By Rebecca Redelmeier
Students from Tufts University and Medford High School journeyed outside of the classroom in early February to strap on skis and build the relationship between both schools’ outdoors clubs. Ten members of Medford High’s Students of the Fells Club joined 14 Tufts Mountain Club members for a day of skiing at Pat’s Peak in New Hampshire.
Niklas Tower, Program Director for the Students of the Fells, a program initiative of the local non-profit Friends of the Fells, led the coordination of the event. He reached out to Jonas Procton, Tufts Mountain Club’s Stewardship Director, to explore the possibilities of partnering the outdoor interests of both schools.
“I knew that Tufts does a lot with Medford High but we hadn’t brought the outdoor interests together yet,” Tower said. “Through Jonas, there was a lot of energy to make that happen, and I thought it would be a great opportunity.”
Students of the Fells has developed over the past two years and first collaborated with the Tufts Mountain Club last year, although the club has previously partnered with parent organization Friends of the Fells.
A recent grant from the Cummings Foundation 100K for 100, obtained by the Friends of the Fells, has afforded opportunities to expand Students of the Fells’ roster of activities. Their efforts include growing Students of the Fells clubs in the five communities that surround the Fells, including Winchester, Malden, Stoneham, Melrose, and Medford. Through self-funding and donations, Medford Students of the Fells were able to afford the cost of the ski trip and provide full scholarships to two first-time skiers.
Over the course of the day, members of Students of the Fells and Tufts Mountain Club gathered together on the beginner bunny hill, challenging black diamond routes, and even the tubing slopes, racing, laughing, and snapping action shots of each other.
More experienced Tufts Mountain Club members also spent the day teaching beginner skiers from both Tufts and Medford High how to ski. “We got some Tufts people who could help teach skiing and other people who wanted to learn how and matched up,” Procton said.
Members of both outdoors programs see the advantage of growing this partnership for future outdoor events. Zach Maffeo, a senior at Medford High, noted that the joint program benefited both communities. “Tufts could benefit from the community outreach opportunities, and we could benefit from learning from [Tufts students]. It’s a good way for high school and college students to bond,” Maffeo said.
A precedent for Medford High collaborating with Tufts already exists through programs organized by Tufts’ education department. With a shared interest for the outdoors and with the Middlesex Fells Reservation located just a few minutes from both schools, both Tower and Procton hope that joint outdoors trips become an annual collaboration as well.
Tower, who is working to expand the Students of the Fells to neighboring communities, has already partnered with a Tufts marketing class to develop Students of the Fells’ social media platforms (follow their progress on Instagram, Twitter, or Facebook @findyourfells).
Already, the Tufts Mountain Club organizes frequent outreach activities with other local youth programs, such as the Malden YMCA. According to Procton, reaching out to more youth in the community is important to the Tufts Mountain Club’s mission of spreading accessibility to the outdoors.
“We’re definitely going to try to continue our work with Medford High,” Procton said. “One of our main goals is to bring our outdoors skills to the community around us and get as many people interested in the outdoors as possible from a young age.”
At the end of the ski day, the bundled group of Medford High and Tufts students posed together for a photo in front of the illuminated ski slope, cold toes and big smiles as evidence of a successful day spent on the slopes.
“As long as everyone had a great time and no one’s hurt, I’m happy,” Tower said.
And on the bus ride back to Medford, the sound of excited chatter and plans for future collaborations made it clear that students had had a great time as well.
Are you looking to get your high school involved with Students of the Fells? Reach out to Nik Tower through the Friends of the Fells office at firstname.lastname@example.org or 781-662-2340.