That Camp Connection
By Lindsay Nohl, NOLS alumni Intern
Have you ever wondered where NOLS instructors come from? The
school is finding that more and more instructors started their
careers in outdoor education going to summer camps. Some started
as campers, while others jumped right in as counselors. Attending
summer camp, says NOLS instructor and Annual
Fund Manager Kacy White, is a great way to get submerged in
the outdoors at an early age. Over the years, NOLS and various
summer camps around the country have formed cyclical relationships,
with many people jumping from one to the other and back again.
The transition from camper to camp counselor has become commonplace
among many outdoor enthusiasts. But another budding progression
is that of camper or counselor to NOLS student or instructor,
and then a return as a leader in the camping community.
There are many people at NOLS who have followed this progression,
including White, who spent five summers working as a counselor
for Camp Wawenock in Maine. At camp, she was able to develop her
teaching skills in an unconventional classroom. From there, she
was looking for a place where she could make an impact on people,
in an environment similar to her eight-week overnight camp. When
White met former NOLS instructors Quincy and Mark VanWinkle, directors
of Camp Wohelo in Maine, the VanWinkles quickly pointed her to
NOLS, suggesting that she take a semester course.
“A NOLS course is not only fun and physically challenging,
but it is a great way to confirm that the outdoors is the classroom
for you,” says Quincy VanWinkle.
White completed a Fall
Semester in the Rockies and later went on to become a NOLS
instructor. Many of her students in the past few years have asked
advice on how to become an outdoor educator and a NOLS instructor.
She has recommended several of them back to the VanWinkle’s
camp, where there is a strong NOLS connection.
On the flip side of the coin, former NOLS instructor Laura Ordway
is now the Assistant Director of Camp Winona in Maine. She has
urged many of her counselors to take a NOLS course before the
summer season begins and is not surprised by the amount of confidence
and leadership ability they bring back with them to camp.
It is apparent from these cases that a genuine tie exists between
the NOLS world and the camping community. As more young people
spend their summers at camp, and as more campers look to further
their wilderness skills, both groups will benefit from having
strong leaders in the backcountry.