Western North Carolina high school students bicycled 300 miles to the nation’s capital on one trip and canoed along the route of Lewis and Clark on another as part of summer activities sponsored by Talent Search at Western Carolina University.
The federally-funded Talent Search program is designed to encourage and prepare participants to graduate from high school and continue their educations. Todd Murdock, director of the program at WCU, said the goal of the summer trips was to help students explore, learn and grow as they developed leadership skills and cultural awareness.
Nine high school students and a Talent Search alumnus who is in college joined the cycling trip that left June 25 – cooking, camping, and visiting historical sites along the Great Allegheny Passage and C& O Canal Towpath Trail. The trip took them from Pennsylvania through Maryland to Washington, D.C. Participants rode on part of the same path along the Potomac River that Abraham Lincoln traveled by horse and buggy. They arrived in Georgetown, Va., tired and splattered in mud kicked up by their tires on the trail.
Participant Alex Madill, a Smoky Mountain High School senior from Cullowhee, said the most challenging part of the trip was the mental and physical challenge of cycling so far, while the best parts were the camaraderie and shared experiences. “The Antietam battlefield was pretty overwhelming,” said Madill. “It’s so huge, and we thought about how many people died there.”
The second Talent Search group left July 10 for a week to volunteer and hike in Glacier National Park, participate in the North American Indian Days powwow in Browning, Mont., and canoe 50 miles on the Missouri River along the same route as the Lewis and Clark Expedition.
“I ate beaver tail and buffalo tongue,” said Anna Purser, an Andrews High School junior from Andrews. “How many people get to say that?”
In letters that participants wrote to themselves to help them transfer the experience home, they talked about lessons they learned on the trip: Keep making new friends. Be kind. Don’t get trapped. Remember that everyone has problems.
Kyle Broom, a Smoky Mountain High School sophomore from Tuckasegee, said he made friends and had experiences he previously had not even imagined. “I love the great outdoors even more now, and I didn’t think that was possible,” he said.
For more information on the program, contact Todd Murdock at 828.227.3482.