Grove City College’s Impact program uses lessons from the great outdoors to teach students about becoming leaders and growing in faith.
Between classes and studying, college students spend a lot of times indoors and sedentary. The Impact program offers students the opportunity to counter that and alleviate the stress of academics while enjoying fresh air, learning valuable outdoor skills developing spiritually and learning about leadership.
“The Impact Program is a student learning and leadership program that teaches and trains students to be ‘kingdom-minded’ through, and in, the outdoors,” said Josh Hayes, Impact coordinator for the Office of Student Life and Learning. “We design spaces of learning that take place through activities such as rock and ice climbing, backpacking, water sports, mountain biking and team building that lead others to a fuller knowledge of Christ, self, others and the world.”
Impact trips and training events are typically open to all Grove City College students. Since its inception, the program has taken students on trips throughout the region and across the country, from rock climbing at McConnells Mill or Spring Break hiking in Colorado Springs. Students are also eligible to apply for the Impact Program’s Leadership Team, which trains students to lead trips and events for the program in service to their campus community.
The training isn’t a walk in the park, Hayes said. “Students leaders are trained through industry-standard practices in each terrain specific area of travel. We don't just want to take people outside. We want them to know how best to do it,” he said.
Hiking and climbing are common features of Impact trips, which may last anywhere from a day to a week. These events include faith-based themes that incorporate lessons on Christian life into the outdoor environment. Training events cover instruction of a topic or skill that students may use on outdoor excursions.
The inspiration behind the Impact Program came from Hayes’ years of experience in outdoor ministry. “As an education major in college, I discovered a fertile ground for learning through and in the outdoors. I loved the opportunity to encounter a more holistic style of learning when in an outdoor environment,” Hayes said. “Since that point I have continually pursued working more and more in the professional field of outdoor ministry and education. And, by God's grace, I received an invitation to work here at GCC to introduce a new program to do just that.”
Impact also organizes outings for groups on campus, including clubs, Greek groups, athletic teams and resident assistants. The Impact Leadership Team coordinates adventure-based opportunities for groups to reach a particular goal, such as developing team unity, welcoming new members, or simply breaking the ice.
“Through Impact trainings and trips, I learned how to intentionally enjoy God’s creation and help others to learn and develop themselves through the outdoors,” said Junior Leader Elaina Reuther ’20 of Silver Lake, Ohio. “Impact develops leadership and outdoor skills that are so important in any career or in general life.”
According to the Impact Program’s mission statement, “In serving the mission of Grove City College and upholding its values, the Impact Program exists to empower students to be faithful to right living in and through outdoor and adventure learning that is distinguished by purposeful experiences that cultivate rich relationships with God, self, others, and creation and prepare students to be ambassadors in the outdoor and adventure industry.”
The foundations of the Impact Program are the components of experiential, reflective, and Scriptural learning. Students receive opportunities to grow through training events, communal and individual reflection, and Scriptural study. These aspects of learning combine to form well-rounded and confident students who are ready to face not only the physical world, but the spiritual as well.