runs had been in Seattle, where I was spending a lot time due to work and my boyfriend. The last month of training had been tough. Luke, my boyfriend, had this idea to get his VO2 max tested. I had done this with Polar some years ago, and found it reasonably helpful. I already know what my cardiovascular weakness is and I had been training it until I started training distance. While I was trying to keep up my intervals but make them longer and longer, I simply didn’t have the time to commit to a distance (say 1200 or 2000m) and work to actually succeed at a set with a sustained heart rate or higher. It became an exercise in making the distance, period, albeit at a pace faster than I might otherwise have attempted. Maybe this contributed to my ‘weak heart’ syndrome?

BMR test

Luke trying to relax in preparation for his BMR test.

We did our best to follow the program in the “Run Less, Run Faster” book, but I never did keep up with the intervals. 10 x 400′s, yeah, right. I couldn’t even sprint a 2000m, though I did manage several 800s over time. Anyway, I bring this up because when we took the VO2max test, they did an overall assessment of my body fat percentage, resting heart rate, VO2max, aerobic and anaerobic thresholds as well as my basal metabolic rate. In essence, I left feeling fat and cardiovascularly unfit despite all of my training. They even said my heart was weak, even though my daytime resting heart rate can go as low as mid-40′s. I’ve tracked my resting heart rate to as low as 38. So, with a heart rate that slow, but supposedly meaning I have a strong heart, how is it that all of these numbers say I have a weak heart?

(If you want to learn more about this test and what my numbers told me and how you can learn about your own fitness, contact me.)

Not only was the message hard to receive, but Luke by this point started having knee trouble that didn’t let up and led him to bail on the half. His first half marathon was the Seattle half last December. I had gotten really ill and was unable to run with him at that time. Now, as this half approached, he was less and less able to run with me. His Denali trip in May is a priority and bad knees with running making them ache worse was not a good sign. Therefore, all of my training in support of his desire to eventually do a marathon and an ironman, meant that I would be running the half marathon by myself. :/

Several weeks before the half, he and I set off to run the course. By mile 3, he called it and I ran the rest of the course without him. He went back to get the car and find me, which never happened. I took a wrong turn and exited the green space a bit early around mile 10, which confused me but meant he was never going to find me where I was. Night was setting in and I pushed myself as hard as I could to at least get back on course hoping he would pass me. He nearly didn’t, not before I was within striking distance of the parking lot did my jeep appear beside me. I was never happier to see him than when he pulled up at that moment. My legs were dead, it was dark, I was worried he was out on the road and I’d be sitting in the parking lot and how would we find each other? It all worked out in the end and bonus, it was my first long run not in the pouring cold rain! I was psyched.

Race day came and though I was not keen to race by myself, it was encouraging to see Luke at the halfway point taking pictures and cheering me on. I managed to do my best pace and since I knew the course, I was prepared for all of the hills and dug deep to push through to the end where he was waiting to greet me. I have to say, it was a grueling course, but I still had fun. We’ll see how his knees hold up to see if I keep training at these distances. Meanwhile, my elbow is doing better despite the ligament tear so I’m starting to climb more, which has my spirits up, too.

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Red Rock Rendezvous 2014

Day 1 Clinic attendees

Day 1 Clinic attendees

Mountain Gear put on another great Rendezvous outside of Las Vegas this past March. An enthusiastic and talented group of athletes converged on the event working in booths and teaching clinics throughout Red Rocks. I taught a really fun technique class on a classic 110′ slab called Ultraman. I had this sector in previous years and absolutely love the choice. There’s no better way to focus on footwork than to tackle slabs. J

But don’t let the slab part scare you away. Next to that classic is a shorter climb with actual hand holds. Although rated slightly harder than Ultraman, many clinic attendees think it feels easier.  J

start is hard

The start is the hardest part

The groups ranged in abilities from never having climbed outside, being pregnant, to bouldering and experienced route climbers. I had a good mix of men and women in the clinics and on the second day, with some inspiration from the first, I had a special drill to run with those brave enough to try. I, of course, would be the first guinea pig.

