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For Some First-Year Students, Appalachian Trail Leads to F&M

A few days before embarking on a four-year journey toward their Franklin & Marshall College degrees, several members of F&M’s Class of 2016 will take part in a shorter voyage designed to foster leadership in sustainability and environmental stewardship.

F&M students Nora Theodore ’13 and Andrew Foley ’13 are organizing a backpacking trip for incoming first-year students Aug. 20-23 on a section of the Appalachian Trail, the longest continuously marked footpath in the world. The program, titled First-Year Outdoor Orientation Trip (FOOT), will take 8-10 students on a 38-mile hike through rolling hills between Pine Grove State Forest in Pennsylvania and Pen Mar, Md. The students will return to the F&M campus in time to begin New Student Orientation with the rest of the Class of 2016.

  • Hike at Appalachian Trail
  • F&M student Nora Theodore ’13 (left) organized a backpacking trip for other F&M students in October 2011 on the Appalachian Trail. Joining Theodore, from left, are Isaac Clothier ’13, Callie Maron ’14, Samuel Alter ’15, Evan Anway ’13 and Bri Roche ’13. Theodore and Andrew Foley ’13 are organizing a similar backpacking trip Aug. 20-23 for incoming first-year students called the First-Year Outdoor Orientation Trip (FOOT). (Photo courtesy of Nora Theodore)

“Some of the best friendships you can make are formed on the trail, and that’s what we want to see these students cultivate,” said Theodore, an environmental science major at F&M and president of the College’s Environmental Action Alliance (EAA), which strives to raise environmental awareness on campus. “The skills people develop outdoors are essential for success in college: risk management, problem solving and working together. We want students to connect with other students who share the same passion for the outdoors.”

Evan Anway ’14 will join Theodore as a leader on the hiking trip, while Sean Tippen ’14 and Callie Maron ’14 are also helping with the program.

Theodore and Foley are both recipients of F&M’s prestigious Rouse Scholarship, which supports F&M students who have demonstrated significant leadership while achieving academic excellence. They designed the backpacking trip to encourage leadership among new F&M students, especially those who share a passion for outdoor adventure and the natural world.

“Being a Rouse Scholar is an honor and also humbling, but the best part is being connected to outstanding students and graduates who are part of such a friendly and caring community,” said Foley, a biochemistry and molecular biology major at F&M. “In organizing this trip, we’re looking for students who want to be active at F&M right away. We want students to be leaders in sustainability.”

Theodore and Foley participated in their own pre-orientation experience in August 2009 with Putting it Together in the Community (PIT), a four-day service program organized annually by F&M’s Ware Institute for Civic Engagement. They hope FOOT fosters the same close relationships among students they experienced through PIT, with the Appalachian Trail serving as the perfect backdrop.

“We’d like this program to grow, and we’d also like to organize day hikes around Lancaster throughout the year,” Foley said. “We want to teach students about some of the environmental resources available to them at F&M, such as the Wohlsen Center for the Sustainable Environment and Millport Conservancy.”

The August trip will mark the second trek for Theodore and Anway along this portion of the Appalachian Trail with F&M students. In October 2011, they led a hike with four other students through the EAA.

“I sent an email to all students about that trip and got 50 emails in return,” Theodore said. “We think FOOT could turn into something big.”