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Alumni Adventures

OL graduates become outdoor leaders that embark on exciting and challenging careers. Check out some of their stories.

The Landmark Leader

Natalie Holland, ’08

The educational experience I gained at Young Harris College has been the foundation that encouraged and inspired me to pursue the field of outdoor education. After graduation, I was offered an internship with Black Mountain Expeditions in North Carolina working as one of three expedition staff for kayaking, climbing and backpacking trips. After completing my internship, I applied for two jobs and was offered positions as both the student services coordinator for Landmark Learning and mountaineering staff at the Asheville School—so I opted to do both. Landmark Learning specializes in training outdoor professionals in wilderness medicine and other wilderness rescue training programs. I work in the main office in Cullowhee, N.C., where I manage all of our students, registration, logistics and general questions for more than 115 courses offered by Landmark each year. In addition to working full time at Landmark Learning, I also lead trips on the weekends for the Asheville School, a prestigious boarding school known for their mountaineering program. I facilitate climbing, backpacking and kayaking trips that challenge and encourage students to obtain weekly goals as well as overall program goals. The experiences I gained at YHC not only equipped me to succeed in the field, but also gave me the ability to put the skills I learned into areas that make lasting impressions on individuals learning in the outdoors.

The Wilderness Therapist

Shane Phillips, ’08

Prior to attending Young Harris College, I didn’t know a major focused on outdoor pursuits even existed. Over the course of my time at YHC, I found that the program offered an excellent balance between classroom learning and experiential education.  I especially enjoyed the small classes because they allowed for in-depth discussions during which my peers and I could communicate openly while exploring the nuances of this vast and often complex field.  The school’s location enabled me to spend much of my free time hiking, backpacking and fly-fishing.  After finishing my bachelor’s degree, I worked seasonally at a wilderness based therapy program in western North Carolina.  I found this kind of work immensely rewarding, and it gave me a chance to put what I learned at YHC into practice. Specifically, working with adolescents in an unpredictable backcountry environment provided me with the opportunity to employ technical and leadership skills I first learned while a student at YHC. I also got a chance to see the theories behind experiential education come alive as clients responded to (or didn’t) the challenging environment in which they found themselves. My intention is to remain in the field of wilderness therapy and most likely pursue graduate work with that end in mind. I remain grateful to YHC for introducing me to this field and providing me the foundation on which I hope to have a long career in wilderness therapy.

The Endless Adventurer

Jeff Henderson, ’04

I spent three years working for Rainier Mountaineering Inc. (RMI) as a guide, and two years at Crystal Mountain Resort in Washington as a ski patroller. Guiding for RMI allowed me to climb several peaks in the northwest.  This included two trips on and a summit of Denali, Alaska.  My passion for the outdoors continues as an avid rock climber, mountaineer and skier.  I enjoy long “5.fun” alpine rock climbs and never-ending technical ski descents.  Currently, I work at the Ashland Outdoor Store in Ashland, Oregon.  This job allows me to prepare others for their trips and gives me more time for mine. The realization that I could be part of the outdoor community all started with the Young Harris College outdoor leadership program. I was one of the first student workers of the program and completed my senior project in the YHC OL program.  The experience I gained in the YHC OL program started me on the path that I have been walking since then.

The Mentor by Nature

Cody Morgan, ’08

I currently work as student mentor at an alternative high school on a ranch in Arco, Idaho, where I provide a positive role model to the kids I live and work with there.  Although my job mainly consists of building relationships with the kids and completing various ranch hand work, I also get to take the kids on trips during the weekends: backpacking, caving and climbing trips during the spring and summer and skiing and snowboarding trips during the winter. Outside of work, I have become a pretty avid climber and hope to soon learn how to trad climb. I am also a frequent volunteer for Sun Valley Adaptive Sports Program where I do adaptive programming with mentally and physically challenged youths and adults. I am especially excited about getting my adaptive ski instructor certification this winter and working with participants during adaptive ski programs. The most exciting thing I've done since my time at YHC is an eight-day rafting trip down the Middle Fork of the Salmon River here in Idaho (my picture is from this trip and was my typical sleeping set up throughout the week).  My work schedule also provides me with a great amount of time to spend traveling, and I will be making my first big overseas trip to spend nearly a month in India. If the opportunity arises while I’m there, I hope to raft the Zanskar and hopefully enter into Nepal to see what I can experience of the Himalayas. I plan on remaining in Idaho for the time being and may eventually return to Georgia to attend graduate school for special education or psychology.

The Transformative Teacher

Matt Elliott, ’05

The outdoor leadership program at Young Harris College definitely laid the foundation for me to explore my abilities as an outdoor professional. I currently live in Brevard, N.C., where I work for Trails Carolina as a master instructor and logistics coordinator. Trails Carolina is a challenging therapeutic wilderness program in the Blue Ridge Mountains that is owned and operated by professionals with more than 80 years of combined experience. Our proven methods and clinical therapies help change troubling behavior, guide adolescents up new paths of self-awareness and lead families toward healing. I definitely gained many on the skills I use in my profession while studying outdoor leadership YHC. Young Harris had a huge influence on me striving to make a difference in others lives.