Every student at WCC begins their college career in the same way: a 21-day wilderness expedition in the Rocky Mountains. This intense experience helps students grow in wonder as they study “God’s First Book,” grow in virtue as they push themselves out of their comfort zone, and grow as a community as they overcome challenges together.
This three-week stint in the wilderness gives students the satisfaction of climbing 11,000-ft. passes and summiting 13,000-ft. peaks, hiking about 100 miles, fly fishing some of the most beautiful lakes in the Rocky Mountains, and cooking their own meals. They are presented with the opportunity to learn many skills such as working as a team, treating all other members of the group with respect, performing their fair share of the work, tolerating adversity and uncertainty, and developing leadership. These skills are immediately transferable to “real life” and are a key element of the WCC curriculum. In addition to establishing the foundation of the leadership portion of the program, this expedition also serves as one of the most innovative college orientation programs in the country. Students learn more about themselves in three weeks than many students learn in four years of college. Perhaps even more tantalizing is the notion that this is only the beginning. Students will go into the wilderness at least two other weeks each year, in addition to other training.
For the course, students are divided into small, separate male and female groups and assigned instructor teams from WCC’s own Outdoor Leadership Program. A Catholic priest also accompanies each group to offer the sacraments.
Incoming students may wonder how to prepare for this program or if they have enough experience to accomplish it. No one needs to be a superstar athlete to succeed during this program. However, it is recommended that prior to the excursion students try to do one hour of cardiovascular exercise three times a week—hiking and biking are especially good choices. This will greatly help them prepare for and enjoy the wilderness expedition. Students do not need to worry about their level of outdoor experience.