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Campaign NOLS: Explaining Our Core Values, Part 6

NOLS’ core values are at the heart of our institution. Leadership, community, safety, excellence, wilderness, and education inspire everything we do. We share a commitment to these values; they define and direct who we are, what we do, and how we do it.

We seek excellence in all we do. We recognize that maintaining excellence requires that we question decisions, learn from failures, and celebrate success. We are committed to high quality experiences where every moment and every relationship counts. We evolve and adapt with new technology, changing techniques and differing circumstances.
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Luis Rosario, 2009 Pacific Northwest Trip Leader alumnus.

Luis Rosario on Excellence

Around the office, I’m known as GSD (Getting Stuff Done). That’s because when a project needs a hard-hitter, I will implement my do-whatever-it-takes (DWIT) attitude to get it done.

Flash back to 2007. Like so many young adults growing up in urban areas, I had never experienced true wilderness. When I read about NOLS in a student travel magazine, it sounded like an exciting challenge. I pinned the article to my dormitory wall as a reminder of my new goal. Two years later, after graduating from Florida Atlantic University, my dream became a reality with the help of a scholarship.

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Enjoying the wild mountaints of the Pacific Northwest.

And so I traveled from suburban southern Florida to the wildlands of Washington, where I found myself a little out of my comfort zone. I’ll admit that heading into the woods with a bunch of other people you don’t know, into a place you’ve never been, without any outside contact or communication, was kind of worrisome.

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Luis and coursemates high in the Cascades.

Yet, by taking risks and taking the lead, I opened doors of understanding for opportunities of that nature. As the course progressed, and I learned the tricks to pack packing and keeping a clean camp, I even began to thrive. I realized that there are many things in life we avoid because of uncertainty and that when you overcome fear, it opens up doors.

Before my course, I would have been willing to settle for a normal nine-to-five job for the security. Instead, I’ve taken a calculated risk by accepting a job as the Director of Business Development with The Alive Foundation, a young organization that promotes changing consciousness for the better. Everyday I get to use my NOLS skills of overcoming uncertainty by implementing my DWIT philosophy.

There’s a quote out there that says, “One bite at a time.” I learned that during my course, but it’s the same in life. It’s a good reminder whenever I become overwhelmed.

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Luis uses the lessons he learned at NOLS daily, which is why he's chosen to give back through the NOLS Annual Fund.

To support the NOLS Annual Fund and Campaign NOLS, please consider making a gift today.

Permalink | Posted by Larkin Flora on Dec 19, 2013 in the following categories: Alumni, Campaign NOLS, Pacific Northwest

Campaign NOLS: Explaining Our Core Values, Part 5

NOLS’ core values are at the heart of our institution. Leadership, community, safety, excellence, wilderness, and education inspire everything we do. We share a commitment to these values; they define and direct who we are, what we do, and how we do it.

We accept risk as an integral part of the learning process and of the environments through which we travel. The recognition and management of risk is critical to both the development of leadership and to the safety and health of our students and staff. We believe successful risk management stems from good judgment based on experience, training, and knowledge.

Jeff Green on Safety 

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While in Alaska getting my master’s in outdoor education, I felt a NOLS course was the perfect compliment to my program, but as a graduate student, I didn’t have much disposable income. Receiving a partial scholarship was a huge blessing. The generosity of the people who donated those funds made it possible for me to take a course. It’s something I try to pay forward each year with donations to NOLS.

Now, as a NOLS instructor, I am able to give back more than just financially. I strive to teach my students to assess risks, overcome adversity, and become strong leaders while introducing them to truly wild places. I believe the challenges wilderness travel provides are all the more powerful if the students are able to manage the risks.

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I begin by teaching students about risk and how to evaluate different types of risks (river crossings, travel in bear country, steep terrain, etc.) during daily travel for the first week or so of a course. I actively manage each situation but explain my thought process to students whenever possible. The more they are able to manage on their own, the more my students will learn and the more growth will take place. My students really enjoy the freedom to assess and manage risk on their own but always feel safe knowing I will step in if a situation is above experience level.

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In this way, NOLS teaches students to consider all options objectively before making a decision. This is as applicable in the frontcountry as it is in the wilderness. Just as on a NOLS course, if something doesn't seem safe or like a good idea after looking at it objectively, then one should probably avoid it.  While it can be hard to remove the human factor from decisions on NOLS courses, or in life, if you want to make a safe and wise decision that's what is necessary.

