I write this from 30,000 feet on a plane heading to Alaska to welcome two of our Alaska groups. It’s been a very busy week as we have opened up twelve trips in five days. Our office team needs to be commended for holding it together so well! I will manage to meet eight of these twelve groups this week while our four regional directors Ben Mirkin in New England, Stephen Gardiner in the Northwest, Dave McGlashan in California and Utah, and Niki Gaeta in BC and Colorado, are supporting the instructor teams and students with their years of outdoor and Adventure Treks expertise.
It’s great to be out of the office, feeling the commitment of our instructors and feeding off the energy of our students. Yesterday was a super gratifying day in Portland. We welcomed Seventeen brand new students from 14 different states and countries to the Pacific Northwest Experience I. None of these 12/13 year olds knew anybody on the trip previously and all arrived with eager anticipation and natural apprehension. Friendships formed in minutes.
Meanwhile 22 Leadership Summit students were also arriving in Portland. Each has on average 4 years of Adventure Treks experience and it was exciting to see the energy and enthusiasm in which they greeted old friends, initiated get to know you games with students they hadn’t met previously and embraced their upcoming experience with open arms and excitement. You could tell this was the highlight of their year and they had been looking forward to the trip for months. This is an amazing group of students and I am gratified about the role Adventure Treks has had in helping prepare them for adulthood. In many cases Adventure Treks has become the second or third family these teenagers chose as they naturally individuate from their parents. Having watched most of these “kids” grow up, I feel like a small part of their families.
I loved watching the Leadership Summit students welcome the 12 and 13 year olds. Not with any condescension, but instead with a great excitement for all the adventure and friendships they had in front of them. It was wonderful to overhear them telling the younger students that the community would be the best part of their trip, that cliques should be avoided at all costs and that they should get to know every single person, do more than their share and embrace the experience. Some were repeating the same advice they received five years ago from Leadership Summit students when they were 13 year olds in the Pacific Northwest for the first time. With an entire camp counselor team at our Camp Pinnacle summer camp comprised of former AT students and several former AT students in leadership and instructor roles at Adventure Treks, I am excited about the giant circle we are creating.
The Leadership Summit students get to set their own ground rules in their initial circle. (Something we would never consider for first-time 13 year old students) What was most impressive is how comfortable our students are at communicating their opinions and the strength of their communication skills. I was impressed but not surprised that our students encouraged each other to set high standards for both behavior and expectations. the majority opinion was that high expectations facilitate their quest to become their best selves. We didn’t argue!
All I can say is that I am incredibly impressed with the caliber of our students. Anyone who speaks pejoratively of the current generation needs only spend a day with our Leadership Summit students in order to feel that the world will soon be in good hands. I expect to be equally impressed when I join two Alaska trips today. Perhaps a year less maturity, but still incredible young people, embracing values that include looking out for each other, challenging oneself and contributing to the greater good.
Sometimes in the office I can lose sight of what we do. Dealing with the DOT, Federal land agencies and the airlines can be incredibly frustrating. All it takes is a couple of days outdoors with our fantastic students to remind me the great importance of the work we do in helping young people discover their best selves. This is really fun!