Lander, WY — December 10, 2019 — In 2019, the NOLS (National Outdoor Leadership School) awarded more than $1.9 million in need-based scholarships to over 900 students participating in wilderness expeditions and wilderness medicine courses. Each year, the school’s scholarship program makes it possible for hundreds of under-resourced students to access NOLS’ time-tested outdoor leadership curriculum.
Leading wilderness education nonprofit expands access to the outdoors through robust scholarship program. Photo by Oscar Manguy/NOLS.
“Never, and I mean never, in my wildest dreams would I have thought that I’d go to Africa,” recalls scholarship recipient Zavier Borja after returning from a two-week backpacking trip in Tanzania. “To think that this small-town kid from Madras, Oregon, and first-generation American being able to fulfill a childhood fantasy was an absolute joy and a memory I will cherish until the day that I die.”
Whether they donate to the NOLS Fund or Endowment, many donors choose to earmark their gifts for the scholarship program. In addition to their generous contributions, NOLS designates an additional fixed percentage of its annual tuition revenue to scholarships.
NOLS offers financial aid for wilderness expeditions ranging from weeklong excursions to semester and year expeditions. In 2019, the school awarded more than $400,000 in semester scholarships and nearly $125,000 in non-semester expeditions.
Additional scholarship funds supported wilderness medicine courses, risk management trainings, local educator courses in NOLS program areas, and more. The NOLS Wilderness Medicine program offered nearly $90,000 in financial aid, including Moving Hands Scholarships for students who are fluent in American Sign Language or Signed Exact English.
“Since returning from my course, I am a happier, more confident person who can say that I know my voice deserves to be heard,” says Amaryllis Chantry, a scholarship recipient who participated in a month-long backpacking expedition in Wyoming’s Wind River Range. “I have something to contribute to society as a female, a protector of the environment, a student, and a minority Native American.”
In addition to general need-based aid, NOLS offers full-tuition scholarships to youth from economically disadvantaged communities through its Gateway Partner Program. Launched in 2007, the program is funded entirely by individual donors. Many scholarship recipients experience barriers to any form of outdoor recreation, let alone a NOLS expedition.
In 2019, NOLS partnered with 38 organizations through the Gateway program, including CityKids, Summer Search, NatureBridge, and Student Conservation Association (SCA). This summer, the school devoted more than $465,000 to supporting 98 Gateway Scholars on wilderness expeditions across the U.S.
NOLS has a longstanding commitment to financial accessibility—starting with founder Paul Petzoldt’s informal “Pay Back When Able” system. Annual donor Dave Theil, Chair of the Department of Anesthesia at Denver’s Rose Medical Center, recalls that when he took his first course in 1979, Petzoldt unhesitatingly offered to loan him money for tuition.
Theil was struck by Petzoldt’s offer, and it’s one of the reasons he started giving in 1992: “That course changed my whole attitude...I want to help make it possible for young people who would love to do it but don’t otherwise have the means.”
Interim Director of Development Judd Rogers notes, “Thirty years ago I received a scholarship to take my first NOLS course, and it changed my life. Throughout my career with the school, I've been so inspired by the support of donors who made my opportunity available, and those who continue to do so for new students every year. NOLS awarded just under $100,000 in scholarships in 1989 when I took that first course. This year we awarded almost $2 million!"
Visit www.nols.edu to learn more about NOLS’ course offerings and financial aid, or donate to help future students make their NOLS dream a reality.
Established in 1965, NOLS is the leader in wilderness education. What began in a small cabin in Wyoming’s Wind River mountain range has evolved into a global, multifaceted nonprofit school offering a proven leadership curriculum through expedition courses, wilderness medicine certifications, risk management training, and custom education solutions for organizations. Today, NOLS operates 16 campuses worldwide and provides classroom instruction in over 40 countries. The NOLS community includes over 800 active instructors who teach a variety of outdoor skills from mountaineering and sailing to wilderness medicine that empower students to step forward in their lives. To learn more about NOLS or to apply for a course, visit www.nols.edu or call 800-710-6657 to speak to an advisor.