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On a NOLS course, most things are uncertain, and it takes a person skilled in judgement, decision-making and risk management to navigate the wilderness safely. That uncertainty is a critical part of outdoor education and teaches students the tolerance and resilience to deal with many situations they might encounter in the backcountry, and in life.   

Jeff Green is a 2010 Alaska Outdoor Educator graduate, scholarship recipient, NOLS instructor, and donor.

To learn more about Campaign NOLS: Endowing Our Core Values or to donate, visit giving.nols.edu.

Permalink | Posted by Larkin Flora on Oct 16, 2013 in the following categories: Campaign NOLS

Sharing a Love for the Outdoors: Debi and Scott Flora

 

“The only sticker on my banjo case is a NOLS sticker,” Scott Flora proudly told me last week.

Scott and his wife, Debi, are the parents of two NOLS graduates, one of them an employee at NOLS’ headquarters in Lander, Wyo. The Floras were introduced to NOLS through a backpacking buddy and NOLS instructor when their son and daughter were still too young to really consider the program.

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Scott and Debi Flora on a night hike up Mount Cutler in Colorado Springs, Colo.

No strangers to the backcountry themselves, the couple met on a cross-country skiing trip Scott was leading through Colorado State University- Pueblo (formerly the University of Southern Colorado). As their family grew and the kids got old enough to walk (most of the time) they began taking family camping and backpacking trips into the Rockies and beyond.

Years later, their son, Bradley, was considering advancing his career in the ski industry. Debi and Scott remembered the Wilderness Medicine Institute, founded near their home in Colorado. It seemed like a good fit, so Bradley journeyed to Lander to become a wilderness EMT.

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Bradley exploring in the Colorado Rockies.

Scott and Debi witnessed a growth in their son’s confidence after his course, along with an increased awareness of the safety ramifications of adventure activities. This boost was in part to the clinical time the students spent in the ER of a nearby hospital.

He was being treated as a professional, treated with a level of responsibility,” Debi explained, “I think that had a huge impact on how he saw himself.”

Bradley also benefited greatly from the scenarios that allowed him to work as a member of a team.  Overall, his NOLS training was such a positive experience that when his sister, Larkin, was looking for a gap year program, Bradley suggested that she look into the semester courses.

Larkin’s Spring Semester in Baja brought on many challenges, including being one of two female students on the course. She worked on holding her own with men, and Scott believes that she came out of it able to relate to men in a new and different way.

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Larkin milks a goat during the backpacking section of her Semester in Baja.

Larkin and her coursemates faced other challenges, including multi-day windstorms, desert heat, lack of water, and long days of paddling. They also experienced the small joys of an unexpected citrus orchard, and a pod of dolphins playing near their boats, along with the cultural opportunities traveling in another country provided. For Larkin, these moments made the discomfort worth it.

This controlled adversity can be built into a course, such as an extra hard day of hiking, or it can come from external effects such as the weather. Debi and Scott feel that this adversity helped make Larkin’s transition to college the next fall smoother.

“Parents have concerns about their children going off to college, and having an intermediate step for kids is a good thing,” Scott stated, “When you think of a college student going through a course, and then they get to college and they realize that ‘Oh, this isn’t so bad!’ They are better prepared for adversity and challenges in life because they’ve experienced adversity and challenges at NOLS.”

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The Flora Family at their home in Colorado.

The Floras believe that NOLS, and all extended wilderness travel, has a transformative affect on young people especially. For this reason they are strong proponents of wilderness education.

“NOLS graduates bring their personal growth back into the world,” Debi insisted. “How they interact in their job, with their family, their friends, their community is all effected by how they feel coming out of NOLS.”

Because of this, Debi and Scott have decided to donate annually to NOLS. They believe that outdoor education will contribute to making the world a better place and want to see the school continue well into the future. 

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Scott and Debi Flora during a raft trip on the Colorado River. 

To donate to the NOLS Annual Fund or learn more about gifts to Campaign NOLS, visit donate.nols.edu.

