An Odyssey of a Hundred Students from San Francisco to Hetch Hetchy

Last Wednesday was an abnormally early morning for Blair Randall. He woke up to the loud buzz of his phone’s alarm clock before the sun went up and started getting ready for two days of hanging out with over a hundred teenagers.

Blair Randall, SFPUC Arts and Education Manager, filled up his water bottle before making the trek to Mocassin.

Before dashing out the door, he quickly filled up his water bottle at the faucet, grabbed his duffel bag and something to eat while on the road. Randall, SFPUC Arts and Education Manager, then began the three and half hour drive to Moccasin to meet up with several bus loads of ninth grade students and thirty chaperones from John O’Connell High School. At the same time, the students and chaperones loaded up on buses to begin a journey that would shape their high school experience.

Since 2014, the SFPUC has partnered with John O’Connell High School, a technical school in San Francisco’s Mission District, to integrate its water, power and sewer operations and programs into the existing project-based learning curriculum. An important component of the curriculum is an annual overnight trip to Camp Mather where ninth grade students visit Mocassin, Camp Mather and Hetch Hetchy Reservoir to observe SFPUC operations in action. The trip allows the students to get a glimpse of their high school journey – from tap to source – at the end of their first year at John O’Connell.

Mocassin Powerhouse.

Upon arriving in Mocassin, the students connected with Chris Graham, SFPUC Water Operations Analyst, about Moccasin and its role within the larger Hetch Hetchy Regional Water System. The students also learned about the SFPUC’s ability to generate 100% greenhouse gas-free hydroelectric power by harnessing the natural forces of gravity-driven water traveling from Yosemite to the Bay Area.

The students then traveled further to Camp Mather. Recreation leaders from the San Francisco Recreation and Parks Department at Camp Mather led the students through a series of activities, including hikes and team building.

Students hiked through the Rim Trail from Camp Mather.

The next morning, the group ventured to Hetch Hetchy and heard from Reggie Walters, SFPUC Water Operations Analyst, about how water travels from the reservoir all the way down to their high school in the Mission District.

At the reservoir, Randall shared about how he filled up his water bottle before leaving San Francisco for the trip. Raising his bottle and taking a sip, he shared how he previously did not think about what it took for water to get to his home – it was always expected.

The students took in the breathtaking views of the reservoir and reflected about where their water comes from.

“This program connects the freshman class at John O’Connell through a shared experience learning about the resources entrusted to the care of the SFPUC,” said Randall. “The trip provides the students an experience to bond together as a class, and it also allows them to reflect on how their education will shape their future.”

Students admired the Tuolumne River from their vantage point as their heard about the impact of the Rim Fire in 2013.