Freshmen take to the great outdoors, learn to lead



To encourage leadership skills and bonding, the class of 2014 traveled 45 minutes outside of Austin to Pedernales Falls State Park for a day filled with exercise, meditation and references to the freshman summer reading selection.

The retreat, sponsored by the University Programming Board and Leading EDGE, took place the weekend of Sept. 17.

While at Pedernales Falls State Park, around 35 members of the freshmen class enjoyed a two-mile hike that included walking across a river and stepping over countless anthills.

Participants engaged in activities such as being led blindfolded by a partner down a part of the trail, crossing the river hand in hand, and making new friends.

The course of the hike was also paired with discussions about Greg Mortenson’s “Three Cups of Tea,” the common freshman summer reading assignment.

“I read ‘Three Cups of Tea’ as a Student Orientation Leader. It’s a great story,” said junior Amarette Edmonson, director of Leading EDGE.

In order to register, students had to sign up, sign a release, pay $5 and prepare for the hike.

“I first found out about the hike in the Ragsdale Center from the table that was taking applications. In learning more about the event, I signed up quickly,” freshman Cynthia Gurrola said.

“The hike did help improve my leadership skills through some of the interactive activities, such as guiding a blindfolded partner through the path, or strategizing different ways that I could help the people alongside of me cross the river while holding hands,” said freshman Christopher Bynoe, who is currently running for freshman senator. “There were many opportunities to take initiative and enhance my leadership skills along the way.”

After completing the hike, participants walked to a view overlooking Pedernales Falls and meditated on the hike, “Three Cups of Tea” and their own lives.

Students reflected on how Mortenson wrote about exhibiting leadership skills throughout his journeys in Pakistan and Afghanistan, and students were presented with opportunities to follow in Mortenson’s footsteps.

“It was an awesome experience to create a connection between a class and the outdoors,” Edmonson said.

The most difficult physical challenges students faced were crossing a river hand-in-hand and being led blindfolded by someone they hardly knew.

“Crossing the river was the most challenging part,” freshman Melissa Mendoza said. “It was kind of slippery and I was afraid of falling.”

After the all-day hike, students and leaders took university vans to Nutty Brown Café for warm food and good laughs.

Although Adventure Leadership is not new to St. Edward’s, participants are guaranteed a new experience.