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Outdoor Leadership Series: Wildnerness Bound

On September 17, a group of freshmen packed up their books on Friday morning and departed campus with their camping gear and anticipation for what the weekend of rafting in the West Virginia wilderness would hold. 

The first Nexus experience of the 2021-2022 school year was the return of the ​​”Outdoor Leadership Series.” The program is aimed to improve students' leadership skills by exposing them to challenging opportunities for growth in wilderness environments around Virginia. The Freshman year series consists of two weekend trips, each using the principles of experiential learning to explore the foundations of effective leadership and personal growth. 

The weekend rafting trip in West Virginia focused on group development - how groups change, how roles form, and what it takes to be an effective leader in a group context. Program leader, Mrs. Amber Hecker said, “ Being an outdoor leader means understanding when to follow just as much as knowing when to lead. As the trips continue, the chaperones slowly step back and let the kids take charge with pace, determining the schedule, and navigation. I thoroughly enjoy seeing a group work together to make those decisions and lift each other up; learning to work as a cohesive unit is critical to any team’s success.”

In the spring, the same group of freshmen will take a sea-kayaking excursion to False Cape State Park. It will combine and apply the concepts of the previous trip to the challenge of change - how to understand, adapt to, and lead in changing circumstances. On each trip, students will also learn the wilderness skills associated with each environment - among others, they will learn back-country cooking, Leave No Trace, rafting, hiking, sea kayaking, back-country navigation, and bear safety. Throughout, students will move beyond their comfort zones, deepen their relationships with their peers and themselves, and learn to appreciate and connect with Virginia's incredible natural environments.

Evie Graham ‘25 shared, “The Nexus trip was enjoyable due to the people I was with and the activities I participated in. The group I went with was very welcoming and I left counting them all as friends. I am thankful for this incredible opportunity, and to Mr. Hodapp and Mrs. Hecker for chaperoning my group.”

Each participant will take away with them a new set of skills, meaningful relationships, and lifetime memories. Mrs. Hecker said, “My favorite OLS memories are watching a student overcome their fears with the support of their teammates. I’ve had students that are afraid of heights climb 100ft rock walls and then rappel down, conquering their fears while their team cheers them on from below. So much growth happens at the moment you think you can’t go any further, but someone is by your side cheering you on until you reach the finish line. “

New Dolphin, Katie Brown ‘25 shared, “I loved it. I mean it. I literally loved everything about it.”

That is truly all we can hope for.
 

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