Proctor's Mountain Classroom program enters its final week of its term off-campus and its final student-led expedition. This group has learned so much about themselves, a sense of place around the country, and the varying cultures in which they have immersed themselves. Read two remarkable reflections from Olivia '23 and Ella '23 below.
Olivia '23: Defining "Home"
What defines a home? This has been a question many of us have grappled with on Mountain Classroom, yet recently we were all introduced to another new and different definition of the word home. Just like we have adapted to our lovely bus, Deb, as our current home, Community Rebuilds (CR) in Moab is changing the picture of how people envision a home, as well as the construction process.
On April 19th we were given the amazing opportunity to volunteer and help build an adobe home on one of CR’s work sites. The CR mission is all about creating safe, affordable, and sustainable housing changing the way people view and perceive house construction. As soon as we stepped onto the work site I was immediately blown away with the dedication and commitment to creating a more sustainable and sheltered future for so many homeowners. The homes hold an immense amount of character and creativity making each adobe home very personalized and meaningful to the homeowner. Yet, as we have learned, no picture or home is perfect as the government enforces that 40 hours a week of work is required on the homes. CR was thankfully able to knock down that number to 25 with the addition and success of volunteer hours. However, asking homeowners to spend 25 hours a week on their homes on top of regular employment hours, and daily personal needs is difficult for many people and families within the CR program. Fortunately, volunteers such as ourselves can dedicate our hours spent on site to families and homeowners who struggle to meet the weekly commitment. Each hour of volunteer work is one more hour a homeowner can sleep, eat, spend time with loved ones and feel the care and empathy of the CR community.
Once on site we were all immediately put to work in three different groups tackling different tasks. I and 4 others worked for 6 hours sanding and staining wood. Our site leader AJ and all of the other CR volunteers welcomed us with open arms and made working on site feel joyful, exciting and productive. At one point while Ella and I were staining wood we watched as a school bus pulled up to the neighborhood and dropped off three young children bouncing with their large backpacks. Ella and I watched silently as they headed down the sidewalk to their homes. Whether they were off to a CR home or not it still put into perspective the impact just 6 hours of staining wood can have on getting a family one step closer to having a secure roof over their heads. Beyond just the safe and sustainable practices within the CR program and construction, the homes create a community of their own: an opportunity to show and educate people on what truly makes a home - the blood, sweat, tears, and love that is spread with each helping hand. [For more information on CR see (1)]
When returning to the idea of what attributes qualify a home I find myself reflecting on my Mountain Classroom experience and how we as our own community have formulated this home. The physical core of our home starts with Deb and her undoubtedly large character and personality. She contains our absurd number of hats hanging from the ceiling like colorful ornaments, whiteboards with both inspirational and hilariously irrelevant quotes, and plastic bins under our seats holding the contents of our daily needs. And lastly, of course the stains and neon duct tape holding our seats together through the color. Each attribute has evolved to give us a sense of comfort just like the adobe homes. However, on a more figurative level our home on Mountain Classroom is what it is due to each and every member. Every friendship, hug, and conversation are what formulates our home creating a stronger four walls than any other piece of wood or cement could create. Every day is an opportunity on our home site to construct and nail in our community, and for that I am grateful.
 Another motivational aspect that CR embodies is their mission and commitment to leveling the playing field. Construction is typically a male dominated space, therefore CR is consistently empowering women and girls to step into the construction world. It is a powerful thing to explore the world of building and CR wants to give more people that opportunity. With each internship that CR offers half of the spots are reserved for women to prioritize those who without CR wouldn’t get to explore their construction interest. As a female myself, it was very enlightening and refreshing to see so many female construction workers on site and speak to many female designers and engineers in the Moab office.
Ella ‘23: Finding Presence
The day before our first expedition we spent hours packing and preparing ourselves for the next five days on the Colorado River. Towards the end of evening meeting that night, we were told we would need to choose an angel card. The purpose of the card was to direct the upcoming adventure. I began to panic that I wouldn't find the, “right,” card and my first expedition would be ruined before it began. As the cards were laid out in the dim light of the fire box, a specific word instantly caught my eye: presence. Although we had only been on Mountain Classroom for a week I was well aware of my inability to live in the present. I constantly found myself thinking about what my family might be doing in that moment across the country.
While on expedition I made it my goal to focus on absolutely nothing but the present. Sounds simple, right? Wrong. Without a doubt I struggled at first but then came to the realization I was trying way too hard on something that should come naturally. Once I began to try less (only a little though!) I began enjoying the little things I otherwise may have never even noticed. My only focus was on where I was and what I was doing in that moment. I was able to shift my focus towards all the beautiful details of the Colorado River.
What I didn’t realize until weeks later was that these cards may have only been directed towards one expedition, but they would carry on through all of Mountain Classroom. For each expedition we had the same routine. The night before, each person chose a card. They would then share why and how they would achieve it within their own guidelines. No one was held accountable by others but instead by themselves. This was the case for most things on Mountain. I will admit as a result of little guidance there have been many mistakes made in the past two months, but they have only led to learning experiences and growth as individuals and as a group. With our final expedition (and first without instructors) coming up in two days, I look forward to choosing our final angel cards.
Check out more photos from Mountain Classroom HERE.
- Mountain Classroom
- Off-Campus Program