Author Archives: Amy Bannon

Judah Borges ’20 Delivers a Morning Reading

borgesEvery day at White Mountain starts with a Morning Reading in the Lovejoy Chapel where the entire community gathers together. Often times this looks like sharing a story, presenting a recent project or trip, or imparting some kind of lasting wisdom on the student body. While faculty members typically present, students are invited to take the stage in front of their peers. Recently, Judah Borges ‘20, took the center stage to share the importance of finding and using his voice at White Mountain. He shared the impact White Mountain has had on developing curiosity, courage and compassion; from his freshman roommate, to his teachers and Field Course experiences. Read more below about what sparked Judah’s interest to address the community through a Morning Reading.


 

What inspired you to address the community in a Morning Reading?

There were a variety of things that inspired me to give a Morning Reading. My main drive behind this, however, started with how I was raised. My dad continuously reiterated to my siblings and me, how special each one of us is. This would vary from him explaining the reasoning behind giving us our names, to what he expected of us as we grew. Individually, he would always address me as if I would be the greatest of the three which was, and still is, a lot of pressure. Because of his influence, I feel the need to be heard and make something of myself. If I don’t, then I feel like I am not living up to my full potential, whatever that might be.

Left: Judah Borges '20, Right: Darius Borges '16

Left: Judah Borges ’20, Right: Darius Borges ’16

In your own words, what was the message you were trying to convey?

The message that I was trying, and ultimately did convey, was how to always strive to be your best self. Personally, I understand that I am in a very privileged position compared to others who I grew up with. Throughout all of middle school, I had a very close group of friends, and when they heard I was going away to a school in NH they made it seem like I was flying off to the moon.

Now, when I look back on my middle school friend’s social media accounts, all I see are the stereotypical run-down minority teenagers. It is not easy to see or say, but it is true. Whether that be through using illegal substances, or through dropping out of school. I feel like I have to be my best self, simply because I can be. I need to represent my roots in the best light, because I know there aren’t too many people like me that can. I know that my situation might seem unique to some, but either way, I can’t see a reason why someone shouldn’t try to be their best self.

How did you decide on the topic of your presentation?

In the beginning, I had a very structured presentation filled with things that I had no true connection with. I quickly discovered that it is hard to present on something you don’t believe in. With help from Lawrence, I decided to take a more natural and meaningful approach which guided me to the things that I care about. In following this path, my presentation was born, which was put together the entire night prior to its showing.

What has been your most impactful White Mountain experience?

The most impactful experience I have had at White Mountain took place on my most recent Field Course. The Field Course focused on education and equality in the state of New Hampshire. What made this an impactful experience for me, was feeling inclined to speak and contribute. My group was almost equally divided in gender, but every time we visited a school, the conversations were always dominated by the females in the group. Three close friends and I were the males in the group. My friends were comfortable with sitting back and listening to people talk, but I felt differently. Lawrence happened to be one of the faculty leaders during that trip and he motivated me to engage deeply and ask questions.

What made this both difficult and impactful wasn’t really the actual participation and discussion, it was the stepping outside of my friend group’s matrix that made it memorable. I realized that I need to use the power and privilege I have to speak and use my voice.

 

Alumnae/i Stories: Alexia Sampson ’09

headshotRecent Graduate, Alexia Sampson ‘09 discusses the importance of these three pillars of White Mountain’s mission on her career and life in Veterinary Medicine.

Lexi Sampson has loved animals for as long as she can remember. At the age of seven, following the death of her beloved family pet, she knew she wanted to be a veterinarian. Now in her clinical (fourth) year of veterinary school at Tuskegee University, she’s confident she made the right decision, proud of her accomplishments and looks forward to all she has yet to learn and contribute. Lexi reflects here on the roles curiosity, courage and compassion play in veterinary medicine in general and on the impact they’ve had on her journey to becoming a vet.

The Importance of Being Curious

What role does curiosity play in your professional life?

