1000 x 90

North Lincoln Middle School Students Complete ‘The Grandfather Challenge’ at Grandfather Mountain

Ten students from North Lincoln Middle School in Denver, 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 was formed to host this unique hiking program, which is 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.

The ten very special students who just completed this program are: Nathan Wright, Tristan Lopez, Jackson Morgan, Ricky Short, Christian Butler, Heavenly Crisco, Emily Roberts, Peyton Lenkiewicz, Alexis Fuller, and Alora Cochran. Each and every one of these very special students did a wonderful job of accepting and completing “The Grandfather Challenge” course at Grandfather Mountain, and in so doing, they all demonstrated courage, skill, and commitment to purpose!

This group of middle school students was created with the full support of Mrs. Kqisha Dagenhart, Principal of North Lincoln Middle School (currently on maternity leave), together with positive support from Interim Principal Brandon Finger. School Counselors Dan Donnellan and Mary-Grace Werner carefully selected the students most likely to benefit from and fully complete this rigorous physical challenge, and while also serving as chaperones, they continuously provided counsel and encouragement to the students under their care.

This was the first time that Mary-Grace Werner served as a chaperone, and she mentored the students and braved the difficult trails at Grandfather Mountain with ease. Mr. Dan Donnellan is an extremely dedicated school counselor, and this is the fourth time that he has chaperoned a group from his school and hiked all of these rigorous mountain trails, plus driven the school bus for almost 500 miles to take part in this series of hikes !! Eighth grade English teacher John Bradley drove the school bus for the fourth hike, lending logistical support for the final hike and staging the bus for prompt retrieval of the kids and driving them to the Awards Dinner. Each of these outstanding school staff provided leadership and encouragement to the students as they completed these challenging hikes. Their contributions were invaluable and helped make this program a tremendous success for these kids.

These hikes were conducted and supervised by our very experienced and fearless hike leaders Bill Hoag and Kevin Hagan, who provided lessons of leadership, teamwork, courage, and respect. These real-life lessons taken in the wilderness setting make a tremendous impact on these kids, and encourages them to face their struggles and challenges, and instills the concept that they can overcome their own unique challenges in life. These ten students quickly bonded with these fine leaders, and learned valuable lessons of leadership and team unity.

James and Cheryl Nipper have received broad community support for their program from local Avery County charitable organizations such as the High Country Charitable Foundation, the AMY Wellness Foundation, and the Grandfather Community Foundation, together with many private donors who have provided generous support and encouragement. Avery County Schools Superintendent Dr. Dan Brigman has heartily endorsed the program, and the staff and administration of various Avery County schools have helped make this program a success. Jason’s parents are deeply appreciative of the community support they have received for this exciting program! Now in its sixth season, this program is now serving students in Avery, Caldwell, Catawba, Lincoln, and Gaston counties, and with the support of AMY Wellness Foundation, the Nippers hope to expand to Mitchell and Yancey counties next year.

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 a special awards dinner and ceremony at Bella’s Italian Restaurant in Banner Elk, NC.

Once again, our deepest thanks and appreciation goes out to all of these special students, chaperones, and hike leaders 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.

For an exciting Go Pro Video of the final hike of this four hike series (which is affectionately called the “Grand-Daddy” hike, go to this link: https://gopro.com/v/m0Jmdmz40Jm0v