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This week’s installment of Moments That Matter comes from Anna Eley and Bill Fletcher, who as Schweitzer Fellows in New Hampshire-Vermont last year worked to expand Outdoor Odyssey, an outdoor recreation and wilderness education program for middle school students who have limited access to outdoor experiences. Launched by previous Schweitzer Fellows and carried out in partnership with Upper Valley Trails Alliance, Outdoor Odyssey aims to develop leadership and  promote active, healthy lifestyles.

The Dartmouth Medical School students say:

Photo of Outdoor Odyssey participants. Click through to visit Roots, Rocks, & Mud, the blog of Upper Valley Trails Association (where this photo first appeared).

While [the Outdoor Odyssey participants’] personalities were blooming daily, their excitement about the outdoors remained questionable at times, as many car ride conversations involved discussions about what video games they would spend the weekend playing.

Nevertheless, most of the kids eventually found a passion for the outdoors.  One of our favorite displays of this passion came when the early spring changed our cross-country ski trip into a hike and we found ourselves slipping and clawing our way up an ice-covered hill. Most of the group spent more time on their hands and knees than their feet, and frustration would have been understandable; we were expecting it.

But, at the top of the hill, one of the kids turned around grinning and stated, “I’m a really good woodsman; I’m pretty sure if you left me here, I could survive forever.”

The moment was hilarious because he was soaking wet and covered with mud, but his huge smile and hearty self-confidence revealed that somewhere along the way, Outdoor Odyssey had managed to achieve its goal.

About Moments That Matter

Each year, approximately 200 Schweitzer Fellows across the U.S. commit themselves to creating and carrying out an intense yearlong service project that addresses unmet health needs — all on top of their typical graduate school responsibilities.

It’s an awe-inspiring commitment — and one that may at times seem thankless.

But for each Schweitzer Fellow, there are those sustaining moments — the moments when things “click,” and you have instant, inspiring proof that your Schweitzer project is making a difference that’s rippling outward. These, like the Moment above, are the Moments That Matter — and here at Beyond Boulders we are spotlighting them every Tuesday.