Anneka Williams’21

I grew up in a small town nestled in Vermont’s Mad River Valley. As a child, I could usually be found helping out on my family’s yak farm, exploring the woods behind our homestead, skiing, or reading. These activities have shaped me more than anything else in my life. Through these experiences, I came to value learning that we have to seek out, discover, and pursue with drive, passion, and intent. I grew up guided by Mark Twain’s philosophy – “never let school get in the way of your education” – and I could not be more grateful to the people in my life who encouraged me to seize learning opportunities both within and beyond the classroom. I am confident that I would not be who I am today without having rigorously sought out extracurricular opportunities with curiosity and grit, and I am proud to be an advocate for self-driven learning, both in my Vermont community and beyond. I believe that, in addition to a strong academic background, self-directed experiential learning is how we become fully engaged citizens in our communities and our world. In exploring summer growth opportunities, the National Outdoor Leadership School (NOLS) Research and Curriculum internship feels like a natural fit, offering me opportunities to contribute to a high-profile, international organization that emphasizes the importance, value, and relevance of learning initiatives happening outside of the traditional classroom. I am excited to bring my experiences with outdoor education and educational advocacy, as well as my academic background and skills, to this NOLS internship.

In high school, I developed passion and experience in the realm of educational advocacy. My senior year, I worked closely with my high school principal to design and execute a research project analyzing student engagement. I implemented surveys, read research reports, and conducted interviews with students and teachers. In addition to writing a formal summary of my findings and proposing methods for increasing educational engagement, I presented my work at the New England Secondary School Consortium’s regional conference of educators and administrators (I was the first student to present in the conference’s history) and facilitated four conference-wide dialogues to further connect my findings to individuals’ own experiences. Looking ahead, the summer 2018 NOLS internship will allow me to build upon this work, providing opportunities to write articles for relevant staff publications, participate in data collection and analysis, and present learning and research outcomes to the larger NOLS community.