November 18, 2012

Schooled in the outdoors

A $1 million federal grant helped equip the Windham High outing club for outdoor expeditions.

By Deirdre Fleming
Staff Writer

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Jack Brockelmanc, a junior at Windham High, takes a breather on Mt. Madison in the White Mountain National Forest during an excursion with the school’s outing club.

Courtesy of Windham High Outing Club

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Nate Skvorak, front, was the trip leader for an overnight backpacking trip in the White Mountains.

Additional Photos Below


To learn more about the Windham High Outing Club and the programs made possible through its federal PEP grant, go to

This year, Brockelmanc is a climbing leader with junior Josh Richardson, one of the most avid among the school's climbers. Riddle said the two came to him before the club meetings started to ask to take an inventory of equipment well before that work began.

The club has inspired others.

Nate Skvorak, a junior hiking division leader, now wants a career involved in outdoor leadership or guiding. He already had a love of the outdoors from time spent with his family at Moosehead Lake. The outing club showed him it could be a way of life.

"With the club, we do really big hikes. I've learned a lot about the gear, that's a big part of it. The club has really good gear. It's hard to know what you need. And it's expensive. But I've acquired a lot of it, piece by piece," Skvorak said.

Because of that equipment, any student can learn to road bike, fly fish, sea kayak, backpack, camp and rock climb.

"When you look at it from the outside, it seems a big-time commitment, the meetings and the events, but it's changed me a lot," said senior Alyson Shannon, a three-sport athlete who leads the club's kayak division.

"And Riddle is a great inspiration. He teaches us about leadership, to find the natural highs in life, to reach our limits." Shannon still recalls topping out on an intimidating rock ledge in Fryeburg when learning to rock climb.

"There are people better at it than me, but I did what I didn't know I could do," Shannon said.

There could be more of that at Windham High in the next year as Riddle expands the club's programming.

The club president, senior Zoe Hall, dreams of rock climbing trips in West Virginia. Brockelmanc wants to climb in Red River Gorge in Kentucky.

"I'd like to make a lot of trips happen. I'd like to do a big backpacking trip through the Whites," said Hall, who climbs competitively.

Riddle laughs out loud when he hears the students' ideas and goals. But his outdoor leaders are not laughing.

"I'd like to go out West. Or to Alaska. Mr. Riddle just went there. That would take some work (to fund). But we can always dream," Skvorak said.

Such aspirations are precisely what Riddle hoped the PEP grant would inspire. And like his students, Riddle dreams big.

"What about a trip that involved hiking Mt. Katahdin, biking down to the ocean and having the kayaks waiting for a sea kayak trip? Why shouldn't we do that?" Riddle says.

And while a dozen busy climbers in his adventure physical education class have left the gym for the day, high above Riddle the club's sign silently answers back:

"Get Active. Get Fit. Be Well."

Staff Writer Deirdre Fleming can be contacted at 791-6452 or at:

Twitter: Flemingpph


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Additional Photos

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Snow covers a trail marker on Mt. Madison during the Windham High Outing Club’s expedition two weeks ago.

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From left to right, Jed McGill, Jack Brockelmanc, Alyson Shannon and Cianne Plummer are among the members of the Windham Outing Club that has benefited from a $1 million federal grant awarded three years ago.

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Nate Skvorak, right, watches a moose with Josh Richardson, left, and Jack Brockelmanc. The sighting was a treat on the expedition.

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