National Outdoor Leadership School - Pacific Northwest Programs
NOLS Pacific Northwest operates extended wilderness expeditions in the sailing, sea kayaking, mountaineering and backpacking disciplines. NOLS believes that people thrive when challenged, leadership can be learned and learning should be fun. The school uses remote wilderness classrooms, as living in nature teaches responsibility, and provides learning through challenges.
Students learn seven critical skills of leadership on each NOLS course. Through working with a team, students develop and practice communication, self-awareness, tolerance for adversity and uncertainty, expedition behavior, vision and action, judgment and decision-making, and competence. A successful expedition requires individuals to work as a team and challenge themselves on a personal level. This is completed with coaching through designated leadership roles, daily observation, and formal feedback from instructors and peers.
One of NOLS’ fundamental values is to engender in students an appreciation of the wilderness environment. NOLS teaches students the principles of environmental ethics, including Leave No Trace practices, and educates them about natural history and environmental issues. NOLS graduates become skilled, positive leaders with acute environmental awareness and a strong ethical foundation.
Recent Successes and Current Challenges
NOLS strives to reach all eligible students, as inclusion of under-resourced youth is necessary to grow competent leaders in all facets of society. NOLS’ supports under-resourced youth through mentorship, full-tuition scholarships, and post-course service commitment with Seattle partners YMCA BOLD and GOLD Mountain Schools, Student Conservation Association (SCA) and Summer Search.
Alumni gain opportunities for internships and fellowships, career development, and employment that provide lasting social impact in the education and conservation fields. Seattle resident and SCA alum Lena Easton-Calabria, 19, participated in a Sea Kayaking and Sailing expedition around Vancouver Island in June 2011.
“I grew a lot as a person through the many challenges that I faced daily on my NOLS expedition. I left the NOLS Pacific Northwest school with a newfound steadiness and reliance in myself, as well as the knowledge that challenges are one of the best and most rewarding lessons anyone can receive.”
Since 2007, NOLS has experienced a 68-percent increase in under-resourced participants. NOLS’ fiscal year 2011 scholarship budget of $1.4 million was allocated four months prior to year’s end due to the increase. NOLS graduates have the ability to successfully serve in a leadership role and with a greater understanding of, and connection to, the natural world. While their time with NOLS may be brief, their potential to impact their own communities and beyond is infinite.