Letter to the Editor: Why Project Wildcat is worth it

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This week, the 2018 Project Wildcat counselor body found out that there would be no PWild trip in 2019. New Student and Family Programs sent out a list to counselors — including the current PWild hiking location and the organization’s culture — of definitive reasons they need to take an entire year to fully re-adjust the program. From a culture standpoint, I want to share why that isn’t necessary.

Like any first-year student, I was anxious coming into my freshman year. I was nervous about meeting people, the rigorous academics at Northwestern and the general college transition. I can confidently say that PWild was the main reason I arrived on campus ready to tackle my first year at college.

I was a camper on the PWild 2017 trip. My two counselors, Sofia and Peter, led our group with endless enthusiasm and patience. On trail they were willing to answer any questions we had about backpacking and NU, and I was immediately comfortable in our group. I met other incoming students who had similar interests to me in a setting nowhere near as overwhelming as Wildcat Welcome. I got to relax and forget all my freshman fears for a week and was able to reflect on what I wanted my first year at NU to be.

What I definitely did not experience were any of the horror stories that still seem to swirl around PWild’s reputation. I wasn’t forced to figure out how to survive in the woods with no help from my counselors, I wasn’t hazed and I never felt unsafe.

Based on my trip as a camper, I knew I wanted to be a PWild counselor, so I could have the same impact and relationships with new incoming students that my counselors had (and still have) with me. When I was accepted as a counselor for PWild 2018, I was thrilled to join a community I had admired for so long. The PWild counselors are close, but how could we not be? Over spring quarter we have class every week to prepare for the trip. Additionally, we spend two weeks before pre-orientation putting in more work getting Wilderness First Aid certified, participating in a training trip ourselves and spending hours on safety plans to make sure we can lead a successful trip for incoming students.

I couldn’t have asked for a better group for PWild 2018. Our campers were the most energetic and willing first years my co-counselor and I could have asked for. The trip was nothing but positive, and I returned to campus knowing that I had given my campers what my counselors and PWild gave me as a freshman: a sense of community, a little bit of peace and lots of excitement for the year to come.

PWild has gone through a lot of changes in the past few years. What clearly hasn’t changed is the determination of the counselor body to run a successful trip and the reception our hard work gets by the campers who participate.

This is my experience with PWild: supportive, fun, rewarding and essential to my first-year experience. Every incoming student deserves the opportunity the benefit from a program like PWild, because after being outdoors for a week, worries about college feel so much smaller.

If your experience with PWild has been similar, I encourage you to contact the NSFP office and the vice president of student affairs Patricia Telles-Irvin (vpsa@northwestern.edu) to let them know that postponing PWild is a mistake. If you want to get more involved in bringing PWild back for 2019, feel free to reach out to me. PWild does so much good, and it deserves to be an option for incoming students next year.

Tara Krantz, Weinberg 2021