What prompted you to become a youth mentor?
I truly believe that I am who I am today because of the teachers, coaches and mentors I had while growing up. There were very significant people in my life that stepped up to guide me and take me under their wing. Since then, I have always wanted to give back in the same way.
A little background on my childhood, I come from a divorced family and have always had very little contact with my dad. My younger brother, older sister, her husband and child, my mother and I all lived in mobile home for my childhood. We lived very minimally and I was even on reduced meals at school. My mom was the only one with a steady income in our family, but she still had to work two and sometimes three jobs to make ends meet. My mom did the best she could without a college education, and I have always looked up to her work ethic. She did a great job making sure we stayed busy by enrolling my brother and me in as many sports as our schedules could handle.
Once we got to 7th grade, sports were free, so we were constantly playing soccer, basketball, baseball, and football to stay active and out of trouble. On top of that, as soon as I turned twelve I started working. I refereed soccer games for extra money to buy new clothes like the ones my teammates wore. I wanted to better fit in. I refereed soccer until I was twenty-two. It turned out to be a great way to make extra money for our family without having to work during the week. Looking back, I know the predominant reason my brother and I didn’t get into as much trouble as we could have was because we were busy on the weekends.
While in school, I did pretty well all the way up to 6th grade. By 7th grade, I became disinterested and only focused on passing my classes so I could still play football, basketball, and track. In junior high I had my first coach who really believed in me and pushed me to be better. Coach Jones was the kind of coach you see in the movies. He was extremely dedicated to his family and to the team. Though school wasn’t my strong suit, my mom always pushed me to go to college and to become the first Freshour to graduate. In high school I had a couple of amazing teachers and counselors who really held me accountable. Having someone believe in me showed me there was good in the world and I could have a better life for myself if I worked hard for it.
As a teenager, I expressed my emotions physically through sports, in the weight room, on my brother (sorry little brother), and sometimes on my bedroom wall! I was not a happy camper. I could have easily gone down a different path if it weren’t for the teachers, coaches, and mentors who made me think differently, challenged me to grow, and gave me a chance, regardless of my social circumstances. I am still forever grateful for them and humbled that they chose to help me. It is because of them that I have always wanted to give back and become a mentor myself.
Why did you choose to get involved with Explore Austin specifically?
Explore Austin’s mission is to change the lives of underserved youth through leadership, mentorship, and adventure. I chose Explore Austin because it teaches leadership through an outdoor adventurous setting. Without being a part of Explore, these kids would never have the access to the life changing experiences and activities it exposes them to. It also allows me to be in my element, where I feel I can make a real difference. I love being outside so my enthusiasm for hiking, biking, camping, and adventure makes it a perfect fit for me. We are also committed to mentoring the same group of kids from 6th grade until they graduate from high school. I have always wanted to give back in a big way and I liked that over the course of six years we have the opportunity to take on a major role in their life, during the time I personally needed it the most.
How does MOVE’s motto, “Life’s an adventure, MOVE it to LIVE it,” influence your experience with Explore Austin?
It could almost be Explore Austin’s motto, which is kind of awesome! Choosing to progress and deciding early on that there was more for my life than what I was given has always been a huge driver for me. I don’t ever want to be complacent. The thought of staying in my hometown and not changing my circumstances terrified me. I had a very difficult childhood. However, growing up, I wanted to do and be a part of as many things as possible. I craved adventure and even bought a passport when I graduated college because I wanted to go backpacking through Europe. It hasn’t happened yet, but I always knew I was going to have a life full of adventure.
I actually came up with the MOVE motto when Katy and I were trying to explain the importance of MOVE to overall health and longevity. I remember how much I resonated with using movement as a way to fuel one’s adventure for life. I never want to stop exploring. I know being healthy and staying fit will prepare me for any adventure Katy or Conger want to go on and will enable me to continue to live the life of my dreams. I had never left the country before meeting Katy, and together we have already run through Morocco, Kenya and Patagonia. We learned so many life lessons on those trips and found immense clarity by getting out of our comfort zones. To me, life has always been one crazy adventure. As long as I keep moving forward, I have the ability and awareness to discover what I’m made of, while also unraveling who I have yet to become.
