As someone who has been involved with Girl Scouts for over a decade, people often assume that I have gained the requisite camping experience. However, while I’ve roasted the occasional s’more over a campfire in my day, none of what I had done before could compare to the outdoor experiential learning provided by Partners in the Parks (PITP).

PITP is a program put on by the National Collegiate Honors Council, which aims to get honors students out into nature to garner and experience an appreciation for the national parks. Through UF Honors, I was able to attend a PITP trip to Cedar Breaks National Monument in Cedar City, UT, over the weekend of Martin Luther King, Jr. Day.

I snowshoed into the park with four other students and two professors from the Southern Utah University Honors Program to the yurt where we would be staying. We carried in our food, water, clothes, and supplies for the next three days.

Once in the park, we began the real fun and learning. We met with several rangers from different areas of the National Park Service and talked to them about their jobs and how they got to the place in their careers that they are at now. I was also able to develop relationships and network with other academically driven students from honors programs at different universities, as well as participate in lessons given by professors from a variety of disciplines.

The trips put on by PITP are not all work and no play, though. We were also able to participate winter activities, such as sledding and snowshoeing, taking full advantage of the snow-covered scenery – which, to say the least, was much different from that of sunny Florida.

This experience gave me a deeper appreciation for nature and its diversity, helped me to better understand the urgency with which it needs our protection, and allowed for self-reflection and personal growth. I feel privileged to be a Partner in the Parks.