As a child, Tyler Pastorok ’19 discovered a passion for outdoor recreation with his dad but did not, at the time, envision it would lead to a rewarding career.
He transferred to Green Mountain College for Adventure Education after one year at the University of Pittsburgh studying Mechanical Engineering for one semester, and film for the other. He naturally excelled at math and science in high school, and felt that careers in engineering paid well so it seemed like a good field to go into. The rigorous nature of the program pushed him to question why he was doing it in the first place. After a bit of soul searching, he began to think about career paths that would align more with what he enjoyed doing. After searching a bit for college outdoor education programs, GMC’s Adventure Ed block was by far the most attractive on the east coast.
All students enrolled in the Adventure Ed program are required to complete an internship, so Tyler chose to work with GreenMAP this past summer for his internship. ” I chose this path because I felt like I could make the greatest impact with a program that I already knew very well,” noted Tyler. He dove into the experience with a clear list of goals–most of which he was able to achieve. Working with the staff of GreenMAP, Tyler helped to run a day camp for local kids and planned the Wilderness Orientation for incoming students, restructuring the program itself, and re-envisioning its mission. “It has been nice to continue working with GreenMAP throughout this semester as a trip leader, and see how projects I completed worked well or didn’t,” said Tyler.
Ethics and morals play a huge role in how I perceive myself and the world, and so sustainability is something I think about constantly. I think to many people, practicing sustainability seems like a self sacrifice. However, I think many who try it will agree that it ends up being regenerative. When you practice sustainability you end up restructuring your life in a way that is healthier for your mind, body, and relationships. It’s not about being perfect, it’s about acknowledging the facts and doing your best to act on them most of the time. If you can be honest with yourself and acknowledge when you make an unethical choice instead of trying to justify it, that is a huge step towards making better choices in the future.”
Tyler is co-director of the Student Campus Greening Fund, which is advised by Director of Sustainability Ryan Ihrke. This committee manages a student fund that exists for students to use to increase the social and environmental sustainability on campus. Some past projects the group has funded include permaculture gardens, additions to GMC’s bike share, social sustainability art shows, and much more.
In addition to his work with the Greening Fund, Tyler serves as GreenMAP Trip Leader, GMC Bike and Ski Co-Op President, Adventure Recreation Floor President, and Green Mountain College Outdoor Recreation Association committee member.
When asked what makes GMC the #1 Sierra Magazine Cool, Tyler shared, “Many of the administrators value active, engaged community members, so GMC is full of opportunities. If you have an idea for how to make improvements physically or socially, there is usually a way you can make it happen. The students play a big role in what goes on on the ground.”
Sandra Parra ’19 is a first-generation college student from Tucson who had never visited Vermont until she landed at Burlington airport a few days before classes began at Green Mountain College last fall. Now in her second year at GMC, she’s using the lessons she’s learned in adjusting to college life to help others make the transition.
“I was in the Upward Bound program in Arizona, which helps high school students prepare for college—everything from financial planning to filling out applications,” she said.
Initially, Sandra planned on attending the University of Arizona in Tucson, but one of her friends and fellow volleyball player who had committed to GMC, and urged her to come with her to Poultney. Sandra’s Upward Bound counselors were supportive. “They encouraged me to take a risk and get out of my comfort zone, so to speak.”
She’s happy she made the decision—she says GMC is like a second home to her now.
Last summer she returned to her Upward Bound program in Tucson, tutoring students in math and organic chemistry and counseling them about their own college aspirations.
Now she’s picking up some valuable research experience this fall with three professors (Jennifer Sellers (psychology), Heather Keith (philosophy), and Drew Bentley (adventure education)). Their project involves administering a series of surveys of first year students about programs designed to aid students in the transition to college life.
“For example, students in our first-year seminars participate in a half-day experience at our challenge course aimed at helping them to set and achieve personal and community goals with their classmates as they progress through their first semester. Our study is designed to help us gauge the effectiveness of this and other programming.”
One of the first lessons Sandra imparts to new students is the importance of getting involved. She plays as a setter on the College’s volleyball team and plans on participating in the InterCultural (ICC) club and UNICEF this year. She has big ambitions for a career in medical research, studying the biological basis of mental disorders.
“Jen Sellers helped me apply for an NIH (National Institute of Health) scholarship last year and I was a finalist,” she said.
Not one to give up easily Sandra is planning on applying again this year.
“Hopefully the research experience I get will make a difference this time.”
Mark first discovered Green Mountain College through The Outdoor Leadership Program at Greenfield Community College in Greenfield, Mass. “You could compare it to a NOLS (National Outdoor Leadership School) course, so it’s a condensed version of that, but more certification driven.”
The program lacked the classroom-based theory he was looking for, so his teachers encouraged him to finish his associate’s degree and continue his education by earning a bachelor’s degree at GMC.
An adventure education major who finished his graduation requirements in the fall of 2015, Mark has taken his expertise and turned it into an entrepreneurial venture with an old friend from Spain. Mark spent the last two summers in Norway, providing kayaking tours to tourists.
“I originally went out there and applied to a kayaking business out there. I was told all the spots were filled, but they offered an internship program and I thought I could learn a lot through it.”
Mark’s business began with another intern named Rubio from Spain.
“We had talked to a local landowner who had a couple of kayaks and he was renting them to his guests at a campground.” Mark eventually “inherited” the kayaking business—he and Rubio partnered with the landowner to form Global Outdoor Adventure Services partnering with Active Geiranger in Geirangerfjord, Norway.
Mark loved the adventure education curriculum courses here at GMC; he participated in the fall block course in the fall semester. At GMC he connected with a close group of friends in the adventure education program who liked to go kayaking on the weekends. He’s attended kayaking festivals in Vermont and Deerfield, Mass.
After graduation, Mark has plans to return to Norway and run the kayaking business, and potentially launch a new venture. His long-term interest is spreading his business to different locations so he can “hop” seasonally to get into a warmer climate.
“It’s a business model in commercial tourism, especially in sea-kayaking, that I truly believe can be applied anywhere.”
When asked about the sophomore block for the adventure education program, the first words that come to Nick’s mind are “wicked awesome.”
For Nick, the second semester of freshman year held plenty of adventure, most of which involved white water kayaking. Nick was running class three and four rapids on the Poultney River. The experience helped him gain a certification with the American Canoe Association.
Nick first heard about Green Mountain College in his hometown of Hampstead, N.H. After participating in Green MAP’s Wilderness Challenge (GMC’s popular orientation program), Nick sought more in-depth involvement through training as a Green Mountain Adventure Programming leader. The Green MAP program at GMC offers students of all majors opportunities to participate in outdoor adventure activities such as hiking, skiing, and rock climbing. Since his start with Green MAP Nick has developed better teaching skills that have manifested into exciting opportunities. It also helped land him a teaching assistant gig in an outdoor living skills class.
When asked about the sophomore block for the adventure education program, the first words that come to Nick’s mind are “wicked awesome.” The sophomore block is requirement for Adventure Education students that takes place during the fall semester. Throughout the experience, students are continuously exposed to new environments and activities, ranging from rock climbing to white-water paddling. “I learned so much, it took a while to absorb it all,” he said.
But in the midst of extreme adventure and activity, Nick’s favorite part of the trip was the backpacking section; an eight-day-long backpacking adventure where students demonstrate their skills on how to safely camp, cook, and navigate the wilderness.