Pedernales pep

A Westlake community, coming-of-age ritual. The annual event that brings the eighth graders of West Ridge and Hill Country middle schools together, Pedernales. The event is somewhat of a tradition as it’s been taking place for roughly 35 years.

Teen Teaching teacher Tres Ellis, who has been helping with Pedernales for five years, is one of the two main people who help put Pedernales together alongside Jordan Johnston.

“It’s a class that I as a student at Westlake was a part of,” Ellis said. “I believe in it and like working with the students.”

Pedernales took place on May 16-17. The event that incorporates team building and various fun activities is made to be “an introduction for the eighth graders to high school,” Ellis said. “It’s officially the first event that all the incoming freshmen do together as one class.”

The goal of Pedernales is to take the incoming freshmen out, have fun, and do something as a large class. It starts breaking down their potential fears and worries.

Before Pedernales can take place, preparation starts with an event called Harambe, a training camp that begins the last weekend of April and lasts two days. The training camp is designed for camp leaders to “go through and learn activities they are responsible for leading,” Ellis said.

“I joined teen teaching in order to go to Pedernales because I enjoyed it so much in eighth grade and knew I wanted to go back,” sophomore Aneesh Thakkar said.

“I didn’t enjoy Pedernales all that much when I was in middle school, though I felt I would have a better experience as a leader so I rejoined,” sophomore Jordan Fredriksen said.

The most important things for them is to “have a lot of fun with each other and work together,” Ellis said. “Harambe is for us, Pedernales is for them.”

The training camp is a process, and the length of this camp depends on who the Honchos, or leaders, are.

“The Honchos work most of the year, meet almost every Wednesday and later in the spring we meet every day. Squad leaders meet once a week starting in February.”

Honchos, which are the camp leaders, are chosen through an application process. Ellis, Johnson and the two returning juniors pick the other four honchos and then they pick the squad leaders.