PLC Wilderness Experience: A Student’s Reflection

By Breanna Williams

Growing up in the suburbs of Denver and participating in business-like extracurricular activities, such as dressing up in blazers and heels for Future Business Leaders of America (FBLA) and DECA, I never had much experience in the wilderness. Shortly after finding out that I was selected for the University of Colorado at Boulder's Presidents Leadership Class, I received an email regarding the first wilderness leadership program hosted by PLC. I immediately knew that I wanted to take part in this ten-day backpacking trip; however, I did not know what I was getting myself into.

Initially, the first week of the leadership program was in the classroom. Four freshmen, three sophomores and I learned leadership styles and were constantly tested throughout the duration of five days on how to apply these methods to certain situations. After learning that I am a social leader, I focused on how I should apply my leadership style to particular circumstances and practiced how to take on more of a coaching role in conditions that called for it. This week prepared me for the backcountry and gave everyone in the group a strong ability to interact with their fellow PLCers. But the real challenge was yet to come, and I still was uncertain of what it would be like on the actual backpacking trip.

On the ten-day expedition in the Rawah Wilderness Area, my peers and I were able to practice our leadership capabilities in unpredictable situations. From taking on a difficult scenario each day to leading the group to the next stopping point on the trail, the skills we learned in class—such as water purification and cooking—were put to the test depending on what circumstances were thrown at us. During my leadership day, for instance, there was a major downpour. As a result, my team and I overcame the weather by cooking and setting up bear hangs during the few times when it stopped raining. By facing these unpredictable events, we were able to learn and grow from each mistake.

On day ten, I walked away from the course with the opportunity of a lifetime. Although I faced many emotional struggles since I was unable contact my family, I gained the confidence to undergo certain situations that I wouldn't necessarily have experience in handling on my own without the input of family members and close friends. Thus, this challenging course provided me with constant feedback and tested me with my problem-solving skills. Not only did I acquire new ways for working in groups, but also I was able to branch out of my comfort zone and evaluate myself in the backcountry—an environment that is the polar opposite to a fast-paced city that I have been accustomed to throughout my entire life.