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Mountain Alliance Rolls Out Rolling Academy Applications, Ninth Annual Trip Scheduled for Mid-July

By Emma Speckman

Dec. 5, 2014. Watauga High School’s youth leadership organization Mountain Alliance opened applications for their annual Rolling Academy experiential learning trip last month.

Rolling Academy is an annual two-week summer expedition focusing on leadership. Ten Watauga High School students hop aboard a bus or a plane to distant parts of the United States.

“We take part in community service, adventure, and educational opportunities along the way. In the past we have interviewed Senators in DC, worked with NOAA, learned to sail at the Maine Maritime Academy, run a 5K across the George Washington Bridge and won a grant at an Outdoor Nation summit to get 8th graders involved in outdoor activities,” said Mountain Alliance staff member Kate Wood in an email release. “We’ve had students graduate from the trip and go on to be valedictorian, take part in educational opportunities in the White House, and attend a University for Aerospace Engineering on an almost full ride.” Wood was a participant in the first annual Rolling Academy in 2007.

This year’s trip is scheduled for July 6-20 and applications are now open to rising sophomores, juniors and seniors at Watauga High. The experience, according to executive director Bill Ireland, teaches students how to work together and grow as leaders.

Before their departure, students are asked to pack items from a list, all of which “can fit into an Earth Fare shopping bag,” said Ireland.

Rolling Academy is financed through community sponsorships and student-led fundraising efforts. The students who participate each year are not asked to pay for the experience.

“Even with just having the students go out into the community and ask people for money there’s leadership skills developed,” Ireland said. “They have to prepare. They have to have a little bit of a script. They have to rehearse. We make them practice.”

Aside from fundraisers, one of the trip’s biggest sponsors is Boone’s Mast General Store.

“Folks from Mast have been present at both the departure and the symposium when we return and they’ve been able to really see the difference that two weeks in an intensive leadership program can make on students and I think they really appreciate that—the power the program can have.”

Ultimately, Ireland says the goal of the trip is to teach high school students leadership skills they can take with them into college and the workforce.

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Students in the Rolling Academy can expect to come home with new skills like woodworking and catching lobster.
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The community aspect is an important part of the trip, according to Wood. Mountain Alliance looks for students who have leadership potential and who work well with others when sifting through applications.
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For many students in the past, this experience marked the first time they traveled on an airplane or was the farthest from home they had been.