Your trail to success can start in many different places. For these inspiring athletes, entrepreneurs, and leaders, NOLS was the push that got them started down the trail.
Whether going on an expedition to a remote mountain range or a 2-day wilderness medicine course learning life-saving skills, all NOLS graduates finish courses ready to define their own trail to success.Where will you start?
Jimmy Chin is a photographer, filmmaker, climber, and mountaineer known for his ability to capture extraordinary imagery while climbing and skiing in extremely high-risk environments. Through exploring the outdoors, he found purpose and community as these pursuits led him to a unique and fulfilling career path.
A longtime member of The North Face Athlete Team, he has joined dozens of exploratory expeditions and completed first ascents around the globe, working with the best adventure athletes in the world. His years of experience in the adventure sports world enables him to bring an authentic perspective to his storytelling. Jimmy’s documentary Free Solo won a BAFTA, and an Academy Award for Best Documentary Feature in 2019.
Jimmy joined NOLS as an instructor in 1998 and taught until 1999, and now serves as a member of the Board of Trustees. To this day, Jimmy considers his NOLS experience a gift: “You learn so many hard skills and soft skills that are yours to keep forever, many of them applicable throughout life.”
José G. González is the Founder and Director Emeritus of Latino Outdoors. The nonprofit connects families and youth with nature, engages and inspires Latinx leadership and empowers communities to explore and share stories of their cultural connections to the outdoors. He is an experienced educator with broad experience as a K-12 public education teacher, environmental education advisor, outdoor education instructor and coordinator, and university adjunct faculty. In developing Latino Outdoors, José’s goal was to collaborate with organizations seeking to diversify their outdoor and conservation programs. NOLS became one of those partners, offering a custom Wilderness First Aid (WFA) course to Latino Outdoors students in California.
When Latino Outdoors was founded, José knew that many of his community leaders faced a barrier of entry into the outdoor industry, for example, receiving a WFA certification. NOLS’ early partnership with Latino Outdoors provided an opportunity for both organizations to collaborate and address that barrier. The custom course helped equip leaders of Latino Outdoors with some of the technical skills that aren’t often accessible to them - furthering their reach within the outdoor community. By better understanding the needs of Latino Outdoors students, NOLS could make slight variations to the curriculum that would better resonate with this specific community.
Today, José continues to educate outdoor brands and organizations that want to strengthen communities around issues of education, conservation, and culture. He is also a newly appointed member of NOLS’ Board of Trustees.
Knight’s 10-year service as a Navy helicopter pilot began to shape his understanding of leadership. From tackling 24-hour tasking events alongside fellow service members to teaching advanced leadership theory at the collegiate level, Knight left the Navy with a burning passion for helping others reach their fullest potential.
Having seen the limitations of teaching leadership in a traditional classroom, Knight knew outdoor activities would be a perfect place for leaders to grow. While working on a Management PhD at George Washington University, he applied for a 30-day Instructor Course in Alaska with NOLS, which changed his outlook on leadership. After completing his course and becoming a NOLS instructor, Knight realized the value of authentic personal relationships and a community of leaders who inspire, support, and grow through shared adventure. He switched gears and earned an Executive Leadership Coaching Certificate at Georgetown University.
Today, Knight is the CEO and Lead Guide of Cairn Leadership Strategies. He takes entrepreneurs, adventurers, and business executives outdoors, tapping into the profound ways nature brings clarity and peace — two things all leaders require.
Kit is a pioneer with many “firsts” on her list of accomplishments. In 2006 she became the first woman to ski down Everest, making her the first person to ski the highest mountain on each continent. She’s also the first woman to win back-to-back Freeride World Tour championships, first female solo of the Grand Teton, and has made several first ski descents of the U.S. Arctic’s highest peaks.
Eleven years after her NOLS Alaska course, Kit took the advice of her instructor and traveled to Alaska’s Brooks Range in search of something truly wild. The towering peaks, untouched plains, herds of musk oxen in the Arctic Circle made an impact on Kit. Since her first trip to the Arctic, Kit has felt compelled to speak up about the importance of protecting that special landscape. Today, she serves on the board of directors for Alaska Wilderness League, which advocates for the complete protection of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.
Fill out this form to learn more about NOLS courses that can inspire your next adventure.