This month's blog article was featured in the October 2019 issue of our digital newsletter, Aspire Wire. To receive future Aspire Wire emails, please subscribe here.  

By Nathaniel Orellana
MGH Aspire Participant
Hi! My name is Nathaniel Orellana, and I have been an active participant of MGH Aspire for the last 10 years. My experiences in the program have been powerful. MGH Aspire has helped me to overcome many different obstacles and hurdles, which I thought I could never do on my own. I have one particular experience that really stands out and want to share it with you because it is something very meaningful and, to this day, I’m still proud of myself and grateful for the opportunity.
In the summer of 2014, I participated in the Explorations Program. It was such a fantastic summer! Being a part of the program, I had the opportunity to meet new people, make new friends, do lots of fun activities, etc. One of the things that I’m the proudest of, from that summer, is going on the overnight trip to Great Wolfe Lodge. Why? Well, after learning about the logistics of the overnight trip, I respectfully made it clear to everybody that I was not going to go on the trip because I had never been a part of a sleepover or been away from home without my parents. It really seemed scary, anxiety provoking and daunting. I felt like my heart was going to pound right out of my chest just thinking about not sleeping in my own room, being away from my family and having to share a room with a total stranger. After speaking with the program counselors and my family, and carefully listening to the details of the trip, I began to consider the opportunity because I was reassured that if I did not feel comfortable during the trip, I could be picked up by my parents. I was so worried about what could go wrong but was reassured that I could check in with the counselors regularly to talk about any worries or concerns during the trip. Talking about my doubts and fears and brainstorming ways to help me cope made me realize that not trying would be just as bad. Most importantly, I realized that I was not the only one going through the motions of this “new” challenge. One week before the overnight trip, I made my final decision to just go! Well, as you can imagine, I had a BLAST!!! In fact, I wasn’t homesick at all.
I believe that what helped me to overcome my fear, worry and anxiety was the amazing encouragement I received from so many people. Having the opportunity to express myself allowed me to break away from what was holding me back and focus on having fun at Great Wolfe Lodge. I did miss home a bit, but I did not let that stop me from focusing on the present moment because I knew that eventually, I would go back home. Even now, I still consider this experience to be my number one favorite memory during my MGH Aspire journey. As a matter of fact, overcoming my fear of homesickness greatly encouraged me to continue trying new things that involve being away from home. I’ve come to the conclusion that it is part of change and growing up. If you think about it, being away from home is not as bad as it may seem. I am proud to say that, since that summer of 2014, I have participated in other extended overnight trips, for educational and social reasons. This has opened doors for independence and growth so much that I am, now, venturing on traveling via airplane on my own. 
In sum, I’d like to take this time to express that you can overcome anything in life, as long as you believe in yourself. Being a part of amazing programs, like MGH Aspire, and having supportive family and friends can really help you identify what your fears are and to develop strategies to overcome and make the impossible possible. If we live our lives with constant fear and negativity, it will be impossible to overcome the obstacles we face – no matter how big or small. THANK YOU, MGH Aspire, my family and friends, for your support and believing in me. I am on my way to many more overnight trips away from home!