Curiosity is at the very center of veterinary medicine. Because our patients can’t talk, we need to engage in a sequence of questions to our client, the pet owner, physical examination of the patient, and analysis of lab tests. With each layer of information that is added, we need to revise our original hypothesis, ask new questions, gather more data. There is a constant ebb and flow of questions and revisions based on new evidence. This requires both a curious mind and an open mind. If you remain stuck along one line of thought, you could easily miss the underlying medical issue.

What you’re saying here reminds me of White Mountain’s Anatomy and Physiology/Wilderness First Responder course.

Exactly. I think there are two areas in which White Mountain clearly helped me develop the skills and habits I’ve needed to be successful in veterinary medicine. One was my Anatomy and Physiology/WFR class experience. WFR required us to evaluate the medical situation, ask probing questions, assess the problem, and reassess the problem when new information was presented – all in the high pressure environment of a wilderness emergency scenario. It was both terrifying and exhilarating at the same time. WFR cemented my resolve to pursue a career in medicine. And, as it turns out, Veterinary triage is exactly the same as First Responder triage!

White Mountain also taught me the cognitive flexibility I’ve needed throughout my higher education. In elementary and middle school, I relied on strong memorization skills to be successful in school.  When I received my first progress report at White Mountain, I was both shocked and devastated to see low grades and less than positive comments from my teachers. My advisor, Lee Zanger, went through my comments with me and helped identify a trend. My teachers were all asking me to dig deeper, and to communicate my thoughts more clearly. My grades were low because I wasn’t asking enough questions and my resulting work was superficial – gone were the days when memorizing facts and spitting them back to my teachers was acceptable! I had to re-learn how to learn. With my advisor’s and teachers’ help, I began to study differently, think critically and communicate my thoughts more fully and more clearly. Developing new thinking patterns and study habits is hard, but I am forever thankful that White Mountain (and Lee Zanger!) taught me how to do that. Critical thinking and effective communication are skills that I use every day in my profession now. And my ability to assess who I am as a student – to think about how I’m learning and adjust my study habits accordingly – was important in college and then again in veterinary school.

The Courage to Pursue One’s Dream

In what way has courage influenced your ability to achieve your goals?

Becoming a veterinarian has been hard academically, emotionally and financially, and it hasn’t happened overnight for me. I’ve had to overcome setbacks, defy critics and make both personal and financial sacrifices. I’ve dug deeply into my personal store of courage and have relied heavily on some incredibly strong friendships and mentorships to help see me through.

How do you think one develops the courage necessary to pursue a goal worth attaining?

In small steps. Looking back, I see how important White Mountain was in helping me develop the courage and the confidence I’ve needed in later years. Lots of people helped me along that path. I remember, specifically, the role my advisor, Lee, played. He never let me give up on myself and always encouraged me to face each challenge head on. Seeing that I had lofty academic goals, he pushed me to take difficult classes and supported me when I chose to take more than the required number of credits. Lee also encouraged me to step outside of my athletic comfort zone, which were team sports, by signing up for outdoors focused trips like mountain biking and wilderness orienteering. And, as I mentioned previously, when I got my first academic progress report, Lee was there to help me navigate through the critiques. Instead of letting me feel defeated because of one report with low marks, he recommended new ways I could study and assured me I would improve. I guess, then, I developed courage by being listened to, supported to push myself, encouraged to try a different approach when something didn’t work instead of giving up. People at White Mountain reminded me regularly that I was both worthy of success and capable of achieving it.  

Living a Compassionate Life

You’re remembered at White Mountain, Lexi, for being a compassionate person. Can you tell us a little about the role compassion has played in your life?

Compassion is a principle that was taught to me from a very young age – it’s deeply valued in my family. My father, who is a Pastor, involved our entire family in church mission trips and community events that both required and deepened our compassion for others. In my family, living a compassionate life is to live mindfully, joyfully and within the teachings of God. It is just something one practices on a daily basis.

