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Parents Fund Supports First-Year Outdoor Experience
Backpack. Check. Cook stove. Check. Tent. Check.
This might not sound like a New Student Orientation checklist, but Summit isn’t your average orientation experience. In fact, it’s the first-ever outdoor adventure program for incoming students at UD, and it’s funded entirely by gifts to the Parents Fund.
Part of UD’s First Year Experience, Summit is an outdoor adventure that offers new students the opportunity to connect with classmates in a fun and challenging environment—namely, a five-day, 52-mile backpacking trip along the Appalachian Trail in Maryland. After two days of teambuilding and preparation on campus, including a spin on the high ropes course, new students headed out on the trail in two sessions in August. Three upper-class supervisors and a staff member led each group. The program provided all gear and supplies.
“The experience would not have been possible without the support of the Parents Fund,” noted John Michael Pantlik, Summit program coordinator. "Having the resources to make it available at aminimal cost makes it accessible to all students," he added.
No outdoor experience was required to participate in the program. And in fact, some attendees had never hiked or slept in a tent.
By all accounts, this first Summit experience was a huge success, as evidenced in this anonymous response to a post-Summit survey:
“I could not have asked for a better way to spend my first week of college. This program better continue because it is a great way to learn about college life, as well as to meet different students and see terrific sites. Words cannot begin to describe the experience I had during Summit. The program was fantastic, the leaders were even greater, and because of Summit, I am more excited than ever to be a part of the Blue Hen Family!”
Peter Conforti, a freshman from Freehold, New Jersey, is no stranger to the outdoors—he’s an Eagle Scout and experienced camper. But since he knew no one from Delaware, he was eager to use Summit as a chance to bond with his future classmates.
“I just wanted to get out there and have a week to meet new students and get to know the University,” Conforti said. “Now, I have 12 close friends I can talk to my first week of school.”
During the hike, students had to carry their own gear—some packs weighing 50 pounds. At campsites, they shared the daily cooking, cleaning, set-up and breakdown duties, things they learned to do in the on-campus prep class.
“We didn’t do everything for them,” said Pantlik. “I was really impressed with how self-sufficient the group became and how easily they shared responsibilities, and connected with each other.”
More than 70 students applied for the 24 spots available on the two trips this year. Based on the positive response from attendees, Pantlik is confident the program will continue to grow, perhaps offering additional sessions next year, with more gifts to the Parents Fund.
The Parents Fund provides Student Life with valuable resources to support the education mission of the University through innovative services and programs that support student learning, encourage personal development and well-being, facilitate strong bonds among students, and enhance their identity with the University as a community. To learn more and make a gift, visit the Parents Fund page.