Permalink | Posted by Larkin Flora on Aug 29, 2013 in the following categories: Alumni, Campaign NOLS, Mexico, Wilderness Medicine Institute

NOLS' Own Marco Johnson Gets More Than He Gives

NOLS is a remarkable place. Long-time NOLS field and WMI instructor Marco Johnson realized that shortly after hearing about his friend’s semester experience. The two young men were working a summer outdoor education program leading trips in the Adirondack Mountains. It took him all of five minutes to decide that he wanted a similar experience and education.

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Marco’s student course so many years ago not only taught him leadership skills, but also to let things roll off his back. His instructors helped him to be successful, but they also allowed him to make mistakes.

“I learned that good leadership was taking responsibility for my mistakes not just my successes,” Marco recalled.

One such lesson came on the winter section of his 1981 Semester in the Rockies. Marco and his tentmates were almost done building their quinzee but made a mistake while digging. The snow shelter collapsed. Instead of getting frustrated or angry, the group laughed it off, zipped three sleeping bags together, and used the fourth for a quilt. They then crawled into bed and fell asleep beneath the stars above the Wind River Mountains. 

Four years later, Marco took his instructor course and began teaching for the school. After working full-time for NOLS for over 28 years, Marco has 628 weeks in the field, worked as a program supervisor in Alaska and Patagonia, instructed many Wilderness First Responders and WEMTs, and currently serves at NOLS headquarters as the Field Staffing Director.

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“I have had the privilege of working beside the most fantastic group of people and educators I know,” he explained. “The students I have spent time with in the field and classroom have given back to me so much more than I believe I provided for them.” 

NOLS is a remarkable place, and, Marco believes, a unique one.

“How many people do we know who can truly say, ‘I love what I do and who I work with?  What I do makes a difference.’”

Not that many, in his estimate. Which is why Marco demonstrates his belief in the power of a NOLS education by giving back to NOLS financially.

“I want the possibility of a NOLS education to be available to anyone who desires it. I believe that my donations to NOLS, no matter the size, make a difference.”

To learn more about philanthropy at NOLS or to make a gift, visit giving.nols.edu.

Permalink | Posted by Larkin Flora on Aug 7, 2013 in the following categories: Campaign NOLS, Leadership

Campaign NOLS: Explaining Our Core Values, Part 4

NOLS’ core values are at the heart of our institution. Leadership, community, education, wilderness, safety, and excellence inspire everything we do. We share a commitment to these values; they define and direct who we are, what we do, and how we do it.

We define wilderness as a place where nature is dominant and consequences are real. Living in these conditions, away from the distractions of modern civilization, fosters self-reliance, judgment, respect, and a sense of responsibility for our actions. It can also be a profoundly moving experience that leads to inspiration, joy, and commitment to an environmental ethic.

William Bunnell on Wilderness

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William Bunnell poses at the head of a large valley in Canada's Yukon.

As a biology major, I always had an interest in natural sciences. My appreciation for the outdoors made NOLS Yukon the perfect place for me to take my passion outside the classroom. I decided to take a Yukon backpacking course shortly after graduation.

With 80-pound packs, rugged terrain, temperatures ranging from 35-75 degrees Fahrenheit, and rain 85 percent of the time, my coursemates and I got used to ever-changing weather and wet gear. I became comfortable with discomfort.

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William and his coursemates ford a river in the Yukon.

Throughout the course, we learned the necessary skills to adapt to uncertainty and thrive in nature. While I no longer require many of the specific skills in my everyday life, the overarching theme continues to be incredibly influential in every aspect it.

The wilderness taught me to face each challenge as it comes. Now that it has been a few years, I can look back on the experience and recognize the powerful connection to nature and its ability to teach us in ways that we don’t even realize.

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William enjoys a rare blue sky in the Yukon.

We are always surrounded by nature, whether we recognize it or not. When we realize our connection to something so much larger than ourselves, we are able to strive for a deeper, more pure connection in day-to-day life.

Spending time in the outdoors gives you a sense of responsibility to help protect nature however you can. My donations to NOLS help others to gain that same sense of responsibility, something that I hope they will carry throughout their entire lives.

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William's sense of adventure and respect for wilderness lead him to Guatamala and Belize, where he backpacked to see the Mayan ruins.

 

William Bunnel is a 2008 Yukon Backpacking graduate, scholarship recipient and a donor.

