Last Wednesday, 62 trips left the Outdoor Education and Slocum parking lots in cars, vans, and busses to the greater southwest to begin the 2017-18 school year. With her leader hat and bright pink NSO Intern t-shirt, Sarah Laico and her group of incoming students boarded a bus to Mt. Yale. NSO, however, did not just begin that week for Laico, but rather in early June, as she, Hoang Pham, Connor Nolan, and Olivia Steiner planned the orientation experiences for over 500 new and transfer students that would begin their college careers. An avid enthusiast of the outdoors, music, and the CC community, Laico was a part of the class of 2021’s introduction to college, whether it be a trip she planned or a first-aid kit she packed.
The Catalyst: Convince me why I should be an NSO leader.
Sarah Laico: You should be an NSO leader because it takes an enormous amount of courage and strength as an incoming student to enter this situation that makes you so vulnerable, and — as a leader — you can be that person to ease their anxieties. You are a wealth of knowledge, whether you know it or not, about CC, whether you are involved with a bunch of stuff or not. Ultimately, my hope and dream for all Priddy trips is that you come back having formed meaningful relationships with people, having had important conversations with people, and having learned not just about yourself, but about how you work with others.
Ultimately, I would say if as a leader I make everybody on my trip feel a little less anxious about just one tiny thing, I feel like I may have helped them integrate themselves into college. I’ve made a mark. I’ve done something that will make them feel like they can enter school with less fear, and that’s huge.
TC: Out of any outdoor position you could have applied for or taken this summer, why did you choose to be an nso intern?
SL: Well, I heard about it a year ago and it just sounded perfect for the way my brain operates. I love making lists of things and crossing things off, and I like being given tasks and just getting them done. And a lot of this summer was David Crye [Assistant Director of Outdoor Education] walking into the board room and writing a bunch of tasks and being like “just go get this done.” And between the four of us, we had to determine who was doing what and what needed to have multiple people on it/what just needed individuals. And I enjoyed having two aspects as well, being that there was a lot of computer stuff: there was a lot of me emailing people and harassing people and slowly narrowing down lists of people who hadn’t registered, who hadn’t updated their medical certifications, and things like that.
Then the other half was like working hands-on with gear, a lot of which I had not done before. Even though I’d be sweating out here on Yampa battling tent zippers and stuff, it was really rewarding to be able to like get outside and do something physical and know I was still helping the process, even though at times it seemed mundane labeling soap bottles and stuff like that.
TC: What’s one responsibility people usually don’t expect nso interns to have over the summer?
SL: I think people don’t realize how thoughtful the trip placements are, like when we were getting so many emails, like “I was placed on a front country trip when really I wanted a back country trip” and this and that, but there are so many factors that are involved in placing people. It’s not as simple as giving people their preference. We needed to make sure that the group was diverse as a whole in terms of gender, where in the U.S. or outside of the U.S. they were from, what their preferences were: considering some background but also giving people the opportunity to go on a trip they may have never experienced before, and also just like certain decisions we have to make based on people’s allergies or people’s injuries they may have gotten over the summer and stuff.
So it’s not just a flippant thing we do. We’re not just trying to disregard what you’re trying to do on your trip, but ultimately we’re doing our best to satisfy a bunch of criteria.
TC: What was your proudest moment of the summer?
SL: The proudest moment was probably just coming back from the trip knowing it was all over and just seeing everybody setting up their stuff on Yampa and just thinking “I have made it. I have planned all these tiny little details that sometimes seemed insignificant, but all kind of came together.”
Yes, I’m sure there were bumps in the road, but ultimately everybody is now coming back from a very unique experience that I helped facilitate, especially the trips I planned. Like, I planned these trips for these people, and whether they had a good time or not, I left some sort of mark on them and their introduction to this school. I just feel, more than ever, that I made some mark on CC or contributed to this community.
TC: At the end of the summer, which trip did you lead? If you could choose any other trip and your coleader, what/who would they be?
SL: So I lead Mt. Yale with Joe Vuchetich, and it was incredible. We had such a good time doing trail work with the Colorado Fourteeners Initiative. Everyone in the group loved doing the trail work, including us, and people were just so active and engaged, and we did a sunrise summit of Yale. I had never done that before, so it was just incredible. We were practically all crying at that point – we hit the summit just in time. It was too perfect.
I would honestly say that from the beginning of the summer, I wanted to lead a CFI trip. That’s why I planned all of them. There were eight this year, which is like a record, I think. But I would also love to do any sort of car camping trip in New Mexico. I did a Breakout trip with Mary Murphy to Santa Fe Habitat for Humanity this 7th Block Break, and that was so fun. I love Santa Fe, I loved working with Habitat, so I guess if we didn’t need so many Level 2 leaders on the back country trips – we really were spread thin with Level 2 and Level 3 leaders, so I really had no choice but to lead a back country trip – I would have probably done that trip, or maybe the Raptor Center, or maybe one of the wolf sanctuaries because animals are cool.
I’d lead with so many different people… it’s really hard to say. I’ve yet to lead a trip with my roommate, Eva Bombeck, but I’d really like to lead with her sometime. I don’t know how we’d work as leaders, actually, but I’d like to lead one with her just to see how it would play out.
TC: Name one piece of outdoor equipment you never want to see again after this summer.
SL: Probably the tents. The tents were just the worst. Just so many repairs and just me digging in the back closets to find the proper poles. Like each tent would take me a minimum of a half hour – if not up to an hour – and by the time we got through with them all, it still meant that we needed to repair them, and I think I was basically the only one who was repairing them, so that kind of sucked. I really worried that maybe I didn’t successfully bring them back into commission and they fell apart on people’s trips, but at this point I don’t know, so sorry to those people.
TC: What has been the general feed back on NSO since all trips have returned to campus?
SL: It sounds like things went overall smoothly. I have not been approached with any big complaints, which is nice because that’s what I was expecting. From the debrief meeting, it seemed like there was a record low of evacuations, fewer phone calls than usual, maybe a lot of issues in transportation in terms of dinging vehicles – I was in a bus so I didn’t experience that – but overall, the people I have talked to came back from their trip really enjoying it and really happy with their trippees and said they had a good group. That’s the hardest part. We don’t know the incoming students personally, so we don’t know if it will result in some very strange group dynamics, but I have yet to hear of a trip where a group just did not click at all, and that it was an unfortunately bad or awkward experience.
TC: With this experience under your belt in coordinating such a large number of trips, what is next for you in terms of outdoor education both this year an in the broader future?
SL: I will always be involved in outdoor ed; I am already a climbing gym monitor. I could see myself in an outdoor education position in a college, maybe even doing what Andrew Allison-Godfrey is doing and continuing to work here or somewhere else. I really don’t have a clear direction out of college. I’m a psych major, but I don’t really envision myself as a psychologist. I am a music minor and a Spanish minor, and I would very much likely to incorporate those. I actually could see myself in the music industry and being a booking agent for a kick-ass alternative band. But I also know that if those random ideas or thoughts I have related to those minors and my major don’t materialize, I will always have a place in outdoor education out of college, and that is really reassuring to me.
TC: What is the number one skillset you developed over the course of the summer?
SL: Definitely it’s my communication skills, particularly on the phone. Before this job, I had severe phone-phobia. I just hate talking on the phone with people. I have always felt like people are really aggressive with me over the phone. I don’t know why. Maybe I just take things too much to heart. But having to call sites because people weren’t emailing me back – just harassing people in various ways, not in a mean way, just in an “I need information” way – made me get over that, and now I realize that phone calls are great and that you can actually discuss a lot of things in a phone call, rather than over text or email. Very happy I’ve gotten over that.