When Bennett Silverman graduates from Colorado College this May, he will be ending his four years of leadership with the school’s Outdoor Recreation Committee. Silverman has led dozens of ORC excursions since first becoming involved with the program, including backpacking, rock climbing, and whitewater trips. Additionally, he served as the committee’s co-chair during his junior year. He is currently wrapping up a year of serving on the ORC Council, which helps guide the ORC’s day-to-day operations. The Catalyst sat down with Silverman earlier this week to ask him how he looks back on his involvement with the organization over the past four years.
The Catalyst: As you reflect on your time with the ORC, does anything in particular characterize your experience?
Bennett Silverman: Most of all, it’s the friendships I’ve made with other leaders. I’ve met so many new people that way. I’ve always wanted to give back and see the continuation of the program, so over the years I’ve taught a lot of leader training courses. And from those in particular, I’ve become friends with an amazing community of backcountry leaders.
TC: What is a positive change that you’ve seen in the ORC since you first became involved?
BS: All of the younger leaders now are so excited to share their skills with others rather than just focus on what it is they want to do personally, particularly with the whitewater program. There is more of a culture of teaching new people and a greater focus on creating a legacy for the program, so boaters who began here at CC can go on to teach the next “generation” of students. In general, there are many more leaders and many more trips now than there were when I was a freshman. The types of trips we are leading also cater to a wider variety of ability levels, and financial aid for the program has increased.
TC: Is there anything about the ORC that you would like to see change in the coming years?
BS: I wish the school would recognize the merits of our leadership training program and understand how outdoor education could fit within the context of academics at CC. Students could stand to gain a lot if the school awarded them credit for reaching the highest level of outdoor leadership training. The training we do has the potential to benefit students’ careers after they leave CC, especially if it could be officially recognized by the school.
TC: Looking back, what are you proud of personally?
BS: I’m proud of having gone out to teach others much more than I’ve gone out as a participant on an outdoor trip. Specifically, I’m proud of the work I’ve done to teach the next, upcoming group of leaders.
TC: What’s your favorite outdoor memory from your time as a CC student?
BS: Waking up surrounded by friends on a Joshua Tree Spring Break climbing trip—and then being able to just walk across a parking lot to reach some of the best climbing in the world.
TC: What advice do you have for students interested in becoming trip leaders for the ORC?
BS: Get involved! If you can, make the time for the “Level 1” Ahlberg Leadership Institute course, and then be proactive in leading your own trips. You’ll realize how easy the opportunities come if you’re committed and intentional about it from the beginning.
TC: What experiences or lessons from your time with the ORC do you think will stay with you after you graduate?
BS: The biggest thing I’m going to take with me is being more prepared for tough situations in the backcountry. These could be medical situations that arise or even adverse weather conditions. Managing risk and dealing with emergencies is not something that comes automatically for everybody, and I know I’ll always have a lot to work on with this. But I’ve definitely improved, and every day I’m more conscious of how I can do better.
TC: What’s next for you?
BS: This summer I’m going to work for Outward Bound in Minnesota, between the Twin Cities and the Boundary Waters. I’ll be leading backpacking and canoe trips, and instructing groups of kids. Well, I’m either doing that or going home and getting shoulder surgery, I don’t know yet!
The dedication and passion Silverman has brought to the ORC has benefitted not only countless co-leaders and trip participants, but also the Outdoor Education professional staff. His presence be greatly missed next year, but he leaves a legacy for future equally dedicated leaders within the CC Outdoor Education community.