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NOV. 29, 2016

#GivingTuesday is About More Than Money

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Yes, last year we raised over $3,000 in a single day from wonderful donors and friends. Yes, non-profits around the world are using #GivingTuesday as a way to kick start their fundraising efforts. And yes, we would love for you to make a donation today. But what is the bigger picture? Why is it so important to show this support and raise awareness for our causes?

I like to think this is a global effort to “give thanks” for all the people doing good in this world. Today is more than a day of fundraising, it is a day to educate ourselves on all the wonderful organizations, hardworking individuals, and unique missions that exist worldwide, and right here at home.

This is a MOVEMENT. A way to show that good really does prevail. A way to feel connected, peaceful and kind. Being part of #GivingTuesday is kind of like Giving Day at Eagle’s Nest- you do it for the other person, but find that you can gain just as much by making a gift with your own hands.

I know that I am thankful every day to be a part of the Eagle’s Nest and OA community. A place where I can be myself, laugh with good friends, and escape into the forest to sit among the trees to count my blessings.

Join Eagle’s Nest and thousands of others TODAY and make #GivingTuesday a part of your giving plans each year!  Express your gratitude, for the community that is cultivated here, for the time we spend in nature, for simple living, and to become your best self.

We invite you to get involved on social media and show your support:

  • Make a post to your personal social media account(s)…email, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, etc. about #GivingTuesday
  • Share our posts with your friends!
  • Use our #hashtags (#GivingTuesday, #foreverournest #gratitudeproject) and @accounts (@eaglesnest_hanteadv, @outdooracademy)
  • Make a donation!
  • TELL YOUR STORY OF SUPPORT, and encourage others to visit our giving page online www.enf.org/givenow

Cara Varney, Annual Fund & Alumni Manager

NOV. 18, 2016

The Spark of Our Thriving Community

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Smoke is in the air at The Outdoor Academy. For the past week, we have breathed the exhaust of external fires, questioned the effect of drought on our temperate rainforest, and caught echoes of political turmoil swirling through the U.S. Yet, it seems turbulence in the larger world has little power to negatively influence our small community. We continue to chug along despite the harsh climate, singing a mantra of ‘I think I can, I think I can.’ Or perhaps, ‘Inch by inch, row by row’ may be more accurate for readers familiar with our Eagle’s Nest repertoire.

At the beginning of the week the students took pleasure in the smoky red super-moon, curling howls into the cold, fall air. Some of my peers on the faculty undoubtedly joined them from the top of Looking Glass rock, after completing a night-climb of the classic North Carolina Route ‘The Nose.”  In the world of intellect, my students in Algebra II powered through our last week of class before break. The entire class of Environmental Seminar wrote letters to their respective senators outlining steps we may take as a country regarding environmental policy, putting to use the knowledge they’ve earned. And, as always, our faculty meeting last night resounded with reports of this or that student stepping up in Crafts, English, or Science.

I see now I misspoke earlier; our community is not just chugging along, we are thriving. The smoke of external fires does nothing to slow our progress ever forward. At the core, we at the OA try never to see problems, only challenges. A step on the crumbling edge of the trail with a heavy pack, a fall to a twisted ankle; these are elements to a recipe for a painful and challenging trek. However, there also lies the chance to find new strength, to learn reliance on your peers, to find further limits to your endurance, to ice your swollen ankle in the freezing skinny-dip falls, and to feel the wonderful warmth return when you can bear the water no longer. These are the lessons our students will remember the longest, when things were dang hard, and they kept moving anyway. In the spirit of the upcoming holiday, I am most thankful for the inevitable proof our students give that there is no hill too big to climb together (I think I can, I think I can).

Robbie deBurlo

Math Teacher, Medical Coordinator, and Wilderness Instructor 

NOV. 7, 2016

Observations on the Eve of Decision 2016

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Community is one of our four Cornerstones here at The Outdoor Academy.  It is a main focus of our students’ education during each semester.  We have Community Meetings weekly that provide a space for the students to come together to work through issues or develop plans for student driven initiatives.  We eat meals together as a community, we make decisions as a community, we experience the highs and lows of life as a community.  Community is more than a number of people who coexist together in the same location.  It is a body of people who genuinely care about each other and want to grow together.