To learn more about Campaign NOLS: Endowing Our Core Values or to donate, visit giving.nols.edu.

 

Permalink | Posted by Larkin Flora on Jul 17, 2013 in the following categories: Campaign NOLS, Environmental Stewardship & Sustainability, Yukon

Justine Frantz: Scholarship Student Steps Up

In 2007, Justine Frantz visited a friend, a NOLS instructor, in Lander, Wyo. The girls had gone to college together, and her friend boasted about the great climbing access in the Lander area. A budding rock-climber, Justine had to check it out. She soon fell in love with the small town and the dolomite limestone, returned to Denver, and promptly moved all her belongings up to Wyoming for the summer.

It was during that time that Justine became exposed to NOLS. She met instructors and students around town, and after looking at the course offerings, decided she wanted to take one. But working full-time as a nanny and part-time at a local restaurant, Justine realized she that she wouldn’t be able to save enough for her tuition.

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“I didn’t know when I would have the money, but I always was interested in being able to [take a course],” Justine recalled. “I just never had the chance until I applied for the Fremont County Scholarship.”

Every NOLS location offers scholarships to residents from their surrounding area. The Fremont County Scholarship is offered by NOLS Rocky Mountain to a student from the county that houses the branch. Last year, the money was raised for Justine’s scholarship through the Lander Community Foundation’s Challenge for Charities, a fundraiser for local nonprofit organizations. Since the money is restricted to a Lander resident, Justine was the perfect candidate.

“Getting the scholarship was the reason I was able to take the course,” she explained. “I was ecstatic. I was so overwhelmed with excitement and couldn’t wait to take my course.”

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Justine has always been into the outdoors. She loves going backpacking and rock climbing, but as the youngest student on a 23 and Over Horsepacking course, she found herself in a challenging position. Many of the students were much older than her, closer to her parents’ age than her own. She soon realized that age mattered less than she’d thought, and for the first time she felt respected as an adult.

“I realized that I was actually an adult and that it was time. I needed to step up,” Justine said. “I went in there thinking that it was like having my parents around me. But in the end, when you’re in the backcountry, everybody has an opportunity to step up to make decisions.”

In fact, the team grew stronger because of the large age gap. Through adverse conditions—from riding in rain day after day to losing their horses for 24 hours (three of them even made it back to the NOLS ranch)—Justine learned how to deal with, and overcome, adversity.

“It wasn’t just a straight path, and it never is,” she laughed. “But on horses it’s harder.”

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The horsepacking course was both physically and mentally demanding. Justine and her coursemates road for hours each day, threw 100-pound loads, and navigated in the Wind River Mountains, all while managing their saddle horses and packhorses.

Now, Justine knows that she can accomplish more, both physically and in her career. She never knew how strong she really was until her course.

“NOLS gives you the opportunity to step up and be someone you never thought you could be, or do things you never thought you could do,” Justine explained. “It’s empowering.”

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The Lander Community Foundation’s Challenge for Charities is an annual fundraising event in the Lander, Wyo. community. To donate to NOLS through Challenge for Charities and have your gift partially matched, visit The Lander Community Foundation's online gift form.

Permalink | Posted by Larkin Flora on Jun 19, 2013 in the following categories: Campaign NOLS

The Wonder Wedge: Inventing for a Cause

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Jim Opeka and his son, Daren, in Lander, Wyo.

By the end of his sophomore year in college, Jim and Sue Opeka’s son, Daren, was struggling with his geology major. Overwhelmed with too many extracurricular activities and responsibilities, Daren was confused and unhappy. But he felt unsure as to how to change the situation. Jim and Sue knew he needed something to clear his head, and since he’d always been an athletic, ‘outdoors kid’—playing sports, camping, whitewater rafting, hiking—his parents suggested NOLS.

After leaving a summer camp job due to poor work conditions, Daren still wanted an epiphany in the mountains. He knew what he needed to do. That fall he made his way to Lander, Wyo. for a Semester in the Rockies.

Daren found in his NOLS instructors the mentorship and motivation that was lacking at the camp. He relished refining his hiking and camping skills and became smitten with rock climbing, which remains his passion to this day. But it was on his canyoneering section in the Grand Canyon that Daren found the epiphany he sought.