I have been able to take advantage of many opportunities to further develop compassion through international service trips and internships. At White Mountain, I went on two service trips – to the Dominican Republic and to Nicaragua. Both were deeply challenging and also deeply fulfilling. I’ve also been on service trips to Ghana and have had veterinary internships in Ghana and rural Alabama. Being exposed to cultures that are very different from one’s own deepens compassion. It helps open one’s mind and reduces one’s tendency to be judgemental.

It is vital in veterinary medicine to continually practice compassion. When you are a veterinarian, your animal patient can’t speak to you and your human client is trying their best to explain the situation from their perspective to you. In my line of work, it’s a constant balancing act between patient and client and you need to develop empathy for both while you work toward decisions and treatments that are best for the patient. It is especially humbling for me to see time and time again the tremendous love people have for their pets regardless of their level of education, their geographic location or their cultural background. I am reminded daily of the impact a vet can have on animals as well as on their human owners.

 

Lawrence Alexander Presents at NEAS Conference

screen-shot-2018-11-26-at-12-42-01-pmThe National Association of Episcopal Schools (NEAS) hosted their biennial conference in Atlanta, GA this year. The focus was on social justice and the theme was “Learn to do right, seek justice, defend the oppressed.” These words are taken from scripture, Isaiah 1:17.

The conference brought together hundreds of school heads, chaplains, bishops, priests, diversity practitioners, teachers and a host of other educators who serve at Episcopal schools. Lawrence returned feeling both inspired and motivated by keynotes from Becca Stevens and Bishop Robert Wright. Lawrence explained the conference as, “a well of water that many of us needed.”

Read more about what Lawrence took away from his experience below.

 


Why was your participation in the NAES conference a great opportunity for you in your role at White Mountain?

I was fortunate to present a session on “A Community Development Approach to Equity and Inclusion” where I shared ways in which schools could re-frame their community service efforts and reflect on their methods for assessing community needs. The session was well attended by Heads of School, Service Learning Directors, and Chaplains. Many participants stayed after the session ended to continue to the conversations we started and to coalition-build with colleagues at their sister schools. I believe that our School’s participation was valuable to our member schools, and I also believe that it continued to keep the name of The White Mountain School in the conversation about schools leading from out front.

What were your biggest takeaways?

I believe that our Episcopal identity is most fully lived when we care for the most vulnerable members of our community. This conference brought caring and committed educators together for this purpose and as long as it does, our students and families will continue to receive the best lesson before heading off to college which is to love your neighbor as you love yourself.

 

 

WMS Hosts 17th Annual USAC Bouldering Competition

Every year, The White Mountain School hosts an official USAC Bouldering Competition as part of a local New England circuit. Competitors who register for this event can move on to compete in the Regional Competition if they participate in two local competitions, ours among them.

On Saturday, November 10, White Mountain hosted the 17th Annual USAC Bouldering Competition at the Buder Climbing Wall. Bouldering is a number of individual, short routes or “problems,” that are attempted without a climbing rope, but with landing mats for protection. Members of White Mountain’s Indoor Sport Climbing Team competed against over one-hundred athletes from all over New England.

Competitors represented Central Rock Gym, Rock Spot Climbing, Evo Rock and Fitness , Green Mountain Rock Climbing Center, St. Paul’s School, Brooklyn Boulders Somerville, Greater Manchester YMCA, Metrorock Climbing Center, Petra Cliffs, Indoor Ascents and more.

White Mountain will also be hosting a USAC Sport Climbing Competition in April. Unlike the Bouldering event, the competition next year will feature roped sport climbing. For a complete schedule of USA Climbing events, including those at White Mountain, click here.

To view more photos of the event, click here.

Fatimata ’19: The Impact of the United Nation’s “Girl Up” Foundation

For the 2018-2019 school year, Fatimata ‘19 was one of twenty-four girls chosen out of a pool of eight-hundred teens from around the world to be a teen advisor to the United Nations Foundation, Girl Up. Girl Up began in 2010 as a campaign and grew to be an initiative that helps position girls to be leaders in the movement for gender equality. The initiative has over 2,200 clubs in over 100 countries and has trained over 40,000 girls from all backgrounds.

