Mar. 26, 2017


Kalamazoo, MI


Est. 1877


LandSea 2016, It’s Time

Olivia Gaines as a first-time LandSea leader this past summer (Olivia Gaines / The Index)

It’s only fair to put you on notice. This Friday, Jan. 15, closes the 2016 opportunity to possibly adopt the LandSea leader identity. There’s an unmistakable grit and quirky aliveness at the core of those who decide to go into the wild and return to the zoo. One comes back remembering to look at the moon, and gains lifetime access into a network of intimate connections.

Come August, K College Outdoor Programs will cycle its 41st year of incoming freshman, returning students, and established alumni through landscapes which entertain peace, sweat, spice kits, and mosquito bites. It’s an intense challenge armed with social perks and skills to battle living without the comforts of Netflix, modern plumbing, and air-controlled spaces. As a leader, you also learn how to save someone’s life in a variety of ways, including your own, as a result of earning a Wilderness Advanced First Aid certification (WAFA).

All that is required is the decision to reach outside of- “I could never do that” to emerge and say, “I’m surprised it took me this long to do something like this.”

Both years I participated I questioned my ability to complete the experience based on perceived limits including- my beliefs surrounding outdoor culture, my workout habits, and my willingness to invest more money on top of a thriftless bookstore and tuition bill. Looking back, the LandSea Leader program has paid me back faster with more tangible skills, vision for my future, and character growth than my entire first year of college, excluding my participation in the inaugural TEDxKcollege conference.
My enrollment as a K student paid my entrance fees, friends and the gear room covered my material expenses for items I didn’t have, the program gave me a specific time-frame to exercise, which shaped my body in time for DOGL, and I have a rooted determination and leadership practice that bleeds into all spheres of my own human endeavor. That’s power.

And there’s more.

I went from being a first-year participant completing a 50-mile loop into a first-time LS leader co-responsible for bringing eight new Hornets home in the span of two summers. Each day was like a road-trip on feet and at times a canoe until our community forged an adept culture sharing the roles of teacher, therapist, mother, brother, etc.. Classmates transcended the first impression and transformed into family. Nature tested us all through thunderstorms, summits, navigation without google maps, and food drizzled with trail-spice. Together, we climbed through realms of human performance beyond academics and internships, and returned perfumed in dirt and confidence after creating an 18-day artwork of survival in the Adirondack Peaks. It’s still a core memory and conversation topic I find myself returning to again and again, especially now with the view from my hospital bed.

Today, I’m battling AML- a form of leukemia. I presented with neck pain during the final days of the trip. At that point, I would’ve had two months to live. Using my body to climb mountains and canoe through rivers pushed the symptoms forward so I could begin treatment. I am so grateful LandSea exists, simply if only to walk away for a time from a culture of getting things done on paper in ten weeks to a community prayer of physical and emotional endurance. For me, LandSea and its leaders return to a full purpose of an education and is an answer to getting the most out of your college experience, more importantly-your life. I hope you apply.

1 Comment on LandSea 2016, It’s Time

  1. Beautifully written! Be strong, be positive, fight the good fight. I am pulling for you each and every day. I’m putting this picture up in my kitchen to keep you close in our thoughts. We met briefly at K’s convocation in 2014. Keep writing, share your talent with the world!

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