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Wilderness comes to BHS

Eric Wilborn and Benjie Howard of the New Wilderness Project perform at the Bremerton High School Auditorium Wednesday morning. - Photo by Sean Janssen
Eric Wilborn and Benjie Howard of the New Wilderness Project perform at the Bremerton High School Auditorium Wednesday morning.
— image credit: Photo by Sean Janssen

It is understandable that people are often afraid of the wilderness with better-adapted predators lurking about, the elements always wild and unpredictable and potential dangers waiting around any given turn.

From years spent as guides in the wilderness, Eric Wilborn and Benjie Howard found that people cope with these dangers largely by learning to work with each other, regardless of their backgrounds and what life may be like when they get back to the cars they drive, they homes they live in and the places they work or go to school.

This realization eventually led them to begin the New Wilderness Project and perform Wednesday morning at the Bremerton High School Auditorium.

If people can get past their differences in the great outdoors, Howard and Wilborn reasoned, there must be a way to do it in the rest of their lives.

Howard’s father, Gary, had spent more than 30 years working with multicultural issues when his son and son-in-law, Wilborn, came to him with the idea for connecting their passions.

The project was born and the men now perform nationwide, basing themselves from the Seattle-area.

“For me, it was the ability to combine my two really great passions, passion for the wilderness … and for people,” Howard said. “It was a way to put those together and do it through art.”

This week, they made their third trip to Bremerton High. On previous visits they held workshops with small groups of students but this time around presented their first chance to perform for the entire school.

“It’s nice to be able to get out and show the breadth of it,” Wilborn said. “I like coming to Bremerton. It’s such a diverse community. We’re very aware of the discrepancy socio-economically here. There’s a real negative self-perception among kids at this school based on what kids from (other) schools say … and there doesn’t have to be.”

With a combination of spoken word, collaborative poetry and songs, they challenged the audience to simply begin to talk about themselves to one another and listen to each other’s personal stories.

To illustrate the point that personal stories help people care

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