From visiting Michelle Obama on the Today Show to speaking at the UN General Youth Assembly, Fatimata has been busy making an impact in her role as a teen advisor.

The Teen Advisor program is where Girl Up truly lives out its “by girls, for girls” mission. Composed of a widely diverse group of teenage girls, Teen Advisors are passionate change-makers who together spread and fuel Girl Up’s work. As Teen Advisors, they are central to all Girl Up decision-making including advocacy, fundraising and communications strategy. To support the Teen Advisors in this task, Girl Up provides skills-based trainings, professional development opportunities, hands-on learning, and most significantly, personal relationships with the staff.

On October 8, Fatimata addressed the entire community in a Morning Reading presentation. She introduced the Girl Up Foundation and the diligent work she has completed as a teen advisor. This summer, Girl Up invited Fatimata and one of her peer advisors to speak at the United Nations General Youth Assembly about her experience being involved in the foundation. This experience paired with the many others that Girl Up has provided, led Fatimata to publish her first book this Spring titled, “Perfectly Imperfect.” 

fatimataDuring her Morning Reading presentation, Fatimata expressed the importance of finding your passion and pursuing it vigorously. She invited the entire community to become involved with Girl Up through the White Mountain committee she is creating. In her closing remarks, she shared a fitting quote from one of her favorite global leaders, Kofi Annan, urging the White Mountain community to become involved:

¨I am often asked what can people do to become a good global citizen, I reply that it begins in your own community” – Kofi Annan

obama

On October 11, three days after addressing the White Mountain community, Fatimata was one of thirty Girl Up teen advisors invited to attend the Today Show in New York City to meet Michelle Obama and watch her speak on the show. Michelle spoke to honor the International Day of the Girl and launch Global Girls Alliance Initiative, a program of the Obama Administration that seeks to empower adolescent girls around the world through education. In reflection, Fatimata shared, “Michelle Obama explained that you do not have to be in the White House to make a difference. The difference can be big or small and every move you make counts. Michelle exudes confidence and teaches me to be unafraid of who I am and who I can be.”

You can watch the Today Show segment Fatimata attended here.

 

The Future of Schools: Reclaiming What Matters

On Tuesday, October 30, The White Mountain School joined Tilton School and Julie Wilson from the Institute for the Future of Learning, at Boston Public Library to present on and inspire relevant conversation about The Future of Schools. 

Julie Wilson is the author of the best-selling book, The Human Side of Changing Education, and the Executive Director of the Institute for the Future of Learning. Julie believes deeply in the notion that our 19th century system of education is no longer equipped to prepare students to thrive in the 21st century, and thus change is of the utmost importance. Julie addressed the audience about why schools like Tilton School and The White Mountain School are changing the way they educate their students. The traditional, institutional way of educating students is not serving them adequately, she explained. Julie spoke to the immense tasks of innovation and adaptability schools must have now and in the future: “Schools today have the enormous task of educating students for an unknown future.”

The evening began with keynote and context-setting remarks from Julie Wilson followed by presentations from Mike Peller (Assistant Head of School for Teaching and Learning at The White Mountain School), Shannon Parker (Director of Innovation and Teaching at Tilton School) and Mike Landroche (Academic Dean at Tilton School). White Mountain and Tilton added to the conversation riveting and compelling examples of how each school has taken bold steps to incorporate into their programming 21st century teaching, learning, and assessment to better serve and prepare students.

 

Student Ambassador Profile: Nathaniel Clement ’20

As a Student Ambassador, you are often the first White Mountain student that visitors meet. What do you enjoy about this important role?clementn

What I enjoy most about being a Student Ambassador is being able to meet prospective students that are interested in joining our community. I love learning what they are interested in, where they are from and getting the chance to be someone that they can reach out to if they have questions or want to talk more about anything.

What class are you really enjoying this year and what do you like about it?

I have many classes that I’m enjoying this year and among those classes is English. I have never really been a fan of English, but this year, Eliot has really inspired me. I have enjoyed reading short stories and being able to talk about what they mean and what each part of the story represents during meaningful discussions. I also enjoy keeping a journal where you can write about anything you want. It really is nice to be able to write down what I’m thinking or share a story with the class.

