by Ryan Stewart
On a surprisingly scorching mid-fall day, a dozen Winston students stand atop the sandstone fins of Seneca Rocks contemplating how the sharp fin could have been formed in the midst of rolling hills. An instructor is gesturing outward and explaining the concept of subversion. These students have hiked through the 90-degree weather to reach the summit. After their impromptu geology lesson the students circle together atop an observation deck to describe recent “summits,” or accomplishments, in their lives. “I think this trip is really the biggest accomplishment I’ve had this year,” says one student, “we’re doing so much.”
This week Experience Learning is out in the field with Winston Preparatory School’s senior class. Winston is a school located in Manhattan that specializes in working with students with learning differences ranging from ADHD to Aspergers. This week, Winston students are on a tour of some of West Virginia’s most scenic and adventurous locations. In small groups, they are caving through The Sinks of Gandy, Climbing NROCK’s Via Ferrata, and swimming in the shadows of Seneca Rocks. The purpose of the trip is to give students an opportunity to challenge themselves and celebrate their accomplishments as a supportive group.
I have worked with Winston for the past five years and I’m always amazed by the school’s culture. Not only do students have a wide range of individual needs, but they also come from a wide range of socio-economic and cultural backgrounds. What always shines forth on these wilderness trips is that despite their differences, Winston students display a lot of empathy and support for one-another. Although a week with Winston always involves a lot of hands-on management, instructors perennially come away claiming it as one of the most rewarding weeks of the fall season.