Where it all started…journey to now
I am an experiential educator who’s passion lies within the ah-ha moments of shared group experiences and creating directional clarity for organizations and their teams.
I got my start in the experiential education field through experiences of my oldest sister. She was attending high school at the time and was taking a class called “Adventure.” This class would fulfill 1/2 a credit hour of Physical Education of which 2 full hours were required by the school in order to graduate. High standards for active youth huh…not…but I digress. Anyway, my sister seemed to always come home from school and talk about the adventure classes and how much she was learning and even leading. So, as her younger sister, I really didn’t get to see what it was she was doing until there was a “course day.” This day was sponsored by an after school club and the Adventure teachers to have parents and their families come out to see what the class was all about. So what did I notice?…the huge telephone pole rising 30–40 feet in the air with obstacle wires and dangling strings hung way up high and people were walking across them, not by themselves but in teams. This caught my eye and I was fascinated.
In 8th grade I got the opportunity to sign up for a class called “Personal Best,” a crappy name if you ask me but it was the description of the class that got me. We would have four full days on the high school’s ropes course… “Count. Me. In.” After starting this class I realized a little more about what my sister was into and I was in love. Not like my heart-was-aching kind of love but where you feel you found your place and you just walk away from every class with a smile knowing you belong. The course had so many other aspects to it but this part with the initiatives and teambuilding games engaged me and my mind in ways like nothing else.
The moment I got into high school I was enrolled in Adventure, just like my older sister had been. I wasn’t a great student and frankly I was a bit awkward. I was always the nice girl willing to be anyone’s friend and unfortunately not everyone wanted to be mine. However, in this class I felt like I found “my people” and could potentially build the best of friends from there forward with those in my class. Well, it wasn’t quite like that but I did get a taste for a field I would spend time getting advanced degrees in, in the future, and gained some of my bestest friends in the process. Once I completed a semester in Adventure I requested to go to the next level…yes there was more I could learn and get another 1/2 credit for. The program had a full progression set up to take students from participants (Adventure) to leaders in training (Adventure Leadership Training) to peer to peer leadership (Adventure Leader) then a selected few advanced to Adventure Leader Trainer. This progression provided the perfect place for me to experience the participant world, learn to lead the various activities and slowly move into a role where I would help other leaders learn what I had. I went all the way and graduated with 5 credits in PE (about 10 classes in Adventure Program).
This stuff I was leading in Adventure was truly my calling. I never felt more myself than when I was leading others through the adventure activities. I knew from this moment this is what I wanted to do with my life.
So what do you do when you find your purpose at 17 and now you have to apply to colleges that can’t remotely top what theory, soft skills, and real life application you have learned through this progression of courses in high school? You do what everyone else does, applying to any program with a degree related to what you like, recreation, cause there were no undergraduate programs that expanded on this amount of experience or theory. So I knew I needed to push through an undergraduate to get to my ultimate goal of an Experiential Education Master’s Degree. I busted through an epic 3.5 years at University of Idaho adding to my quiver of skills: trip planning, organizational development, marketing, outings, building skills for rock climbing/rafter/kayaking/canoeing. There was so much I learned during my time at U of I but my heart was not fully engaged. I wanted more theory.
Why does experiencing something teach us more than listening, speaking, or watching? I wanted to know the answer.
So I made the leap. I finished my undergraduate degree early; partially ended a relationship I thought might have lasted forever, at least at that time I did; and moved to Minnesota to study Experiential Education at Minnesota State University, Mankato. This transition was probably the hardest I had ever experienced but wow, did it pay off. My mind was blown daily…not just from the fact I read three books a week, which was more than I had read my entire life to that point, but from the conversations of theory, application, realism, and observation.
You know that feeling when you experience something so deep you feel like you completely understood what just happened but the back of your head is saying “wow, there is more to this. I need time to think.” You feel overwhelmed but also fulfilled. Your brain continues to process the information for hours and hours after the event and the mind expansion continues as you connect one thing to the next. This happened to me for two years. There are not enough words to explain what I learned about myself and my profession during those little two years but I know it quantified the energy I feel coursing through my body whenever I work with a group or assist a new leader in finding their way to the best facilitation. It is my happy place.
So This is how I got my start and while I could give you my resume of what I have done since then I wanted to share where I got my start and what lit my fire. From then on I have wandered through this professional world finding my right place and I’m discovering the right place is something I have to create for myself as it doesn’t exist — yet. Come on the journey with me as I embark on a path that has yet to be laid. It is through experience where we will learn the most and experience involves both success and failure. Experience the journey. Lets go!