NOLS Alumni Magazine - The Leader Spring 2020

Page 24

EXPOSE

Wilderness Works: Expanding Access to the Outdoors By Brooke Ortel Writer

Left: Students splash off dirt in a mountain creek on day 12 of their course. Courtesy of Victor High Right: Wilderness Works and NOLS student Victor High pauses at a sign indicating the trail to Victor Lake. Courtesy of Victor High

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or Brandon Quintero, the most challenging day of his NOLS course was also his favorite. On his first day as designated leader, Brandon led his coursemates across a high mountain pass in Wyoming’s Wind River Range. “There was no trail—just all mountain and huge snowy peaks. You couldn’t even call it hiking,” he remembered. “But it was magical.” Brandon came to NOLS through Wilderness Works, an Atlanta-based nonprofit that works with underserved students ages 6–18 through a progression of weekend outings, summer camps, and outdoor trips. The organization’s mission is to “provide homeless, at-risk, and very vulnerable children with year-round enrichment, experiential education, and character development.” Founder Bill Mickler first worked with underserved youth during his college years and knew he’d found his passion. In 1997, he left the corporate world and created Wilderness Works. He hasn’t looked back. “My fear is that extraordinary young people will miss out due to disadvantage,” Bill explained. “These young people come from really