On Wilderness Orientation, you never know what you might encounter and what you probably will need to get yourself through. A mountain of sand and gravel awaited our group as we entered the Willey Station Road parking lot off of Route 302, which was under repair. We retrieved all of our gear from the bus that then had to back down the trailhead road. Stuffed to the gills, we put on our heavy packs, adjusting straps and awaiting our turn in line to make the heavy climb up the trail on a very busy Labor Day Weekend.
From the earliest moments of parenthood, we learn that life will be filled with contradictions of independence. We simultaneously want them to stay little forever, and we want to never change another diaper. We want to protect our children, and want them to see the world. Competing emotions weave themselves together into an irreplicable sort of love that helps us find a place like Proctor where our children will spread their wings and find themselves, even though we know saying goodbye is so, so hard.
As I write this blog entry, our students and faculty are entering their final days before school begins, thinking about the year to come and the possibilities of our future together at Proctor. Many of us, including myself, are preparing to head back to school by going on Wilderness Orientation with those brand new to the school.
In just over a month, Proctor’s 120 new students will head into the wilderness of the New Hampshire’s White Mountains for five days of backpacking, camping, and exploring. The experience that awaits them - the vastness of the wilderness, the challenges of hiking high peaks, and the relationships forged with classmates and faculty leaders - will lay the foundation for their Proctor journey.
Our motto, more than 80s years old, combines two simple sentences that define all that we do as a school: Live to Learn. Learn to Live. The first phrase is a mindset we try to instill in each of our students. The second is a call to action for us as educators in our work preparing experiences for our students.
On Saturday, September 11, Hunter Churchill and I gathered our seven Proctor students and their student leader, River De Vink, to hike on Day #4 of Wilderness Orientation. We had decided that morning that we would head up Mount Willey, a formidable 4,285 foot peak in the heart of New Hampshire’s White Mountains.
Each Registration Day, you can feel the rollercoaster of emotion as families arrive on campus and their Proctor experience begins in earnest. The theoretical idea of having a child attend boarding school becomes reality, and while much of everyone’s energy centers around excitement for what lies ahead, we acknowledge there is just enough anxiety and sense of loss to make the emotions of the day challenging.
For the past 51 years, the first week of September at Proctor Academy has been synonymous with Wilderness Orientation. While last year’s Orientation program had to be altered due to COVID-19, Proctor’s 118 new students are set to head into the wilderness of the White Mountains for five days once again. The experience that awaits them - the vastness of the wilderness, the challenges of hiking high peaks, and the relationships forged with classmates and faculty leaders - will lay the foundation for their Proctor journey