Before 1994, Diane Brinkley had never heard of NOLS. That year she received a flyer from the Rivendell Foundation that advertised a scholarship competition to people who worked with kids in Newark. She applied and won a NOLS 25 and over Wilderness Course.
"I had never been camping like that before. I was so impressed with the beauty of the place," recalls Diane of the course in which she goat-packed on Wyoming's Red Desert. "There was one night on the course...a few of us walked to the top of a rocky hill where we spent the night. The moon was so bright we had to shade our eyes. Then in the morning, there was a beautiful sunrise and all you could see was red. You could see forever. The colors were just stunning."
Diane is not shy about expressing how much she enjoyed her NOLS course. "NOLS changed my life. It was an absolutely, truly life-saving experience," she says. "I came home and cried. I felt boxed-in back in New Jersey. I missed the views."
Diane lives in East Orange, New Jersey and teaches English to inner-city high school kids. She applied for the Rivendell scholarship so she could translate some of what she would learn in the wilderness to her classroom. Diane involved her students in her preparation for the course. They looked at catalog pictures and helped her chart her fitness regimen. The experience Diane was about to embark upon was completely foreign to her students. "They really didn't want me to go," she explains.
Diane's students have certainly reaped the rewards of her NOLS course. She frequently takes her students and the neighborhood kids on day hikes. "I use it as a motivator. There are all these bad boys running around the neighborhood. They'll ring my doorbell at six a.m. on Saturday morning to go hiking and I tell them they have to show me one good paper before I take them out. They love it. And I love to see them loving it."