National Outdoor Leadership School (NOLS)
High School Grad Year May 2019
Why did you choose to participate in a summer program?
I was excited to get out of the normal day to day of summer. My mom is also deeply in love with the outdoors, and I was not... Two weeks with NOLS definitely changed that! After the program, I was able to relate to her connection with nature with a newfound connection to the world around me.
How did you decide which program was right for you?
I had heard many good things about NOLS through friends and family, so I had always wanted to take a course through them specifically. It was just a matter of where I wanted to go! I decided to do a hiking course in the Adirondack mountains. As someone who was born and raised in the sheer mountains and dry deserts of Utah, it was exciting to think about hiking in the foggy forests and endless lakes in upstate New York.
What was a typical day in your summer program?
Generally, the nine of us would wake up at 6:30 AM (some with more liveliness than others) to break camp, cook breakfast, pack our lunches and pack our packs for the day. After that, two people who were taking their turn as a “designated leader” for the day would brief the rest of the students on our route and end camp for the day. (Our two instructors were always there to answer questions and give guidance behind the scenes-shout out to Alex and Erin!) Then we would be off on our merry way! Some days we would have first-aid or group dynamic classes, and our instructors would check in one on one with us often.
What was the most memorable moment of your summer?
The most memorable moment would definitely be an interaction I had with one of my instructors. The duration of the trip I struggled with homesickness a lot- I had never been so far away from home by myself. I bet I had a cry sesh every other day! It was during one of these times that one of my instructors came to check in on me. It turned out he also had a good deal of homesickness too. However, he said that being outside gave him comfort. I looked up and realized, like really realized, the beauty around me- The mountains blanketed in green. Plumes of fog floating out of the forest. The quiet. The fresh air. That was the first time I had ever connected on a personal level to the outdoors.
What advice do you have for teens looking at summer programs?
Try and figure out what environment you want from the experience. For example, as a woman of color, I value having an inclusive space to learn in. The NOLS program was a great fit for me because I wanted to learn how to spend time in the outdoors, but also because the people there are working hard to try and create leadership opportunities for “minority” groups. Generally, you can get a vibe from programs just by doing a little bit of research and looking at what exactly they have to offer.