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Learning to Lead


While most underclassmen left campus after their final exams, a group of 69 students stayed around to take part in Orientation Leader training. The students will be among those leading Adirondack (AA), Outreach (OA), and Exploration Adventure (XA) trips for members of the class of 2022 in August.

“All of us spend the first day of training together to cover information related to leading in general, and then we branch off for the rest of the week to discuss trip-specific information and training,” said Director of Orientation Tessa Chefalo, who supervised XA training.

The XA group took 26 student leaders to the Rosamond Gifford Zoo in Syracuse, Fort Stanwix in Rome, and Green Lakes State Park in Fayetteville.  The Zoo is featured on the Animal Care XA trip, Fort Stanwix is a part of the NY Frontier Warfare trip, and many XA trips camp at Green Lakes State Park in August.

Chefalo said during XA training, the new leaders practice guiding the group through a site/small tour, and debriefing the site visit; perform demos and practice with tents, camp stoves, and fire safety; and discuss and present on topics including leadership theory, risk management, including generally understanding and identifying types of risk, conflict resolution, handling group dynamics, and the goals and purposes of the trips.

Many more students will lead XA trips in August, Chefalo said,  but they are returning leaders who are currently abroad, just graduated, or are otherwise alumni leaders who have already been trained.

Amy James, director of community outreach, led the OA group of 16 leaders.  She said training “is run as a sort of prototype of an August OA trip.” After an initial day on campus with all of the leaders, the group departs for Utica, “camps” indoors at Westminster Presbyterian Church, and performs a variety of service projects Tuesday to Friday, all at sites that they will use in August for the first-year trips.

James said OA training is set up “so that there is a pair of students co-leading at each service site in order to give them the on-the-ground preview of what it will be like in the fall. Our training is very experiential. In the evenings, we cook dinner, have discussions about leadership and what it means to "serve" (always a loaded word), and have new leaders run games for the group.”

Adirondack Adventure, the oldest of Hamilton’s orientation programs at 34 years trained 27 new leaders this year.  Andrew Jillings, director of outdoor leadership,  said  the AA group “camped out on the edge of campus for four days and three nights, learning how to teach people how to camp, as well as how to lead small groups and prepare the class of 2022 for life at Hamilton.”  On Saturday, six students got further instruction in kayaking in the rain at Lake Moraine, he said.

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