There is an exercise I’ve done in clinics past to help work on footwork and that is to climb a slab blindfolded. You can use two tennis balls for your hands so they can grip the balls instead of holds, but it’s not necessary. The only rule is that your hands should not grip holds or the tennis balls can not be placed on holds for leverage. This turned out to be an exciting drill to host outdoors and Ultraman was the perfect climb for the experiment. After working my own footwork over the course of those two days and demoing the blind climbing, I can’t emphasize enough how much this focus helps. The next time I climbed, I felt like my feet were more precise, quiet and better weighted.

Blindfolded climbing

Yes, she’s blindfolded!

I’m always saying one can never get enough from footwork and no matter how often I return to the basics, whether in my own training or in clinics such as these, my assertion appears to be reaffirmed. While I love the Rendezvous as a mini-reunion of friends converging on an event for a short time from all across the States and Canada, I love doing the clinics. I enjoy sharing my knowledge and helping others expand their comfort zone and try something new all while having fun in a festive environment.

A special thanks to all of my sponsors for supporting me in this event. I had fun and it seemed like my clinic attendees did as well. See you next year!

another group

Having fun after climbing Ultraman.

leaving with a smile
Everyone leaves with a smile

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blindfolded climbing

Testing out the blindfold climbing

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reflections on hardships, drugs and perseverance

I read this article today about addiction wrpt the late Philip Seymour Hoffman, and there was a good phrase in there that rung out about life lessons that gave me pause. Addiction aside, I pondered the following statement and finished it differently.

“…to believe that if we try hard enough, if we care about other people enough, if we are smart enough, we can avoid…” failure, disappointment, abandonment, etc.

I’d never quite captured this perspective on myself until I read that statement and followed it with my own thoughts, including reflections on hardships, drugs and perseverance.

During my evolution as a person, I came to believe, or rather wish, that this was all it would take to prevent bad things from happening to me. This may have been a valid position to hold when I was young and probably worked for me then, too, but it is a bit of a fairytale to hold onto, now. Wishing for change, hoping for someone to save me, never worked in the past, therefore, I began putting all of my efforts into being good, the best I could be…to not give a reason for bad things to happen and yet, sometimes they still would.

As we should all have come to understand by the time we hit adulthood, the bottom line is that bad things will happen. It’s inevitable. We only wish that on that scale we don’t have to deal with really bad things like the untimely loss of a loved one, poverty, sickness, unusual cruelty, etc.

While there is a bit of luck in the draw for what comes my way, there is also a lot about my direction and mindset that can influence and even change how difficult situations are handled. I’m not talking about grief, I’m talking about the ability to differentiate a situation as not being about who I am as a person, or what I do/did, or how I am good or not good at something.

When I hear people talk about mental health, this is what I want to be talking about. The ability to recognize our contribution to our daily satisfaction in life. Followed by our ability to distinguish those aspects of life that are not about us. To tap into the root of who we are and take satisfaction in where we are in our journey of life. The weight of the world does not lie on any one person’s shoulders. :) And, perseverance is only a temporary solution to getting through tough times.

People make mistakes, get depressed, have sadness, get angry, frustrated, picky, dissatisfied, and so forth. It’s all part of the beauty of being human. But to fool ourselves into thinking we can’t be better or that these aspects of our human nature won’t be played against one another, is also a fairytale. We are never too old for introspection, reflection and change. We are capable of handling so much more than we give ourselves credit….if we allow ourselves the space, time and patience.

I know things get hard. I have definitely felt like I’d lost everything at one time, felt a lack of support and wondered why it all matters anyway. It doesn’t, matter that is, unless you want it to…and drugs and alcohol are too easy to hide behind, distorting one’s ability to think clearly. Sometimes the idea to just get up, get dressed and greet the day seems unfathomable but that is what life is about…our ability to do this. Sometimes we can be surprised at what a day can bring, in a good way.

There is light in this tunnel of life but we have to create it and nourish it with what matters to us. That is the only hope there is. That is the only strength to cling to, especially when it feels like all is lost. This is an ability we should strive to enrich and know that no matter how many times it feels like we are starting over, it’s not really from ground zero.

I guess, in parting, my final thoughts on this are that we do the best we can with what we got and sometimes it’s still not going to be good enough. That is life. If you want out, go, but this is the only shot you get to experience the myriad of pleasure and pain that comes with living.

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Holiday Reflections

Mt Rainier Dec 24, 2013

Sunset views from Mt. Rainier, Christmas Eve 2013.