He called us and said, ‘I went into the canyon a geology major and came out an English major. I never looked at a rock and thought about what it was … but rather the story it told,’” Sue recalled.

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Jim and Sue Opeka donated the proceeds from The Wonder Wedge to the NOLS Annual Fund.

NOLS was a life-changer for Daren and his parents. He left a confused young man pursuing the wrong major with no real idea as to who he was and what he really wanted to do with his life; he returned a man who was young. NOLS helped Daren discover himself. Back home, Jim and Sue noticed that he was more mature, focused, self-aware, and driven. Daren decided to return to NOLS someday as an instructor. He wanted to help other young people “find themselves,” a dream he lives today.

Jim and Sue believe that with all the distractions of today’s world—technology, social pressures, and job and marketplace insecurities—outdoor education is more important than ever. Out of this belief, the Opekas decided to donate the proceeds of The Wonder Wedge, a hardware product Jim invented that is designed to provide safety in ladder use, to the NOLS Annual Fund.

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Beyond a ladder supper, The Wonder Wedge can be used in contruction or as a tire stopper, among other functions.

Last fall, the couple attended a local “huge, well-attended garage sale” in their town to sell the wedges.

“Because most people have no idea what NOLS is, we also had an opportunity to share our positive opinion of, and experiences with, NOLS. We used the term ‘life-changer’ a lot,” Sue said.

The Opekas chose to donate the proceeds from The Wonder Wedge sales to NOLS because of the difference it made in their son’s life.

“It is a wonderful organization with proven results. We are grateful for the positive impact NOLS had on our family,” Sue said, adding, “As Daren says, ‘Being in the wilderness provides clarity … a sense of what’s really important.’”

 

To learn more about philanthropy at NOLS or to make a gift, visit giving.nols.edu.

 

Permalink | Posted by Larkin Flora on May 1, 2013 in the following categories: Alumni, Campaign NOLS

Campaign NOLS: Explaining Our Core Values, Part 3

NOLS’ core values are at the heart of our institution. Leadership, community, safety, excellence, wilderness, and education inspire everything we do. We share a commitment to these values; they define and direct who we are, what we do, and how we do it.

We believe that education should be exciting, fun, and challenging. With this in mind, our courses are designed to help people develop and practice the skills they need to live, travel, and play safely in the outdoors. On our expeditions, people learn by accepting and meeting real challenges. Our instructors are educators, not guides. They are committed to inspiring students to explore and develop their understanding of wilderness ethics, leadership, teamwork, natural history, and technical skills.

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Rachael Abler practices her self-arrest in the Twin Sisters region of the North Cascades.

Rachael Abler on Education 

In 2011, after pursuing a Master’s degree in recreation, I started making calls to numerous collegiate outdoor recreation programs. I found myself hearing one thing that would help me make it in the industry from each and every coordinator, director, graduate assistant, intern, etc.: NOLS. At that, my mind was made up. NOLS, here I come!

The Pacific Northwest Outdoor Educator Course allowed me to develop technical skills in mountaineering and rock climbing while growing as an outdoor educator. Like many people, I was at the point of my life where, after obtaining two college degrees, I did not have much disposable income. But, thanks to the NOLS scholarship program, I had the opportunity to spend 30 days in the backcountry learning who I was, what I was capable of, and transforming myself into a better person for the rest of my life.

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Rachael on Mt. Baker, overlooking Mt. Shuksan.

The outdoor experiences throughout the course of my life have allowed me to become the person who I am today, and I hold the strongest regard for the 30 days spent on my NOLS course. It is easy in our technological age to go through life without placing ourselves in situations that allow us to see our true potential. I believe there is nothing more powerful than immersing oneself in outdoors and that there is nothing like making personal accomplishments in some of the most beautiful places in the world. Without such educational experiences, how can anyone possibly know what they are capable of?

NOLS is responsible for impacting the lives of hundreds of thousands of people around the globe. Whether the impact is teaching leadership and teamwork qualities, exposing people to new worlds, or offering career advancement opportunities with wilderness medicine, outdoor educator, and instructor courses. No matter what the case, the result is always the same—NOLS changes lives. 

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Rachael and her coursemates in the Twin Sisters Region of the North Cascades, with Mt. Baker in the backgorund.

