A Leap of Faith

How PALs, Leadership Uses Campus Ropes Course


Flying through the air, graduated senior Mabrie Morales strikes a Spiderman pose on the way down from the catwalk at the ropes course. This is also known as the Log and it’s a popular course to take on the ropes course. “I loved the way the PALS ropes course instructors invited us into a new experience,” Morales said. “They challenged us to take an extra step and trust. This was not just a fun ropes course, it was an experience you could choose to grow from.” (Photo Courtesy of Auzene Granmayeh)

Ava Callaway, Reporter

Behind the band’s blacktop lies a ropes course. Once every year, PALS, the Peer Assistance, Leadership and Service program has the ability to use this ropes course.

The course consists of a zip line, multi-vine walk, catwalk and the infamous leap of faith, which is all taught and facilitated by multiple trained professionals. 

Even though the course is closed to the public, there are opportunities to use the course with a trained professional on-site. It’s also used by the PALS program, usually towards the end of the year. It’s one of the biggest events PALS holds, including the picnics that are held twice a year with all of the Leander ISD PALS programs. 

Our ropes course was built on our campus long before I started teaching at CPHS,” PALS teacher Jared Lippe said. “When I took the job here back in 2007, I started taking my Teen Leadership classes at the end of every semester.”

Lippe said there are many ways students can be leaders on the course. Even though there is a professional ropes course handler, the students play a very important role in keeping everyone safe.

“It teaches us all how to show up for others and truly support people around us,” Lippe said. “Not everybody participating chooses to climb on the ropes course, and that is perfectly okay and honored. Every single aspect is a ‘challenge by choice’ on the ropes course. Being a part of this experience, however, also means learning a deeper sense of being there for others, including participants having the opportunity to belay [hold the ropes] while someone is climbing.”

As a yoga instructor and PALS teacher, Lippe also has training as a ropes course facilitator. He said he has always had a passion for activities that involve connecting with people in a way you can’t in a normal setting. 

“I’ve been a ropes course facilitator since my early college days as a summer camp counselor,” Lippe said. “I have seen some amazing, life changing experiences and major breakthroughs over the years. I’ve also seen some scary moments of people getting ‘stuck,’ just working themself up into a panic while up high on an element. Both are learning experiences for everyone involved, and have an emotional impact as we all continue to learn about ourselves and life around us.”

Along with the zip-line and the other components that come with the course, the main attraction is the leap of faith. With a telephone pole and a trapeze bar or an object hanging from an adjacent tree, participants have to attempt to grab hold of it, while flying through the air before being slowly lowered back down to the ground. 

“One of the more challenging activities, and an amazing experience to watch and support one another through,” Lippe said. “This activity requires a chest harness as well as a climbing harness, and the safety ropes are attached securely to your backside.”

To be at the top of the pole is daunting in and of itself, according to Lippe, but to have to jump off into the air is even more challenging. It is a thrill, according to Lippe.

Senior Lani Manzano’s favorite part of the course was reaching the end of the log catwalk. The course prepared her in an unconventional way. 

“It taught me to be less of an overthinker,” Manzano said. “I am terrified of heights and I am still shocked I even went on the log because of how high it was and I am happy I did. It was a rewarding experience.”

Lippe dives deeper into this long running tradition at the school and what his take is on the experience. He explains how he’s seen many groups go through the course and how people can grow from this experience.  

“I’ve always loved being a part of experiential education activities like this for so many reasons,” Lippe said. “Time spent with groups out on the ropes course is always so meaningful, creating amazing memories, and providing opportunities to actually get out of comfort zones and challenge one another to do hard or scary things. Participants can then take the lessons they learn about themself and others back to the real world and have a deeper sense of trusting themselves, trusting others, knowing what they are capable of, and learning how to talk themself through challenging situations in life. There is a team of support students involved with every single person climbing, and it requires great focus and care. Holding someone’s life in your hands is such a powerful learning experience, for everybody involved.”