Congratulations on being selected as a proctor in Solar Dorm this year! What has that experience been like for you?

The experience is great. Being proctor in Solar Dorm is important because you are responsible for helping first-year students settle into the school community. We make sure new students have the support they need to be successful at White Mountain. I am a co-proctor with my roommate and best friend Gabriel. We enjoy hanging out with the fun group of students at Solar and are ready for a great year.

What is your favorite place on campus and why?

My favorite place on campus has to be the dining hall. I love to eat and I love food. The dining hall serves great food that I enjoy. It is also a space that is used by students to host events like community dinners and social gatherings on the weekend. It’s also a great place to study and work. You can sit at one of the tables and do work and if you get hungry just grab some fruit or a drink.

What is your LASR project?

My LASR project is about terraforming Mars. For the project, I’m exploring the technology needed to inhabit Mars and what technological advancements are necessary to expedite the process. It is really interesting to me – because even though it seems like there is a lot that you have to do to make a planet habitable for humans, there isn’t. To inhabit a planet you need an atmosphere, water, a magnetic field, oxygen, and plants. The most challenging part is that it’s going to take a very long time. So far, this has been a really fun project and I’m enjoying the research process.

You recently participated in the Field Course Land Conservation and Recreation. How did your experiences throughout the week impact you?

I had a great experience on this Field Course. The main purpose was to learn about land conservation and how that conservation ties into recreational use such as mountain biking. Throughout the week, we went to different places to talk with people about how they conserve land and how recreational use benefits the long-term conservation of the land. We visited Kingdom Trails, Bethlehem Trails Association, and The Upper Saco Valley Land Trust. As a part of the course, we were able to Mountain Bike the areas we visited throughout the week. It was a lot of fun, especially the downhills! I definitely improved as a rider and now have a new and informed respect for the land around us.

Alumnae/i Weekend

wms-alumni-12As the crisp winds and bright colors of autumn filled the air, over 40 Alumnae/i gathered at The White Mountain School to celebrate reunions and great friendships. “It was really cool coming back. The School looked familiar on the outside, but there have been so many changes on the inside,” observed Zach Paull ’93.


Alumnae/i Weekend was full of activities and programs for all to enjoy. Highlights from this year included special student presentation about the dance program and the Inquiry, Innovation and Impact Lab and attending classes with students. Mazzie Gogolak ‘68 commented, “The tour of the school and just walking around by myself was enlightening to me as a former architectural student because the reuse of space was so creative and well done.”

_dsc2000Alumnae/i participated in a historic campus walking tour lead by Dr. Henry Vaillant and a presentation on local gardens, including The White Mountain School’s Formal Garden. A grand celebration was had by all at the Alumnae/i Dinner and Awards. The Sylvia A. Dickey Alumni Prize for significant and consistent support to the School was awarded to Ann Howell Armstrong ’58. The Linda Clark McGoldrick Alumnae/i Prize recognizing volunteers was awarded to Anne Bridge ‘68 P ’95, P’98 and Anne “Timi” Carter ‘68. Following the ceremony, Anne commented, “It was great fun to join with Timi Carter to reach out over the past year and gather our class together for our 50th. Linda was the embodiment of selfless devotion to St. Mary’s-in-the Mountains/The White Mountain School.” We were honored to have the Reverend Eleanor Mclaughlin ’53 deliver the blessing at the dinner and at the memorial daffodil planting. At the conclusion of the weekend, Mazzie reflected, “It is so different from the school we all went to but also so much the same in spirit.  Ya gotta see it to believe it!”

View more pictures from Alumnae/i Weekend here.

