By Cristina Edwards, Diversity & Inclusion Fellow at
NOLS Rocky Mountain
This summer, NOLS has seen hundreds of students come through NOLS Rocky Mountain, with most of those students traveling many miles by plane or car to get to the wilderness. But the Lander Valley Leadership Expedition was different. Two instructors took seven local Lander Valley high schoolers into their own backyard here in the Southern Wind River Range.
In the small town of Lander, Wyoming, we have one traditional high school for the whole town. Lander Valley High School seniors embarked on the second Lander Valley Leadership Expedition (LVLE) at the beginning of this month. The expedition is an annual tradition for high school seniors in the Lander Valley High School Senior Mentor Program. Their NOLS course is an opportunity for them to prepare for the coming academic year and beyond by putting leadership and communication skills into practice.
The expedition was eight days long and the route wound through the Wind River Range of Wyoming. In addition to learning outdoor skills, students had the opportunity to test their chops as leaders of their peers. They summited peaks, crossed the Continental Divide, and taught fly fishing classes. Each day, a different student led the group as leader of the day (or L.O.D. in NOLSpeak).
Once students returned home from their expedition, they led a climbing clinic for incoming first-year Lander Valley High students. This year, the climbing clinic drew approximately 80 Lander Valley High freshmen to the crags up in Sinks Canyon State Park. The clinic was also attended by LVHS Principal Brad Neuendorf as well as the district superintendent and assistant principal.
The climbing day offered a wealth of learning for incoming freshmen. In addition to the necessary rock and rope skills one learns on a climbing day, the new students got to meet some of their classmates and the seniors who completed the leadership expedition. Knowing a few familiar faces can make the first day of high school a little bit less intimidating.
The mentoring program benefits both freshmen and the seniors who have signed up to mentor them. “I was constantly amazed by the beauty in my backyard. The trip helped me focus on self-awareness and reflection,” says Anna Robinson, a senior on the expedition. “I learned new leadership skills, like how to interact with people who have different leadership styles.”
Robinson noted that the trip prepared the seniors to be mentors, but also allowed new friendships to grow. “Most of us have known each other for a really long time, but we connected differently on the trip. Not just because we smelled bad. We were just on a different level. Without our phones, there was nothing stopping us from talking to each other. It was just an organic and raw way of interacting.”
Each student who went on the expedition left with new skills, and we’re looking forward to seeing how they share their leadership with our local community. Although NOLS is a now an international organization, we weren’t always that way. We started small, right here in Lander 50 years ago. We’ve grown a lot (we now have 14 locations on six continents). As such, it’s even more important to stay invested in our local community.
NOLS is proud to host the annual Lander Valley High School expedition and climbing clinic and we look forward to seeing these students on the trail. The NOLS Rocky Mountain campus offers scholarships to enable local students to go on a NOLS expedition.