1. Please provide a brief description of your STEP Signature Project.
The High Sierra Leadership expedition was an intense, life changing, 23-day backpacking trip through the Sierra Nevada region of California. On the trip, we hiked through 190+ miles of the John Muir trail to see just a few of the incredible sights that nature has to offer, while learning outdoor resourcefulness and skills.
2. What about your understanding of yourself, your assumptions, or your view of the world changed/transformed while completing your STEP Signature Project?
While completing my STEP project, I learned a lot about myself and the world around me. Being away from my friends, family, and many modern conveniences, I realized exactly what aspects of my life in the front country are important. For example, while technology such as cell phones are nice to have, they are often a distraction that stops you from living life to the fullest. Before this trip, I could spend hours doing nothing but scrolling through social media on my phone. Now, I feel that I can live without doing that, and have been making more time to do things that I love, rather than wasting time on things like Twitter and Instagram.
My view of the world has changed because I now have a greater appreciation for my body, my relationships, and the earth. Before this trip, I felt very self-conscious about the way I looked, thought, and acted. Now, after completing such a tremendous and strenuous task, I have the confidence to go about my daily life feeling good about myself. Not having contact with friends and family helped to show me just how much I care about the people I have in my life, so now I can truly appreciate the special moments I share with them. I have also become a vegetarian in an attempt to decrease waste and make a small change in my lifestyle to help protect our environment.
3. What events, interactions, relationships, or activities during your STEP Signature Project led to the change/transformation that you discussed in #2, and how did those affect you?
One of the activities that led to my transformation was being leader of the day (LOD). As leader of the day, your responsibility is to get the group from point A to point B without any major issues. Before this trip, I did not have very many true leadership experiences, so I learned a lot in the three days I was leader. For me, one of the biggest struggles I had in this position was confidence. As someone who struggles to be confident in their daily life, it was hard to be put in a new situation with a lot of pressure and skills you are unfamiliar with. However, by my third day as LOD, I felt much more confident in my abilities. I believe that this experience has transferred over into my personal life in the way that I now have a greater sense of drive to be a great leader, and the tools to accomplish that.
This trip was also very physically difficult for me. Walking an average of 12 miles a day uphill with a 30+ backpack was hard, but seeing and feeling the reward of a hard work out has made me want to push myself even harder. I am now training for a half marathon to keep myself in shape.
Through all the hardships I experienced on this trip, I also experienced a lot of beautiful moments. Seeing the sunrise from the top of Mount Whitney, the flowing rivers, towering trees, and colorful wildflowers was worth the long, hard days on the trail. The moments these sights created have made me want to do better to help our planet heal from the pollution and mistreatment it has suffered at the hands of humans. Thus, I have become a lot more aware of the ways I contribute to waste and pollution, and have also committed to a vegetarian life style.
4. Why is this change/transformation significant or valuable for your life? Write one or two paragraphs discussing why this change or development matters and/or relates to your academic, personal, and/or professional goals and future plans.
This trip took every once of will I had in me not to give up, and forced me to push on, mentally, physically, and emotionally. However, everything it took out of me, it gave back tenfold in the beauty of the outdoors, the friendships I made, and the strength I found within myself. Taking away the things that made my daily life comfortable made me a stronger, more independent person, as I now know that I can survive on my own without the crutches I used to use everyday. I feel that I am more confident, and am living a life that is less focused on distractions, and more focused on bettering myself, the people and things I care about, and my environment. I will take this confidence and the leadership skills I have gained with me as I go into the field of special education.
This trip has shown me how to motivate myself and others to do the things that may not always be easy. In special education, the obstacles presented to a student may seem as hard as climbing a mountain. But, with the right amount of perseverance, motivation, patience and effort, you can overcome any obstacle. I will take this lesson with me as I go on to my teaching career, and use it in my personal and academic life as well. I believe it will help me to be the best teacher, friend, student, and person I can be.