Alumnae/i Profile: Sam Madeira ’01

Sam Madeira’s ‘01 journey to becoming a licensed Naturopathic Doctor with a thriving practice in Seattle, WA.

img_1112Sam Madeira, ND, BSc. ‘01 can trace his initial interest in health and wellness to a combination of his love of science, his connection with the natural world, and some frustrating experiences with his own medical experiences as a kid. A natural athlete and Vermont native, Sam played lots of sports growing up and when he wasn’t playing sports, he was probably spending time outside. Even as a child, Sam recognized that this activity helped keep the rest of his life in balance and in focus. It was a shock, then, when not long after starting high school at the Brooks School in North Andover, Massachusetts, Sam began experiencing symptoms of chronic fatigue. Though still an active athlete and honors student, his illness began to take its toll. Sam saw multiple doctors, both traditional and naturopathic, and tried various treatments with some improvement. It wasn’t until he was a newly graduated doctor at age 30 that he was diagnosed and successfully treated for Chronic Lyme Disease with Lyme Co-Infections and Reactivated Mononucleosis and Cytomegalovirus. Sam’s personal experience, which ultimately led to full recovery, helped fuel his interest in pursuing a career in health and wellness and helping others along their path to health and well-being.

When Sam felt like he needed a change during his sophomore year in high school, he began his journey by looking for a different educational experience from the one provided at the Brooks School. A teacher at Brooks recommended that he consider The White Mountain School. Sam was immediately drawn to the Senior Project experience White Mountain offered students (something that remains a component of our LASR program today). This, thought Sam, was a way for him to dig more deeply into his medical interests before pursuing a career in medicine. Additionally, White Mountain offered Lacrosse, a sport Sam truly loved; plenty of opportunities to be in the outdoors, reminiscent of his childhood in Vermont; and would expose him to new, lifelong sports such as backcountry skiing and rock climbing in the rugged and pristine White Mountains of northern New Hampshire.

At White Mountain, Sam’s eyes were opened to new aspects of the outdoors, health and well-being in the classroom. Sam continued to love science at White Mountain and was encouraged to take the advanced Anatomy and Physiology – Wilderness First Responder course his junior year. He was hooked. In fact, Sam loved it so much that he and his Anatomy and Physiology teacher, Mark Vermeal, worked on a way for him create a Senior Project that would include attaining the Wilderness EMT certification at SOLO Wilderness Medical School in North Conway, NH, shadow emergency room doctors and surgeons at Weeks Memorial Hospital in Lancaster, NH and work with the Search and Rescue volunteers in the White Mountains. “It was amazing,” said Sam, “Mark had so many key connections in Northern NH. He also understood my passion for medicine and my thirst for experiential learning. I wrote the proposal for my Senior Project and Mark helped connect me with the professionals I needed to make the experience meaningful. I ended up living off the grid that spring in a wood-stove heated cabin in near Weeks Memorial Hospital. I completed my wilderness EMT certification, shadowed rural doctors, and learned about search and rescue. I’d call Mark every few days from a pay phone at a truck stop – there weren’t any cell phones then, of course – to check in and update the school on my academic progress. I don’t know if living on your own like that would fly these days, but it was an amazing experience and helped solidify for me both what I wanted to do professionally and what I didn’t want to do.”

Still feeling a connection with medicine, an interest in the outdoors, and newly introduced by his mom and his Naturopathic Doctor in Portsmouth, New Hampshire to healing through medicinal plants, Sam matriculated to Prescott College in Arizona. There he could learn about the desert ecosystem, benefit from an experiential learning approach, and begin to learn plant medicine, ethnobotany and herbal medicine.

Sam says, “My Senior Project at White Mountain solidified my interest in pursuing a career in health and wellness. It also made me realize that much of what hospital doctors are required to do felt cold, removed, and corporate to me. I believed then, and still do now, that western medicine plays an important role in treating illness, mostly for emergency reasons and surgical interventions. I’ve also found that Naturopathic Medicine can address health and wellbeing in equally important ways – sometimes in tandem with western medicine and sometimes instead of it – especially for chronic health conditions, such as Autoimmune Diseases, Chronic Fatigue and Chronic Pain. As a practitioner, I am dedicated to the personalized and holistic approach of Naturopathic Medicine and Functional Medicine. I am convinced that this is the best medicine for chronic illness. I enjoy working with patients in an unhurried, longer-term way that draws on numerous physical and emotional health practices.”

