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Young Harris College students learn safety firsthand 

YOUNG HARRIS, Ga. — Nothing hammers home the importance of safety like hurling down the Nantahala River in an inflatable raft, but that was exactly the lesson students from Young Harris College had recently.

A group of students from Risk Management in Sport and Recreation and Outdoor Risk Management classes were able to travel to the Nantahala Outdoor Center, where the staff gave real-time instruction on guided rafting trips and the safety briefings that go along with them.

“If you have ever participated in a guided rafting trip down one of the many rivers that dot the southeast, you probably recall the ‘safety talk’ given by the professionals leading your trip,” Dr. Joseph Pate, associate professor of Outdoor Leadership, said. Pate helped coordinate the trip to the Nantahala River in North Carolina. The NOC, in business since 1972, is a popular river rafting location in the United States.

“The safety briefings are far more than an opportunity to share a quirky joke or catchy acronym, these short briefs are an essential part of risk management in the outdoor industry,” Pate said. “It’s an area that involves developing strategies to monitor and minimize the probability of unfortunate events in challenging environments.”

The trip for the Young Harris College students was an opportunity to learn from the professional staff at the NOC, hearing about the intersections of safety, risk, liability, and management in complex and changing contexts and dynamics. 

“This valuable applied experience is one of the many ways we prepare future leaders for careers in valued industries here in Georgia and beyond,” Pate added.

The NOC is an internationally recognized outfitter that provides experiences that inspire passion, connection, and adventure through the outdoors, with its headquarters and basecamp approximately an hour from the YHC campus. An innovator and industry leader in outdoor adventure, instruction, and education since 1972, the NOC serves as an incredible site to provide students an opportunity to meet and learn from some of the best in the tourism and outdoor recreation industry.   

“The NOC is an organization that reflects the pinnacle of outdoor recreation,” said Nathan Weaver, a junior in Outdoor Studies major. “Their passion for the local community, outdoor education, and risk management is at the top of the industry and is a reflection of the incredible hard work and love invested by their staff.” 

During their recent field experience, students like Weaver and others heard from the NOC’s Director of Risk Management & Safety as well as Adventure Operation Managers. A particular highlight for YHC students was touring the NOC’s facilities, motor pool yard, and discussing current risk management innovations and challenges. 

“The NOC was a very enlightening experience where we were able to learn about risk management, gear, and the interworking of the company,” said Taylor Thomas, another Outdoor Studies major. “Hearing from their Director of Risk Management was one of my favorite parts of the day!”

Students were treated to a rafting trip down the Nantahala River, guided by the NOC’s well-trained raft guides. Students enjoyed exciting whitewater, while spending time in an incredible forested gorge and corridor. 

“Visiting the NOC provides our students with access to top notch professionals,” said Thomas Clanton, Assistant Professor of Sport & Recreation Studies and instructor of the Risk Management in Sport & Recreation class. “The time spent with them demonstrates to our students that the concepts covered in class have real-world applications.”

The day concluded with the NOC Director of Recruiting sharing about the professional opportunities and experiences available to Young Harris College students. Through an ongoing collaboration and partnership, they are afforded both for-credit practicum and internship possibilities, as well as employment opportunities. 

“We experienced firsthand how amazing the NOC is,” Weaver said. “Anyone looking for opportunities to grow in their connection with the outdoors, or as an interpreter of the outdoors, should keep the NOC in mind as a top-tier resource for personal growth and development as a customer or potential employer.”

About Young Harris College

Young Harris College is a private baccalaureate and master’s degree-granting institution located in the beautiful mountains of North Georgia. Founded in 1886 and historically affiliated with The United Methodist Church, Young Harris College educates, inspires, and empowers students through an education that purposefully integrates the liberal arts and professional studies. The College has four academic divisions: Fine Arts; Humanities; Mathematics, Science, and Technology; and Professional Studies. Approximately 1,400 students are enrolled in its residential and Early College programs. The College is an active member of the NCAA Division II and remains a fierce competitor in the Conference Carolinas. For more information, visit