Wow, it’s been awhile since I wrote a blog post. I’ll try to keep this brief but so much has happened since the last post that I want to capture some highlights and share the best of

Christmas Eve Feast

The eve of Christmas feast

my moments with you starting with my first Muir attempt on Mt. Rainier Christmas Eve, which was beautiful and adventurous–the perfect way to start the Holiday.

It’s strange this year to know when to say Merry Christmas to my family. We have always celebrated on the eve of Christmas but it was my grandparent’s generation that held that tradition. Christmas Day was always for the immediate family and extended family visitation. Vigilia, a long held Eve tradition, has changed over the years as

Anne and Carol Sniezek
My grandparents, together again.

the family has grown but seemed to hold in my family as our central figure, my grandfather, towed the line. It is with sadness that earlier this month we said our farewells to our stronghold and changed our traditions forever more.

This was a rough fall for me knowing my grandfather would pass at any time and trying to spend as much time as I could with him and selfishly hoping he wouldn’t pass when I was traveling for work. The stress from everything weighed heavy on me and I got really sick, sicker than I’ve been in a long time. It was enough to give me pause to rethink where I want to focus my energy to prevent myself from reaching a breaking point. Happily, I can report, changes are underway.

SOAR audience

SOAR audience

Meanwhile, I’m impressed for what I have been able to achieve during this time. One of my primary focuses this year has been the success of the TEALS (teaching and literacy in schools) in Lee County. We have had some real progress with the program growing it to both the Intro to Computer Science and AP Computer Science course offerings. Increasing enrollments from 6 in Intro last year to 22 this year and 8 in the new AP class. 45% of the enrollments are girls! We have the State department of education working hard on how to take

AP CS class, LCHS

this offering into other schools and I was invited to speak in front of some KY legislature about the program and my involvement. I m excited for the interest spawned from the talk. I want to share it with everyone so people hear the story and hopefully are inspired to do something like this in their area or help us with our initiative. You can hear the talk from an archive of the event at minute 82.

Snoqualmie tunnel
Former railroad tunnel up Snoqualmie pass in Washington State.
Photo by Luke Humphrey

While climbing is usually central to my activities, I’ve been struggling with an injury most of the fall, which has led me to explore other activities such as cycling and running. I have enjoyed road biking the Appalachian hills of Kentucky while I was there as well as reigniting my love of the NW terrain.

Another memorable moment was summiting the North Ridge of Mt. Stuart.

Mt. Stuart summit

Summit of Mt. Stuart from the complete North Ridge.
Photo by Luke Humphrey

another memorable alpine adventure was Forbidden Peak and experiencing the Alpine-scape and climbing through the eyes of a photographer.

Boston Basin

Boston Basin
Photo by Luke Humphrey

During the summer I was fortunate to train a group of enthusiastic climbers. We had a lot of fun and called ourselves the Dawn Patrol for training at 6 in the morning.

Dawn Patrol

2013 Summer climbing training team Dawn Patrol

Hot air balloon ride
Bill Ramsey inside one of the hot air balloons
hot air balloon

views of Red Rocks

The hot air balloon ride over west Vegas and right over my apartment was definitely a treat and well shared with a fellow Vegas-ite.

Moab Corona Arch exploration and rappelling in the dark was quite the experience.

corona arch

Rappelling Corona Arch at night. Photo by Luke Humphrey

The students from LCHS came to visit Microsoft, Facebook, and more. I was and continue to be really proud of these kids as they pursue further education.

Student MS visit

LCHS students visit Microsoft Corporate campus

My trip to China feels like it was another adventure in another time, far in the past, already. Still the memories will never be forgotten. That trip was an absolute one of a kind experience. Ice climbing was only a fraction of what I enjoyed there.

Ice Climbing China

2013 Ice Climbing in Western China.

The year has had many more memorable moments with family and friends. I can’t possibly highlight them all but I have appreciated what everyone has brought to my life. My KY family was the most pleasant surprise. I will miss them until I can visit again in the spring.

I love that I can connect with so many people from all over the world and I appreciate the time I spend and what I learn from them. I am looking forward to the adventures of the new year with old, new and yet to be discovered friends.

Have a wonderful Holiday, everyone, and thanks for reading this post!

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