On August 18th, I drove into the Northwoods of Land O’Lakes, WI, my car packed with everything I would need for the next four months of my life. I was giddy with excitement at the new chapter that was about to unfold, for I was starting my first semester of junior year at Conserve School. Conserve is an environmentally-focused semester school nestled alongside the Sylvania Wilderness. It holds 1,200 acres of land bursting with abundant opportunities for adventure and learning. I had visited the campus once before but really didn’t know what I was getting myself into. It turned out that I had gotten myself into the greatest experience of my adolescent life.
Each day was loaded full of classes. Every class revolved around being outside in nature. In the afternoons, we’d spend our free time outside, seeing how many people we could pile in one hammock. Dancing in and out of the tall pines. Rolling down the hills. Hiking for so long that we’d have to run back to not be late for dinner. Weekends consisted of much of the same; that is, when we weren’t camping, hiking, and volunteering on the trips provided.
Some of my favorite memories came from a 50-mile hike through Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore with seven of my peers. The first day out on trail, a storm rolled in and we had to quickly work as a team to construct a lean-to out of a tarp and rope. We huddled under it, playing games and taking cat naps until the thunder and lightning died down. Another night, we were out on the beach wading in the water. It had been a long day, and I could see a storm rolling in. Suddenly, I noticed everyone’s hair was standing straight on end (static electricity), so we hoofed it back to the campsite. We miraculously made it back before the storm hit and once more found ourselves crammed together under a tarp. Yet again, we were telling stories, laughing our heads off, singing, and sucking on dehydrated spaghetti sauce (it tastes a lot better than it sounds). While we began as seven individuals, at the end of the week, we came out of the woods one close knit group, each of us with our own trail name, and one crazy shared call and response (which probably spooked other hikers along the way).
I learned so much from my single semester at Conserve School, and would recommend it to absolutely anyone. I learned how truly amazing this earth we live on is, and because of this, how the planet must be protected. I began planning the the many things I can do myself to accomplish such protection. I gained not only “book” knowledge, but a deep understanding of who I am at heart and who I want to become. Because of these many things, I can safely say that I have grown as a person. I can accomplish anything I set my heart to with the experiences, friends, and knowledge I have from Conserve backing me up.