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The Leader
 

Staying Connected In the
Big Apple:

An Update on NOLS NYC

By Liz McGregor (JSP’91), NOLS NYC Chapter Co-Chair
Reprinted from The Leader, Summer 2002, Vol. 17, No. 3

  New York
  NOLS instructor Jason Buchovecky and New Yorkers Lissa Michalak and Liz McGregor at a NOLS reunion in New York City.
For many New Yorkers, the idea of kayaking on the Hudson, fly-fishing in Central Park or being on belay off Broadway is as unusual and unlikely a thought as passing a polar bear on 5th Avenue. For NOLS New Yorkers, those ideas are standard fare. Accessing our urban environment is what we do, what we strive to promote and, personally, it’s the very thing that gives me the feeling of being at home where I live. Any NOLS New Yorker will tell you that there is an infinite number of possibilities for getting up, out and into our urban environment. It’s simply a matter of tapping in… and that’s a very big part of what the NOLS NYC Alumni Chapter is all about.

Whether it’s tapping into past interests or new opportunities, connecting with old friends or encouraging new students, the NOLS NYC Chapter keeps the NOLS glow alive in the Big Apple. When NOLS NYC founder Ellen Stein (NCM 7/31/96) began the group in 1996, her idea was to create a community of local alumni with whom she could share a connection to the NOLS experience. In 1997, Ellen established NOLS NYC with New York area alumni to provide and encourage the lessons and ideals of NOLS, as well as develop an association of people dedicated to leadership, the wilderness experience, volunteerism, and the environment within our urban community.

I always say that my NOLS semester was the first best thing I ever did. And the reason I’ve stayed involved with the NYC group over the years is because when you leave your course, you never want that feeling to fade; the inspiration, the commitment, the learning, the community. Through the NYC Alumni Chapter, I’ve met amazing, warm-hearted people who share many of the same interests and who, at times, have similar struggles with living in a major urban center. Being involved with NOLS in New York City helps me to keep NOLS from fading and often serves as a reminder of what I know is important, what I love and what I believe in.

Our chapter focuses on outdoor and community-inspired activities such as the upcoming Climbing Weekend in New York and New Jersey, and July’s Sunset Paddle on the Hudson River. Our best-attended event is, without a doubt, the annual reunion. We held the first official NOLS NYC reunion in 1997 at the Cowgirl Hall of Fame. In 1998, we moved the reunion event to Patagonia’s Soho store. Over the years, we’ve had a variety of informative and entertaining presentations, including a book reading and signing of “The Perfect Storm” with NOLS grad Sebastian Junger, and a slide show by instructor Steve Goryl, who donned all his expedition gear and shared stories from his climb and clean-up efforts on Mt. Everest. In 2000, we had a preview screening of a documentary that I produced about Chile’s legendary Futaleufú River, and last year NOLS instructor Dave Anderson shared a beautiful and inspiring slide presentation about his recent expedition to Pakistan.

In addition to our social activities, NOLS NYC is also committed to encouraging and recruiting new students and fundraising for local scholarships. We’ve stepped into leadership roles within the chapter just like we did on our NOLS courses. Lissa Michalak (SSB 1/28/93) is currently spearheading the Activities Committee and is responsible for the organization of bimonthly climbing nights at Extravertical climbing gym. Holley Bishop (WSA 7/7/96, WSM 8/26/98, WST 2/10/99) is in charge of scholarship and fundraising efforts. As a group, we really look forward to finding more ways to contribute to our community and share the NOLS experience in New York City. Also, we are hugely grateful to NOLS for the opportunity to remain connected. In keeping the NOLS connection alive in New York City, we keep it alive in ourselves… and the NOLS experience doesn’t fade.

Liz McGregor, a 1991 Semester in Patagonia graduate, heads up the NOLS NYC Alumni Chapter. A documentary filmmaker dedicated to bridging the gap between environmental content and entertainment, she credits NOLS with setting the stage for some of her more adventurous pursuits, from teaching in the Costa Rican rainforest to directing New York City’s first and only environmental film festival.


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