Our community nestled in the mountains of Western North Carolina is so strong that, oftentimes, it is easy to forget that the world moves on outside these mountains.  We all know, however, that very important national events are stirring beyond our idyllic campus.  During this historic presidential election, Semester 43 is taking the initiative to witness these events that will certainly affect their lives, perhaps profoundly.

At our last Community Meeting the students brought a plan to the community to ensure their presence during the live broadcast of the presidential results.  Students worked together to develop a plan that included equipment, faculty and staff involvement, and timing.  The hunger for knowledge, the drive to be part of something bigger than themselves, and the fact that these students are not able to cast their personal vote for a candidate speaks volumes of the ownership they exhibit for their own learning and place in this world.

To add to the election night interest, Roger, Director of The Outdoor Academy, has been supplementing media stories of this election with insights from political science, which he has offered the community during daily announcements and also down times throughout the day.  Questions such as ‘What is the Electoral College?’ and ‘Where does my vote go?’ are abundant.  These future voters are getting more than a current news story; they are learning how a president comes to be.  They have a chance in my class to study the electoral map and calculate mathematically the various scenarios that would lead one candidate or the other to the White House.

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It is incredible to serve at a school where a student can be interested in something and seek it out, with enthusiasm.  It is incredible to serve at a school where faculty and staff jump in with both feet in order to guide students in finding answers and solutions to the questions they’re asking.  And it’s no wonder that the sentiment expressed at our last faculty meeting was: “Aren’t we lucky to teach these students?”  Our answer was yes, we are.  We definitely are.

Racheal Duffy, Math Teacher and Wilderness Leader 

SEP. 26, 2016

The Hard Work of Community

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This is my first semester at The Outdoor Academy. I’ll be honest, it’s something I’m self-conscious about at times. I look around me and I am surrounded by an incredible faculty with years of experience as educators and a diverse, rich history here at OA. Sometimes I have questions. “When can students start listening to music in the kitchen?” “What time does study hall end?”

But I have not for one minute since the beginning of semester 43 had a question about this being the right place for me. Every day I wake up, I go to breakfast, and I get to give thanks for being a part of this community. Believe me, it is a community to be grateful for. This is the type of community where we struggle to pick volunteers because there are so many hands up in the air and where students take initiative to plan activities in their free time so nobody is left out. It is the type of community where we celebrate each other’s accomplishments and regularly share our appreciation for each other.

Despite all of the things our students can boast about, Semester 43 is a community that (like the students) is currently in adolescence. Like anything that is worthwhile is not always easy and it is not always perfect.  One evening, very recently, I was incredibly lucky to be a part of an honest and insightful self-evaluation by Semester 43. Our students sat around a room and shared not only the successes of their group but the areas in which we are currently falling short. People spoke about feeling afraid to speak up and acknowledged that some members of this family of ours aren’t being treated as they should be. Though there were certainly moments of praise, I sat there in awe of how willing these young people were to acknowledge their downfalls as a group and, more importantly, how genuinely concerned they were about the feelings of their peers.

We are drawn to the good. We so want to see all of the great things that the people around us are doing that we sometimes fail to see our shortcomings. But then sometimes we are lucky enough to be around people who want to be better—people who are committed not only to their own personal growth, but also to the growth of the people around them and the family that they are a part of.

As someone with more connection to the outside world than our students, I am all too familiar with reading the news and being taken by a sense of despair and doubt. But I am lucky. I have come to a place that gives me hope. As was recently mentioned by one of our students, Semester 43 is coming into the world and will have the power to do good. Having meetings like these gives me hope that our students will keep striving to be better, to make their communities better, and to make this world better.

Work Crew Semester 43

Semester 43 Work Crew

Marisa Melnick,  OA Resident 

SEP. 9, 2016

Coming Home

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On 27 August we opened our campus to the 43rd semester of The Outdoor Academy.  Our 28 new students are still relative strangers—to each other and to our faculty—but we know, having experienced 43 Opening Days, we will soon come together as a community.  We will soon feel as if we have known each other for a lifetime and we will build those bonds that will last a lifetime.

But there was a special feeling on this particular Opening Day.  Even though we were welcoming 28 new students, their families, and five new faculty members—Renee Raffini, Madalyn Wofford, Caroline Lauth, Marisa Melnick, and Eric McIntyre—into our community, it felt more like a homecoming than an Opening Day.  As we joined hands on Cabin 7 Field to sing Sweet Winds, our circle included some very familiar faces.

