Fueled by the Outdoors
“I’ve always been pretty driven in things I’ve wanted to do; a lot of that has come from experiences in the outdoors,” says senior James Robertson.
Attending an outdoor youth camp in his younger years, James originally he thought it was the rush of white water paddling that kept him coming back each year. But eventually, he realized it was the enjoyment he received from learning how to live off of the land.
“Collect your own food from wild edibles, being able to carve a bowl or a spoon, weave a pack-basket… it’s those type of skills that provided a direction for me. I realized I wanted to teach those skills to the youth.” This made James a perfect candidate for the newfound youth development and camp management major at GMC. After all, he had solid credentials.
“For the second half of my senior year, I spent six months living in the woods of Vermont. The first month we lived in wall tents, learning how to cross country ski, butcher deer, make knives, and sew a wall-tent,” he says.
“We spent the next two months skiing the length of Vermont North on the Catamount Trail—starting from Southern Vermont going all the way up to the Canadian border,” says James. “We spent the final month in East Charlestown, Vermont canoeing our way around Vermont—up the Clyde River, down the Nulhegan River, all the way down the Connecticut River; then we pulled back up the West River to where we started.”
For James, enjoying the outdoors was less of a physical test and more of a test of his enthusiasm. “I’ve never thought of myself as athletic, but I love being pushed,” he says.
James says that learning in the field provides a certain value that learning in a classroom can’t provide. “I was never a good student… being out in the woods gave me the confidence to take on things like going to college,” he says. “It’s really centered me.”
After receiving his diploma Saturday as one of GMC’s first two YDCM graduates, James will be returning to the therapeutic weight-loss camp he has worked at over the past few years. The camp is just outside of Asheville, North Carolina—his hometown. “I’ll be planning trips and activities this time—a lot of behind the scenes stuff,” he says.
The rush of outdoor activity—along with his commitment to service—has shaped James into a proactive individual. “Before coming here, I attended Antioch College in Ohio, which was a very radical college as far as activism and involvement go,” says James. Pulling from these experiences, Robertson’s Delicate Balance project—entitled “Debunking Junk”—was a fashion show in which the clothes were made entirely from found-free and recycled materials. The show addressed pressing environmental and social issues.
Wielding an unwavering sense of “can-do,” James paints a solid picture of what GMC graduates offer—a unique perspective and skill set that contributes to the betterment of the environment and the people within it.
By Chad Skiles '12