My own ability to attend a NOLS course is attributed to the philanthropic efforts of those who came before me. As a donor, I am honored to join the fraternity of individuals who place value in continued education and outdoor leadership development for all who have the drive to pursue it. It is a privilege to give back to the organization that gave so much to me through support of Campaign NOLS. My hope is that many more future leaders and educators can reap similar benefits.

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The view from Mt. Baker.

Rachael Abler is a 2012 Pacific Outdoor Educator graduate, scholarship recipient and a donor.

To learn more about Campaign NOLS: Endowing Our Core Values or to donate, visit giving.nols.edu.

Permalink | Posted by Larkin Flora on Apr 2, 2013 in the following categories: Alumni, Campaign NOLS, Curriculum, Pacific Northwest

Lizann Peyton: Donor Inspired by Her Daughters

If there is one thing that we love to hear from our graduates or their parents, it’s that they continue to be leaders and positive motivators in their communities after their NOLS education. NOLS parent and NOLS Annual Fund supporter Lizann Peyton, a non-profit consultant, remains inspired by the strength and outgoing nature of her daughters, Natalie and Emily Clark, both NOLS alumni.

She continues giving to NOLS because of the overall calm-confidence she has witnessed in her daughters.

The girls have grown even more confident in traveling abroad and their ability to navigate peers calmly through fatigue and conflict. Lizann has seen her daughters encourage others to get out and explore.

“I wanted to be able to provide this experience to someone that may not be able to afford it otherwise,” Lizann explained.

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Lizann and her two daughters, Emily and Natalie, hiking in the White Mountains.

Emily and Natalie have used the desire for challenge and adventure gained at NOLS to pursue worldly educations, further leadership opportunities and the confidence to share the wilderness experience with others.

At the age of 16 after returning from her first NOLS course, Alaska Backpacking, Emily took it upon herself to encourage and teach her family to backpack the White Mountains of New Hampshire. She continues to pursue leadership positions, most recently forming an outdoors club in her International Relations graduate program in Bologna, Italy.

Natalie will soon be studying abroad in Copenhaagen, pursuing an education in sustainable architecture. While her daughters are out exploring the world, Lizann has begun to host through hikers attempting the Appalachian Trail. She enjoys listening to the inspirational stories of adventurers, and much like those that resonate from her daughters, these stories have transferred into her overall approach to life. Families like these—those that motivate each other to get out and test their strength and good will—are just what makes the NOLS community so uniquely inspiring. 

 

Campaign NOLS: Endowing Our Core Values challenges NOLS to raise $20 million by the end of 2013, ensuring long-term stability for the school so that we can continue to support scholarships and other essential programs. To learn more, visit our website or give us a call at 1-800-332-4280.

 

Written by Meredith Hardwick, NOLS Alumni Intern

Permalink | Posted by Larkin Flora on Jan 10, 2013 in the following categories: Alumni, Campaign NOLS, Leadership

Small Gifts DO Make a Difference

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Sure, you’re young, you’re fresh out of college, and you have a pile of student loan debt. I get it; I’ve been there, spending six months unemployed after graduation before I finally got hired.

You might not have the means to make a significant gift, and you probably think that your small gifts to NOLS won’t really make a difference in the big bucket.

Think again.

Do you drink gourmet coffee? Beer? Try donating a couple of those each month to NOLS. Drink two fewer pints with your friends, or two fewer lattes, save the $10 and, give it to NOLS. Doing that each month will add up to $120 a year!

It still may not sound like much, but if even a quarter of our more than 200,000 graduates did this, it’d be a whole lot. Over $6 million in fact. That’s enough to meet the scholarship needs of over 3,000 students.

It’s easy to give monthly; just sign up for the program with a few clicks on NOLS’secure online giving form. Your donation will be charged to your debit or credit card on the first of the month or the nearest business day.

Still don’t think your small gift will make a difference? Go on—just try it. See the impact you can make. Together we can ensure that all students have access to unparalleled wilderness education, regardless of their financial background.

Larkin Flora graduated from college in 2010 and was lucky enough to land an internship with NOLS Alumni the following year. She now works as the Development Communications Coordinator at NOLS Headquarters in Lander, Wyo.

Permalink | Posted by Larkin Flora on Dec 18, 2012 in the following categories: Alumni, Campaign NOLS

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