When I first went on an OLA trip it was my second semester at Dixie State University and I was not very experienced with the outdoors. I had never been camping really, although I was very comfortable with the outdoors, I have known since a young age that nature is for me and I am for nature, but I was never really permitted to explore that. When I went on that trip it was a big step for me since my parents didn’t really approve but I felt adult enough to just jump in and do it anyway. I absolutely loved it. We spent four days in Zion National Park and I still remember it very fondly. We would look outside and see the stars blanketing the skies, when it rained the clouds hung low to the sandstone cliffs, it was very spiritually connecting for me. So when I found out about more trips with OLA I readily signed up. Attending these trips and learning more about the environment is actually what inspired me to change my major to Biology with an emphasis in natural science. Soon enough I was blessed enough to be offered a position as the OLA intern and at first I was apprehensive, I didn’t know if I’d be a good fit for it or if I’d be able to assist in the best way possible. As most things with life though, I jumped in to see what would happen. So far, I think I’m doing alright, I’m still learning everyday, but I feel so blessed to be one of the few people who get to say that they absolutely love what they do. I am so thankful to OLA for providing me with these amazing opportunities to grow as well as learn about our public lands, conservation efforts, as well as myself.
The outdoor leadership academy has and will continue to leave a great impact on my life. It has opened me to many new experiences in leadership, new opportunities, new friendships, new skills, new topics, and most importantly awareness of what national parks have to offer and also how diverse each park is. Each one of these trips I have participated in has definitely improved my knowledge and understanding of various issues within each park and also made me appreciate our marvelous planet with even a greater passion. Thinking back on all the wonderful trips I have attended, each one has had a different learning outcome and left me with a different feeling. Being active and being challenged outdoors, whether you are hiking a trail, biking, kayaking, etc. it has led me to be an even greater advocate about outdoor sports and hobbies. Giving other minorities who have not explored or had any outdoor opportunities or exposure is something that should taken advantage of, especially living out in Utah. Utah never fails to impress me. I truly believe introducing other individuals to the outdoor world will broaden their knowledge and understanding about our earth. Hopefully it will create more individuals who care about the planet/environment and encourage others about having an active/healthy lifestyle because obesity seems to be increasing and is the number one cause of most deaths in the U.S., which with obesity comes many health issues. The outdoor leadership academy has impacted me immensely. I highly recommend to any student/faculty on campus to join OLA and participate on the trips.
Home Away From Home
When my adviser put me into OLA I was kind of skeptical about the program. I didn’t know exactly what it was and why I would even join. I knew it was part of trailblazer connections and a free credit so I told myself. What the heck, why not. As the time grew nearer to go on the OLA trip I became more and more agitated with the emails I received. I didn’t know what OLA was and did NOT want to go on some trip with strangers I never met. I thought the whole program was ridiculous, weird, and dumb. I told myself there was NO way I’m going. About a week before we left I tried to find every excuse not to go. I told myself I would let them think I was going but last minute I’m going to bail and say I got sick, had to work, or pulled the family emergency card. The night before we all met I was about to bail and forget the whole OLA program, however, my parents told me to just give it a chance. So I told myself what the heck, why not. I have nothing to lose. Joining OLA was one of the BEST decisions I have ever made and has helped me so much this freshman year. Although it was weird at the beginning to be with other students I didn’t know and professors who I thought had better things to with their lives. At the end, I LOVED OLA and grew very close to all the students and even professors who went on the OLA trip. Those student are now part of my family and to see the professors outside of school helped me realize they too have a life. I am now close to all of those professors who went and have built a relationship with them that will last throughout my college experience and through out my life. They have helped guide and direct me in college. More than that, I feel comfortable talking to the professors about advice I need in my general life. Whether it be struggles I am having or pointers about relationships. They are there for me. OLA has provided me with a family and a home away from home. I have no REGRETS about joining OLA and I love my little family. My advice to you is what the heck, give it a chance. YOU have nothing to lose. After all, they do pay for the trip.
When I came to college I had no idea what the next 4 years would have in store and honestly saw myself doing nothing but these past 2 years have been nothing short of interesting. Along with running a student club for a while, getting involved in student government again for a bit, and getting invited to the board of regents student luncheon, I got the opportunity to go camping with a student organization aimed to minorities. I have gone to three OLA outings and each has been inspiring, interesting, and amazing in its own way. Some are better than others but I can for sure say my love for being outside and the opportunities and friends those trips have given have grown to an extent I didn’t know was possible. This program has gotten me out of my comfort zone as I’ve never really spent time or done much outside, but this has given me an entirely new perspective on nature and how much it needs to be preserved. Being able to see the stars so beautifully detailed in the Arizona desert was breathtaking along with quiet and far away we were from civilization to the point there was no cell service made it easy to unwind and see what I’ve been ignoring. This program is definitely one of the many things I’m so happy I got to experience and plan on going on more trips in the near future.
Life Changing Experience
The Outdoor Leadership Academy has helped open up many opportunities for me in areas that I didn’t know were possible. Thanks to OLA I am writing a degree that is built around what the program does. I have titled my degree “Environmental Media Communication & Diversity Outreach”. With this degree, I hope to use photography and video editing skills to promote environmental causes and educate others about the outdoors as well as reach out to minorities to encourage diversity in the environmental ed. field. Having the opportunity to engage in outdoor activities that I wouldn’t otherwise participate in because of my ignorance in regard to the outdoors, has been a great experience and life-changing for me. I hope to one day be involved with an organization such as OLA, to keep educating others in diversifying our learning.