Most students and faculty can attest to the fact that our school is unique. It’s tiny and tight-knit. It has majors such as Ski Business Resort Management and Outdoor Adventure Leadership. It’s right on Lake Tahoe and surrounded by mountains.
However, there’s one bizarre activity SNC runs that takes the cake: Wilderness Orientation.
This orientation event allows student leaders to take new fall freshman and transfer students on a four-day backpacking trip in Desolation Wilderness.
“There is nothing like walking through rugged and majestic terrain to prepare students with the skills they need to be successful in SNC life,” says Wilderness Orientation and ODAL program director Rosie Hackett. “Skills like endurance, resourcefulness, tenacity, compassion, etc. Students return from the wild with an extraordinary experience in common with almost 50 other SNC students, with a supportive friend network, and a true sense of place…appreciating the unique environment they choose for their home and educational journey.”
The WO experience is just as potent if not more potent for the student leaders,” Hackett continued. “Through WO, they are given an opportunity to test their skills and knowledge, developed on their educational journey at SNC, and apply their unique style to an authentic leadership role. WO leaders empower participants with lasting social communities and a greater sense of school spirit.”
Interested in becoming a WO leader? Sasha Severance, a Fall 2015 WO leader and recent SNC graduate, gave me a sneak peek into what it was like:
I found wilderness orientation to be of huge value for student leaders,” she said. “It allows us as students to further explore and practice our own, unique leadership style. Wilderness Orientation allows us as student leaders to practice what we’ve learned in the classroom and actually use it and practice it in the field. Teaching and sharing what you know is a huge part of the learning process, as well as being an opportunity to connect with others.”
Severance chose to be a WO leader to give back to the ODAL program, which she claims has shared her into the motivated and confident woman she is today. (right on, Sasha!)
“As student leaders, WO reminds us of why this place, SNC and Lake Tahoe, has been the perfect fit for us. SNC gives us the opportunity to learn in ways that are engaging, interactive, and empowering,” she said.
Severance gained a lot from her experience as a WO leader. It has taught her the importance of planning and preparing, and being successful in any job/profession/career and in life.
“Leading in the backcountry has shown me how to be open and accepting of others, no matter how different they are or their opinions may be from my own,” she added. “Guiding in the backcountry has shown me how incredibly lucky and fortunate I am to have the opportunities that I have in life. I’ve also excelled in my communication skills, which has already helped me in and out of the classroom and in my current job today.”
Some students may be intimidated or turned off by the fact that you’re venturing into the wilderness with a bunch of strangers – but fear not.
“You are given a group of strangers and the responsibility of keeping them safe, showing them an amazing part of the place we live in, teaching them various outdoor skills and principles, and making sure that they are having fun. There will be plenty of times in the professional world where I will have to communicate and connect with random strangers, while still being myself as a unique individual while maintaining a professional appearance.”
Severance said the hardest part of the trip was leaving Desolation.
“Our entire group wasn’t ready to leave yet,” she said. “The days went by too fast. We wanted more time to spend out there together.”
Severance said being a WO leader was one of the best things she’s taken part in during her time at SNC.
“WO is an opportunity for you to give back, to share your knowledge, stories, and skills, and to meet a new group of amazing people. Being a WO leader also empowers you in so many ways,” she said. “And… you get to spend two weeks in Desolation Wilderness! Who wouldn’t want that? The first week you’re on a Leadership Expedition with your fellow WO leaders and the second week you are taking out your own group!”
Severance said those considering it, but who are hesitant, should just do it.
“For those on the fence, I was too,” she said. “I had bronchitis right before the Leadership Expedition – I didn’t know if I was going to be able to do it. But I am so glad that I went. I would have regretted it if I hadn’t done it.”
On top of all of these potential benefits to reap while having a blast in Desolation Wilderness, being a WO leader now counts for three credits of ODAL curriculum for future ODAL graduates (just make sure you sign up for the summer credit).
Hope to see you all ready to lead in August!