J-D Student Visits "The Last Frontier"

By Jake Socia and William Eimas-Dietrich 
Staff Writers

Photo courtesy of Dori Bergman

What did you do this summer? Well, J-DHS senior Dori Bergman lived in Alaska for four weeks on an expedition through the National Outdoor Leadership School. This expedition, which investigated a whole new part of the world, included 16 other explorers, ranging from high school students to adults, along with three instructors. 

Bergman went on this trip looking for an outdoor adventure. However, the biggest adventure was personal: going with nobody she knew, and as the youngest member. But on the trip she met plenty of friends that she is now close with. “Everybody that went on that trip has a special bond together,” Bergman said; ”it was like having 16 older brothers and sisters.” Bergman said she will never forget the people and everything she learned from them. 

On this trip Bergman was given a once in a lifetime chance to live in a whole new part of the world. With the group, she backpacked and went sea kayaking, rafting, and canoeing. Instead of the warm soft bed she is used to, Bergman slept in an ice bed she dug out herself. Even though she was halfway around the world, Bergman could relate to the on-and-off cold and warm weather, thanks to growing up in Syracuse. During her time in Alaska the temperatures ranged from 10 degrees to 90 degrees fahrenheit. Even though Bergman claims she was “freezing” at points, she was still able to get a sunburn due to how strong the sun was. 

What Bergman learned on this trip was how to be independent. During the last week she was with only other students without any counselors. Bergman and her group were living in a whole new terrain surviving only with each other. This part of the trip was the Independent Solar Group Expedition. Through the whole trip, and that experience in particular, she learned how to act more mature, without any guidance or people telling her what to do. After the trip was over, she realized that she was more independent, which is what the NOLS wants to get across to their students. The NOLS main goal is to teach their students to be independent. 

The NOLS program has other goals as well: to educate students about the wilderness and teach what cannot be learned in the classroom, according to their web site. Through these expeditions the students learn outdoor ethics, like survival skills, which include building fires, making beds out of different materials, and how to help yourself when you’re hurt. The other main idea in the curriculum of NOLS besides being independent was to learn leadership and to learn how to be a leader, says Bergman. Bergman said the counselors did a great job teaching them leadership. “I would love to be a leader on a NOLS trip,” Bergman said.

Bergman’s experience was unique and impressive, and not something many could do, as Bergman’s close friend, senior Abbey Yonta, said; “it was amazing that she went on it. I could not go on the trip. I want nothing to do were there are insects.” Bergman’s other friends agree that it was an amazing experience, although not all could agree that they would be up for the adventure.

It seems that NOLS’s main goals have gotten across to Bergman. She says she will use them in the future as she wants to become a novelist.

Here's Dori's video that was filmed during her experience in Alaska