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Students from Gateway School Complete The Jason Project’s Grandfather Challenge

Eight Students from the Gateway School in Lenoir, NC recently completed “The Grandfather Challenge” hiking program at Grandfather Mountain in Linville.

“The Grandfather Challenge” program is sponsored by The Jason Project, Inc., which was formed by the parents of Jason Matthew Nipper, who passed away in June of 2014 at age 26. This private foundation provides outdoor/wilderness and hiking excursions and similar programs which are designed to build self-confidence in struggling youth, as well as trust and positive rapport with adult mentors. Because of Jason’s abiding love of the outdoors and mountain hiking, James & Cheryl  have established  “The Grandfather Challenge,” through which students navigate all of the hiking trails at Grandfather Mountain.  Although the program includes at-risk kids suffering from mental problems and/or drug addictions, the program also seeks to assist any special kids who are struggling with personal adversities, including family, school, or other personal problems or challenges. 

The eight very special students who just completed this program are: Hunter Absher, John Branson, Kiy Ferguson, Owen Long, Joshua Powell, Ryan Reed, Dylan Street, and Casey Yount. Special thanks are due to Caldwell County School Superintendent Dr. Steve Stone, who approved the implementation of a pilot program to be overseen by Dr. Michael Wyant as Principal of Gateway School.   Not only did Dr. Wyant himself drive a school bus from Lenoir to Grandfather Mountain and back four times, but he also served as one of the school chaperones and completed each of the four rigorous hikes !! Chad Davis also served admirably as a chaperone, and bravely completed all of the Grandfather hiking trails !!   Each and every one of these very special students and adult chaperones did a wonderful job of accepting and completing “The Grandfather Challenge” course at Grandfather Mountain !

These hikes were conducted and supervised by Curtis Batten and Maria Navarro of Appalachian Mountain Leadership, which is a highly certified, experienced, and faith-based outfitter group headquartered in Boone, NC, which provides wilderness activities of various kinds, including extended wilderness excursions, rock climbing, overnight camping, and other experiences in which they teach servant leadership, wilderness management, discipline, and character building values and goals. (You can learn more about Appalachian Mountain Leadership by visiting their website at www.amlnc.org).

The Jason Project, Inc. has formed alliances with the Avery, Catawba and Caldwell County School systems, representing a total of 14 high schools and 9 middle schools.   Also, the Grandfather Mountain State Park of North Carolina (through its Superintendent Sue McBean) has issued a Special Activity Permit to the project, and the Grandfather Mountain Stewardship Foundation (with the support and encouragement of Jesse Pope) has issued a special pass for entrance to the Grandfather Mountain attractions. Jason’s parents are deeply appreciative of the community support they have received for this exciting program !

The Jason Project, Inc. provides hiking boots, backpacks, socks, raincoats, professional guides, and all other costs associated with this program. At the successful completion of each round of hikes, the youth participants are each given a Certificate Of Completion and a gift certificate at an awards ceremony in their honor. This current group just celebrated their achievements at Piccolo’s Italian Restaurant in Lenoir, NC.

Once again, our deepest thanks and appreciation goes out to all of these special students and chaperones who participated in “The Grandfather Challenge!”

Anyone seeking further information about “The Grandfather Challenge” and/or who may wish to sponsor a student may contact James or Cheryl Nipper at (828) 765-6561 or (904) 354-7378, or via email at james@jamesnipper.com, or visit their Go Fund Me page at GoFundMe.com/TheJasonProject.


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