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Jessie Levesque-Etling's Outdoor Lab Story

Jessie was the first recipient of the Outdoor Lab Foundation Scholarship. We recently caught up with Jessie to learn about her Outdoor Lab story and how the scholarship has impacted her educational journey.

"When I returned home after my first week as a High School Leader at Mt. Evans, I cried to my mom knowing that I could not leave this place behind. After only five days of hiking with kids and teaching them about how the smallest interactions coalesce into an ecosystem, I found something bigger than myself that I was passionate about. The magic of the mountain lured me in and showed me how big I could be, too.

During my time as an intern, each week and group of sixth graders brought a new lesson along. How to be a leader, not a boss, and an advocate for others. How to teach those around me by setting an example and holding true to my values. How to be a kid again and carry with me the spirit of adventure. Most importantly, I learned how to endure difficult times with the help of friends. Whether it was homesickness, exhaustion, or language barriers, the students I led pushed through it all and lifted each other up. The perseverance of the students inspires me to this day to move forward through difficult periods of change and fear.

One of my favorite stories from Outdoor Lab centers around a group of students who told me that they had never taken a hike before. As someone who grew up in Conifer, this was a wild idea to me. But to be there with them during their first experience with the outdoors was invaluable as I got to see this new world through someone else’s eyes. I think that is a big part of the legacy of Outdoor Lab. Students, teachers, High School Leaders, and staff are able to begin or foster a love for our environment regardless of their familiarity with it. Together, we learn and experience the magic of the mountain.

After my time with Outdoor Lab as an intern and an High School Leader, I have carried every lesson I learned into my new roles. I was able to apply leadership and education skills to my roles in Supplemental Instruction at my college and as a youth tennis camp instructor. Receiving the first High School Leader Scholarship allowed me to further my role as a steward of our environment by studying Environmental Engineering. While I am unsure of where my future will lead, I am grateful of where I have been so far and the people who have touched my life."

You can donate to the Outdoor Lab Foundation Scholarship to support more student's like Jessie with their post-secondary education goals. To donate directly to the scholarship, click the button below and add "Scholarship" in the comments.