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Into the wild
April 23, 2008
|Wilderness Program offers discounted camps over the summer|
|AlexaRae Wright | Staff Writer|
This year the Wilderness Program will be reaching new heights by offering summer programs. The programs are open to students, faculty, staff, alumni and families of the college, and include outdoor excursion trips at discount rates led by well-trained and heavily experienced student leaders. There are rock climbing, sea kayaking and whitewater kayaking trips available, most of which are for beginner-level participants.
An inevitable program
The programs will run from the beginning of June to the end of July for four to five days each. Some require overnight camping at campgrounds, while others bus to and from St. Michael’s daily.
For the Wilderness program, creating a summer opportunity for students was inevitable, says Todd Wright, Wilderness Program director.
At the end of most activities offered by the Wilderness Program, students have requested opportunities for more intensive and longer experiences, Wright says. It has been difficult to plan such courses because of the constraint of working within the context of the weekends, he says.
“When asking students if they would want to come up this summer to spend four or five days exploring, the answer was a unanimous ‘yes,’ and that was the same feedback we got from faculty and staff,” Wright says.
The programs that will be offered this summer are geared towards those who have little or no experience doing these sports. The hope of the leaders is that after four days, the participants will be competent in the activity they chose to learn, Wright says.
Junior Kara MacKeil, a student leader says, “Hopefully the people who are on the summer trips are going to be more interested and enthusiastic about climbing, and it will be really beneficial to have the multi-day programs.”
By offering the programs at a lower cost without compromising the quality of the trips or the professionalism of the instructors, the Wilderness Program hopes that all members of the St. Michael's community will strongly consider participation, Wright says.
The pricing of the programs is really low compared to the open market, Wright says.
“The instructor caliber and the certification of the instructors are much higher here than in the open market,” Wright says. “So it’s a really good deal.”
Sun n' fun
The instructors of the summer programs are student wilderness leaders who are highly experienced in their areas. Juniors Ryan Roach, instructor of the whitewater kayaking trips, and MacKeil, who will be lead rock climbing, are two of the program instructors.
Roach is certified through the Wilderness Program at St. Michael’s, and has the certification to be a wilderness EMT. He also has the professional certification for teaching kayaking from the American Canoe Association and is a registered Maine whitewater guide. MacKeil, also certified through the Wilderness Program, is a top rope sight manager with the American Mountain Guide Association and a wilderness EMT.
The leaders do everything they can to make sure that everyone feels comfortable trying new things, while ensuring safety and fun, Roach says.
On the whitewater kayaking trip, the first half-day is spent in flat water working on basic skills in the boat to get everyone comfortable, Roach says.
"We progress through easy whitewater and based on the participant’s skills they’ve developed on the trip, we will move into water that’s appropriate for them," he says.
Since the summer programs are longer than the ones during the academic year, participants should be able to come out of the experience with competence in the sport they’ve tried, Roach says.
“There are definitely things about climbing you can’t learn in four days, but after going on one of these trips, someone hopefully would be able to go out climbing and have a good grasp on the basic skills,” MacKeil says.
The trips are designed for anybody who wants to go and the Wilderness Program is really trying to reach out to people who are interested in participating, MacKeil says.
Broadening horizons for St. Michael's community
Athletic Trainer Jessica Moore will be participating in the sea-kayaking trip this summer, she says. Having gone on one of the Wilderness trips during the academic year, Moore is excited about her next adventure.
“[The first trip I went on] was supposed to be an intermediate level one, but it was fine,” Moore says. “They made me feel comfortable with my skill level and it was an amazing clinic.”
Being a staff member, Moore anticipated that the students on the trip would be more uncomfortable than she was upon arrival, but she found that the program is designed in such a way to make everyone feel really comfortable, she says. The leaders have a great deal to do with creating such an atmosphere.
“I was definitely most impressed by the level of instruction and knowledge,” Moore says.
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