Kitty Phillips says her 1999 spring semester in the Rockies "made me better at the things I love to do." A native of South Carolina, Phillips headed off for the "unconquered territory" of the western United States before she ventured to Warren Wilson College this fall to pursue a degree in outdoor leadership.
At 18, Kitty was the youngest person on her course. "My NOLS semester," she says, "gave me a piece of the person I'm going to be when I'm older. Everything was so pristine and beautiful--big spaces with a big night sky. There are so many stars out there."
Almost a year later, Kitty still thinks of her NOLS course, especially certain moments like the student group expedition on the backpacking section. "My student group was entirely female," she remembers. "And we had an entirely positive experience. We had some really hard routes to find, and it was great to work with all women to achieve our goals."
Phillips definitely found her limits during the NOLS course--like the time she practiced her Eskimo roll in cold waters, or worked for days to figure out a complicated rock climbing route. "All of these challenges were so good for me in the end," she says. "I feel so much more confident now. My presence has changed from that of a little girl to a more mature person. I learned so much. I still have all my journals from the semester, and they remind me of all the information I have stored away somewhere inside."
Kitty hopes to pursue a career in outdoor education, perhaps leading troubled youth into the wilderness. "Everyone," says Kitty, "should be able to have a rite of passage like I did on my NOLS course."