Ultimately, in order to achieve the type and level of education that he needed to pursue his career, Sam transferred from Prescott College to Bastyr University’s School of Botanical Medicine to complete a Bachelor of Sciences in Herbal Sciences degree with pre-medicine sciences. Sam then went on to complete his medical school education at the School of Naturopathic Medicine at Bastyr University in the Seattle area. Sam says, “I now hold my Naturopathic Medical license in Washington State and am Board Certified with the North American Board of Naturopathic Examiners. I founded the Apollo Health Clinic in downtown, Seattle, WA in May 2015 after working for other medical clinics in the greater Seattle metro area for 3 years. At Apollo Health Clinic, I specialize in helping adults heal using Root Cause Functional Medicine, Regenerative Medicine Injections and Bio-Identical Hormone Replacement Therapy (BHRT) for Men & Women. Current patients are resolving their chronic autoimmune diseases and metabolic syndromes; resolving their chronic insomnia; reversing their chronic Irritable Bowel Syndromes; increasing their energy, work performance and productivity; losing weight; reversing chronic pain conditions; and are noticing many other benefits.”

You can learn more about Dr. Sam Madeira and his work at the Apollo Health Clinic Blog.

 

The Backcountry Sisters Hit the Trails

The No Man’s Land Film Festival is an adventure film festival based out of the Rocky Mountains of Colorado that meets a need and desire to highlight and connect individuals who identify as women. The goal of this festival is to connect like-minded individuals who are action-oriented, wish to support a shared vision of gender equality, have a desire to experience their passions and environments through a uniquely female lens, and above all, love adventure.

This year, before the film, the Backcountry Sisters Affinity Group at The White Mountain School gathered together to learn, teach and ride local mountain bike trails with the generous support of Littleton Bike and Fitness. The Backcountry Sisters is an Affinity Group at White Mountain that empowers and enables all students who identify as female to become confident participants and leaders in the outdoors.

Below Lemon ‘20 reflects on her experience as a first time mountain bike rider surrounded by her female peers at PRKR Mountain Trails, Littleton NH.


lemonbikeThe Backcountry Sisters held their first event right before Fall Field Courses on September 28. I joined these strong women during their Introduction to Mountain Biking Clinic. I have been riding a normal bike for as long as I can remember, but the thought of mountain biking has always terrified me. I never thought that I would have the courage to ride along with my friends on terrain that wasn’t as smooth as the road.

Before we could cruise the trails, we needed some bikes to cruise on. Our first stop was Littleton Bike and Fitness. They generously donated a fleet of mountain bikes to encourage and promote opportunities for women in the outdoors. After adjusting the seats and learning about the anatomy of our bikes, we were on our way to the trails! At this point my heart was racing, my palms were sweating, and my shirt was soaked with sweat. I was lucky enough to get a bike with thick wheels, also known as a fat bike, for my first try at mountain biking.

My bike was able to go over roots, rocks, divots, grass, and everything in between without sending me over my handlebars. With the support from my backcountry sisters, I never felt ashamed to pick and choose my challenges. If I walked a steep slope, all that was there waiting at the top was positive reassurance and cheering. Had this event not been offered, I would never have gotten the chance to face my fear and gain the courage to mountain bike. I’ve added one more wonderful opportunity to my long list of great White Mountain experiences.


What Are Affinity Groups?

An Affinity Group is a group of students and faculty linked by a common purpose, ideology, or interest. Affinity Groups play a vital role in ensuring an inclusive environment where all are valued, included, and empowered to succeed at White Mountain. Affinity Groups can provide a collective voice for students with common interests. The Diversity and Inclusion Steering Committee dedicated the 2017-2018 school year to educating the community about the importance of Affinity Groups and surveyed our community for Affinity Groups they felt White Mountain needed. Backcountry Sisters is a great example of an Affinity Group that meets the unique needs of our school community as it brings together women in outdoor sports – an underrepresented group within the sport community. Find a full list of White Mountain Affinity Groups here.