In addition to OA faculty and staff returning from last year—Katie, Lucas, Ted, Rodrigo, Racheal, Robbie, Mark, Ryan, Julie, and myself—our circle included returning friends from semesters past.  Susan Daily, our new Dean of Students, has been with the OA since Semester 26 in many capacities, including Dean of Students.  She returns to Eagle’s Nest having completed most of her work toward her second Master’s Degree and has moved back into her home on the northern boundary of campus with her husband Michael, son Noah, and daughter Wren.

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Other exciting homecomings included our new Arts Director, Brian Quarrier, and our new Admissions Counselor, Reily Kennedy.  Last year, Reily and Brian were members of our amazing Residential Faculty, positions that are typically one-year gigs.  One year, we decided, was not enough for these exceptional educators, wilderness leaders, and role models, so we convinced them to stick around and take on new roles and responsibilities at the OA.  In Reily’s case, this was an especially poignant homecoming.  A proud alum of Semester 25, she is the first member of our permanent staff who has been both an OA student and an OA Resident.

Finally, we welcomed to our Opening Day circle two other OA alums.  Micah Parsons, OA Semester 27, mastered her craft at American University before joining the Eagle’s Nest team this summer as our Marketing Coordinator.  Joining our Arts Department is Madalyn Wofford, a graduate of OA Semester 20.  Madalyn is a multi-talented artist and gifted teacher who will be teaching our Music & Dance arts elective this semester.

It speaks well of our school and our Foundation that so many of our alumni—students and faculty—are choosing to come home.  More than that, however, it speaks volumes about the quality of OA alumni.  These people, along with the OA faculty and staff they have now joined (or rejoined) as colleagues, are among the most caring and competent educators in the field…and that’s why they’re here.

Thomas Wolfe, local boy made good and one of my favorite writers, famously suggested: You Can’t Go Home Again.  I must, respectfully, disagree.

Roger Herbert, Outdoor Academy Director

NOV. 25, 2015

grat·i·tude

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Cara Varney, Development Assistant

ˈɡradəˌt(y)o͞od/

  1. the quality of being thankful; readiness to show appreciation for and to return kindness.

It’s that time of year, the time when we start to reflect on all the events of the past eleven months. A time when we look forward to spending cool days with family and friends, eating comfort foods and telling stories.  It is a time when we give thanks and share with the people we love.

The history of the first Thanksgiving is one with conflicting stories, but one thing most agree on it that it is a time to thank others for the blessings of the year. At Eagle’s Nest and The Outdoor Academy giving thanks and expressing gratitude are strong themes that grow into a common thread in the lives of the people here. We give thanks at meals, we offer love and gratitude to others daily, and this practice continues to build a meaningful and intentional community year after year.  This thread weaves a tapestry that goes back years and generations, and will continue on with the cultivation of supporting and caring for others.

This season of Thanksgiving falls under a category of festivals that spans cultures, continents and millennia. December 1st is #GivingTuesday. Now in its fourth year, this day is fueled by the power of collaboration, and the desire to help non-profits worldwide. Together with social media and individual donors, organizations have been able to raise vital funds to support their causes and programs.

It is not just that we feel grateful or express our thanks to others, but that we feel the sincere, intrinsic desire to give something back. For sometimes, when we express gratitude through words and deeds it enhances our own experiences of feeling grateful.

You just spent the weekend with your friends and family, perhaps braved the crowds and caught some Black Friday deals, now think about your family at the Nest, and what they mean to you. Join Eagle’s Nest and thousands of others on this day and make #GivingTuesday a part of your holiday tradition!  Express your gratitude, for the community that is cultivated here, for the time we spend in nature, for simple living, and to become your best self.

We invite you to get involved in two ways.

Get busy on your social media pages:

Giving Tuesday Graphic_blog

  • Make a few posts to your personal social media account(s)…email, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, etc. about #GivingTuesday
  • Use our #hashtags (#GivingTuesday, #togetherENF) and @accounts (@eaglesnest_hanteadv, @outdooracademy)
  • Make a donation! (on December 1st)
  • TELL YOUR STORY OF SUPPORT, and encourage others to visit our giving page online www.enf.org/givenow

OR Give us your testimonial, photo, #UNselfie, and donation, and we will post it on our pages in your honor!

“As we express our gratitude, we must never forget that the highest appreciation is not to utter words, but to live by them.”

John F. Kennedy

Cara Varney, Development Assistant