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Meet the Trailblazers

Students in the OL program venture off the beaten path—and have unique stories to tell.




Daniel Willis '15
Hometown: Woodstock, GA
Major: Outdoor Leadership

"I could never quite see myself working for somebody else or wearing closed-toed shoes."

With a lifelong love of nature, Daniel knew he wanted to make a living in the fresh air. So he researched where he could experience hands-on learning—in the rivers, on the mountains, among the trees. He found Outdoor Leadership, one of many innovative programs at Young Harris College.

Beyond management courses in land and water pursuits, students develop skills in survival, problem solving, leadership and medical response. "My training translates to job opportunities—especially now," says Daniel. "Instead of taking lavish vacations, Americans are seeking thrills closer to home. And they'll hire me to lead those rock-climbing or kayaking adventures."

Daniel feels there's no better place to study Outdoor Leadership. "Young Harris has the best whitewater rivers, rock-climbing areas and mountainous hiking trails in the country," he says. "Plus the students and faculty are the most kind, patient and helpful people around." He also says they challenge each other to try new things and learn from experience. "You'd think kayaking comes easy for an Outdoor Leadership major, but I was never comfortable steering in the rapids and was not the best swimmer," Daniel says. "My teachers and classmates convinced me to take down the river, and now I'm looking for bigger rapids."

The well-designed curriculum works around any student's schedule and even allows for a minor. Discovery Semester is a marquee feature of the program and Daniel thinks it rocks. "You really get to immerse yourself in the wilderness and learn through experiencing everything fundamental to outdoor leadership," he says. By graduation, these students are energized to launch careers in anything—from managing a nonprofit organization to joining the ski patrol.

Daniel will dare to venture out on his own after earning a master's degree in adventure therapy or recreation management. "I'd like to get involved with a tour company or guide service, then start my own program for troubled teens and young adults," he says. "My ultimate goal is to open a Christian youth ministry camp using the outdoors as an aid to having fun and building relationships."




Jordan Meeks '14
Hometown: Lawrenceville, GA
Major: Outdoor Leadership

Being an outdoor leadership major at YHC rocks because... I love being outdoors and being active and I get to share and teach that passion with others!

My favorite memory/moment (so far) is... my backpacking trip last semester in Rob Dussler's Backcountry Living Skills class where we went to the BANFF film festival and then took a two-day trip in Pisgah National forest.

I have already gained experience in my field by... learning the more technical aspects of all the outdoor activities I have grown up doing. Now I am learning how to plan trips on my own—my dad was always the one who planned them before!

My future plans are... to open a camp that is faith-based but also has various outdoor trips and activities.