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North Lincoln Middle School students complete ‘The Grandfather Challenge’ at Grandfather Mountain

Nine 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.  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 nine very special students who just completed this program are: Justin Makuszewski, Devin Rohmann, Victor Yanez, Owen Darrow, Jaylen Coles, My-Jia Rice, Autumn Reddinguius, Kylie Almstead, and Brianna Bryant. 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. Mr. Dan Donnellan, School Counselor, carefully selected the students most likely to benefit from and fully complete this rigorous physical challenge, and while also serving as a chaperone, he continuously provided counsel and encouragement to the students under his care.  Mr. Donnellan is an extremely dedicated school counselor, and this is the second 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 !! He was accompanied by Lacey Klingler, also a school counselor, and she bravely hiked the Grandfather trails and provided support and encouragement to the kids. Assistant School Principal Jason Cranford 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 Scott Thrift and Bill Hoag of Thrifty Adventures, which is a highly experienced and very diverse outfitter group headquartered in Little Switzerland, NC. This adventure company provides wilderness activities of various kinds, including wilderness hiking excursions, rock climbing, rappelling, overnight camping, yoga programs, special activities for youth, kayaking, tubing, and other outdoor adventure experiences. (You can learn more about Thrifty Adventures by visiting their website at www.thriftyadventuresnc.com). These nine students quickly bonded with these fine young leaders, and learned valuable lessons of leadership and team unity.

The Jason Project, Inc. has formed alliances with the Avery, Catawba, Caldwell, Lincoln, and Gaston County School systems, serving many middle schools and high 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. Although “The Grandfather Challenge” is not affiliated with or part of the Grandfather Mountain Stewardship Foundation or Grandfather Mountain State Park, the Foundation is very proud to acknowledge that they both support our program and its mission. 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 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 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 [email protected], or visit their Go Fund Me page at GoFundMe.com/TheJasonProject.