Outward and Upward!

My name is Raylene Lotz. I have been involved in outdoor activities from an early age starting with an involvement  in Outward Bound.  That marked the beginning of my interest in outdoor programs. After that, I moved to Massachusetts where there’s a non-profit organization called the Deaf Youth Outdoor Leadership, or DYOL.  They provide trainings for groups in backpacking and canoeing, winter outdoor programs.  Those are the kinds of programs I really enjoy. I appreciate being out in nature, and getting outside.  And, as a woman, I can share this with groups of people who need someone to lead them. I feel I can bring this kind of energy to others.

More recently, I decided to join the Outdoor Leadership Program, the OLP at Greenfield Community College. I’m going to spend a year in this program, starting this fall. My vision is to become certified as an instructor in backpacking, rockclimbing, canoeing and winter snowshoeing among other sports. I’ll be spending a year doing intensive training.  Which means from there, I should be able to bring these experiences to diverse groups of people. I have noticed an absence of leaders who are women and who are Deaf. I look forward to that kind of intensive outdoor experience, to gaining more information and to developing a network.

While I am spending a year in training, I will take part in several long trips. They will have us run groups over the course of the year. I am looking forward to working with other great people, in particular great women.

Just as an example, working with young people with DYOL, I’ve noticed that some kids who are from the inner city or young girls are experiencing an awkward  time in their lives.  Perhaps they are struggling at school or socially.  The deaf population is so small and often there are communication issues with parents or people in general.  Once these kids are introduced to the outdoors, they come to realize that Deaf or hearing, we are all the same and there are no differences in terms of intellect or ability.  It comes down to physically being able to work things out, the potential to lead or communicate even if that means communicating gesturally with hearing people.  The things that are communicated out there aren’t overly complicated.  So these kids find themselves motivated and discovering their true potential. This builds self-esteem.  I’ve seen it happen. That’s how it should be.  It’s my hope that many kids can have this kind of positive experience  so that when they return to school and real life out there in the community, they will feel that they have something to contribute. If they are feeling deficient in certain skills, they can come to realize that they have other skills that others don’t have.  We each have different things to offer. That’s one of the nice things I’ve seen in outdoor programs: the ability to take on a new perspective.

Young girls who are slight or petite can come to realize that they have strengths or a level of tolerance that bigger kids don’t necessarily possess. A small girl might keep her cool in a situation where a boy who is physically strong loses it. These girls come to learn that they are stronger in certain ways,  maybe not physically, but perhaps emotionally or mentally stronger. They start to see themselves as equals and realize that others depend on them for their strength. So boys and girls are seen as equals and rely on each other for different things. Each child has their own skills that can be put to use.

As a woman, I have noticed that physically and mentally and in terms of my own self-esteem, I feel strong and motivated.  I have seen changes in myself.  When I was young, as a kid I had some limited understanding of the outdoors and of nature. It wasn’t until I immersed myself in this world that it really hit me. I’ve been able to examine myself more fully to understand what it is I want out of life and what kind of potential I have, what kinds of skills I have. I’ve discovered a number of things that have really had an impact on me.  That’s why I’ve decided to go ahead and pursue this field.  In this way, I can show other people what it feels like, what it’s all about.  It’s not just about the outdoors, but as a person you can discover so much about yourself while you are in the outdoors.

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