Wilderness First Responder w/ Claire

Claire was a recipient of the 2021 scholarship for outdoor education and completed her WFR through NOLS.

The summer before my freshman year of college I went on my first camping trip, a camping trip that lasted two and a half months. On a whim, I applied to work for a conservation corps that involved living and working outside for the entirety of the summer. It was during this time that I developed a great appreciation for nature, adventure, and exploration. In my free time, I read stories of individuals summiting peaks, kayaking challenging whitewater, and trekking through deserts, however, I never read a story about someone who looked like me.

As a woman of color, the outdoors can be a daunting place. I often feel disconnected from the people and cultures that traditionally represent outdoor spaces.

For the past few years, I have worked as a Trip Leader for my school’s outdoor program and as a Whitewater Raft Guide over the summers. These positions have allowed me to share my love and appreciation of the outdoors with others. However, I have also seen the barriers that prevent many individuals, particularly people of color from accessing and enjoying these spaces. These barriers are often economic, cultural, or simply a lack of representation and awareness.

I have become aware of the additional challenges that can come with being a minority in the outdoors and the importance of being prepared and knowledgeable before venturing into the wilderness, as it is vital for my safety along with the safety of those around me. This prompted me to apply for the Backcountry Squatters scholarship to go towards my Wilderness First Responder Certificate.

I was thrilled to receive the scholarship and promptly signed up for a ten-day WFR course through NOLS. I learned how to lead small teams in managing wilderness emergencies, treat injury, illness and environmental problems, make decisions about evacuation and how to manage risk in unpredictable environments. The course emphasized the importance of improvising with limited resources and simulating real-life scenarios.

I am committed to making the outdoors more inclusive and believe that with training, education, and representation we can create a more diverse and welcoming outdoor community. Receiving my WFR is a significant step in this process and with this certification, I will be better equipped to keep myself and others safe during outdoor activities. I plan to use my new skills to be a more competent and confident trip leader and guide and help create more opportunities for individuals from diverse backgrounds to connect with nature.

-Claire Cruz


2021 Backcountry Squatters Non-Profit Scholarship Recipient

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