What do you hope to learn and what to you hope to teach during the next 6 years working with Explore Austin?
I have already learned so much with Explore Austin and I am so excited at the thought of learning more! So far, Explore’s ACES motto is golden. A is for Action oriented, C is for Courageous, E is for Excellent teammate, and S is for Strong communicator. As mentors, this is what we use for almost all of our interactions within our team. It really helps to keep everyone unified.
What can I teach? Well, that’s a much harder question, and I’m not sure I know they answer to it just yet. It’s pretty surreal how much the Explorers have already taught us as mentors. I look forward to teaching them confidence, resilience, strength and how important it is to laugh and have fun! I’m sure my fitness and nutrition background will come into play, and hopefully I can be a resource for them. Tangibly as a group of mentors, we have already taught our Explorers how to backpack through the wilderness. Intangibly, we have taught each of them how to conquer a fear in some capacity or another. Every boy cried at least once during our trip. It was definitely a teaching experience for us to guide them through that fear and make them feel safe.
You are about to become a father, do you think this experience will help you prepare?
As a father, I feel ignorant, but in a good way! I’m excited for the next chapter of my life with Katy. We really do make a great team! As for the experience, it has already helped me in so many ways. During our Summer Wilderness Trip last month, I realized I was also dealing with some of my own fear. I was afraid of not being a good father. Being with these young boys right before I’m about to have my own boy, enabled me to face this fear head on and acknowledge it. I mean, no one wants to be a bad father, but having all of the interactions, both good and bad with our Explorers, gave me the confidence and hope for what is to come in the next 5 weeks.
How many mentors and kids are there in your group?
We currently have 5 mentors and 8 kiddos. There’s still a chance we may get 15 Explorers, which is the number of kids the other groups have, but the school our boys are from is smaller. All of the Explorers are part of the KIPP Austin public schools.
Have you found your unique role within the group yet? Will movement, fitness and/or nutrition be part of your leadership role?
I think it’s too early to tell. I have an amazing group of peers I get to mentor with. We each have our own strengths, but overall, we are a pretty cohesive team together. Jevon, a mentor in the group, also owns a CrossFit gym and was a previous fitness mentor for me. He has taken on the role of getting our group warmed up before each event/day. As far as nutrition goes, I would love to make the food quality on our trips and events a little better, but I know feeding kids through a non-profit is an expensive endeavor. I would love to continue to find a way to make it better. Personally, I have been bringing in my own food to stay healthy. Having a healthy diet has been shown to help with attention span, decrease anxiety, and have more energy throughout the day, all of which I think our kids would benefit from. When I eat poorly, I am not a happy camper!
How was the first Summer Wilderness Trip?
The first SWT was amazing and I am extremely grateful for the mentorship team and the kids we have on our team! I know it’s not always going to be this easy (seemingly), but I am excited for the challenge!
When did you feel most uncomfortable? What was your most memorable moment?
Nothing really sticks out to me as uncomfortable during our SWT trip. There was one bathroom incident where I quickly realized I was not the best-suited mentor to help! Maybe after the many poopy baby diapers in my future, I will be better equipped and desensitized!
My most memorable moment was on top of the 800ft Zip line with Zachary. He went up there with the intention of not going down out of fear of heights. Myself, along with our guides for the week, talked and motivated Zach for almost 15 minutes to take the plunge. We told him to embrace the fear, trust the equipment, and be courageous. When he finally took the leap, it was so awesome to see his face and eyes light up as we went zipping down the Zip line. After we got down and were walking back up to the group, I asked him if he had any advice for his teammates. He said, “Take your time, breathe, and let go.” What amazing advice that is!! For life in general! We used that motto the rest of the week and he was the first one down the Zip3000, a 3000ft long Zip line, and the longest in Texas.
How can the MOVE community get involved with Explore Austin?
MOVE Austin Fitness is throwing an event for the whole family to enjoy in Reed Park on August 13th, from 10am-1pm, in an effort to raise funds for our Summer Wilderness Trips. Our goal is to raise $5000 by August 18th. We would love to have as many MOVERS at the event as possible. It will be a chance for you to meet the other mentors and hopefully the kiddos! You can also donate here:
We will also be accepting funds at MOVE if you would like to donate, we would be eternally grateful!