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October 12, 2010

Contact: Aparna Rajagopal-Durbin
(307) 335-2328

Jabali Sawicki Receives National Outdoor Leadership School Alumni Achievement Award

Lander, Wyoming - Jabali Sawicki, Principal of Excellence Boys K-6 Charter School in Brooklyn, NY, has been awarded the prestigious National Outdoor Leadership School (NOLS) Alumni Achievement Award. The NOLS Alumni Service Award is given to a devoted alumnus who has taken what he or she learned at NOLS and has become notably successful in the outdoor recreation, education or conservation industry.

In 1993, at the age of 15, Sawicki traveled from San Francisco to the wilds of Alaska for a 30-day NOLS Wilderness Course. As the youngest member of the group, Sawicki’s participation occurred as part of NOLS’ partnership with Summer Search, a national leadership development program that provides mentoring, life-changing summer experiences and college advising to thousands of underprivileged students across the country. The leap from urban San Francisco to Alaska’s southern Talkeetna Mountains is considerable by any measure, but rain, hummocks (ice knolls), river crossings and late re-supplies added to the challenge. Sawicki was undaunted, and maintained a positive attitude notwithstanding the challenges. “I climbed the top of a mountain, I woke up at 2 am to go the bathroom and it was light outside and I was surrounded by 5000 caribou,” recalled Sawicki in a recent interview. “Those experiences had an impact on how I saw I saw myself, and how I saw the world, and the lessons I learned there are still being put to use to this day.”

In the years since his Alaska expedition, Sawicki’s motivation propelled him into a career as an educator. After graduating from Oberlin College with a double major, he received a Masters in Educational Administration from Columbia University Teacher’s College, and today heads an all-boys Charter School in Brooklyn, NY, that is composed of 99% African American males. “I am proud to say that after five years, we are the number one performing elementary school out of 700 public schools in New York City,” says Sawicki. “We teach students how to read, how to do math, but the way I judge whether or not I have done my job is whether or not my work that day helped young individual scholars become better human beings. What NOLS taught me and what I try to instill in our scholars is the notion that leadership has to be about helping us understand how we are connected, how we are stronger if we are unified, how we are at a greater likelihood of achieving what we each want individually if we have compassion, if we have empathy, and if we are willing to sacrifice some things for the benefit of our communities and for the benefit of our country.

“Being a successful principal requires communication and action,” said NOLS Board member and award presenter Fox Benton. “Inspiring and orchestrating individual responsibility and academic success in young people requires vision and tenacity. Doing all of this simultaneously with challenged urban populations defines leadership. NOLS is pleased to recognize Sawicki’s accomplishments as a leader in education.”

About NOLS:

Founded in 1965 by legendary mountaineer Paul Petzoldt, NOLS is the leader in wilderness education, providing awe-inspiring, transformative experiences to nearly 14,000 students each year. These students, ages 14 to 70, learn in the wildest and most remote classrooms worldwide—from the Amazon rain forest to rugged peaks in the Himalaya to Alaskan glaciers and Arctic tundra. Graduates are active leaders with lifelong environmental ethics and outdoor skills. NOLS also offers customized courses through NOLS Professional Training, and the Wilderness Medicine Institute of NOLS is the leading teacher of wilderness medicine worldwide. For more information, call (800) 710-NOLS (6657) or visit

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Jabali Sawicki, Principal of Excellence Boys K-6 Charter School in Brooklyn, NY, has been awarded the prestigious National Outdoor Leadership School (NOLS) Alumni Achievement Award.
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