Venturing out into the unknown wilderness that this world has to offer can be a difficult task. The earth is vast with many things to see and witness, ranging from a variety of historical artifacts and nature's most beautiful creations to national landmarks. However, for college students, the time to travel and visually learn about the world around them is not plentiful. Homework assignments, deadlines, and the pressure to keep a balanced social and academic life can take away from one's exploration of the world. Therefore, some of life's greatest experiences are missed.
Luckily, at Kean University, the Outdoor Adventure and Recreation Club (OAR) is willing to accommodate those needs. Instituted at Kean in 2015, the student group's goals are to introduce students to a variety of outdoor activities and field trips to historical and natural landmarks in the state, all with a group of peers. The group also hopes that an appreciation is gained for the outdoors through these activities, in the effort to escape the technologically-filled world, in which everyone lives, on these trips for a couple of hours.
Students can acquire skills that range from perseverance to teamwork and the ability to work and communicate with others. OAR promises to not only teach these skills, but also to teach about the environment and the importance of sustainability and keeping the world clean. Also, OAR offers an exceptional opportunity for students to safely enjoy their experiences they may not have the funding for.
Throughout the semester, OAR will be hosting various events that focus on teaching these skills, such as an incoming paintball trip later this year.
The executive board of the organization, composed of six members, dedicate their time to making this club into the most inclusive and fun group that it can be. Stacy Valencia, a senior majoring in criminal justice while minoring in psychology and the director of public relations for her organization, is not only responsible for posting flyers and pictures of the events on Cougar Link and social media, but also contributes to the enjoyment of the rest of her board and the general body members alike.
"The Outdoor Adventure and Recreation club is for anyone who wants to join, have fun, relax and not worry about the stress of their schoolwork," Valencia said. "It is a club for the students, and they can pick whatever they want. If they want to go hiking, canoeing, or if they have any other ideas, they can just tell us and we could plan it, because if you are a Kean student and you are dorming, you know that there may not be much to do here on the weekend. We will all collaborate on trips and go have fun together."
Mike Gonzalez, a junior majoring in biology and the active treasurer of his organization, also believes that the choices of venture should be student based and less decided by the executive board, and that the choices of travel should be more diverse this semester.
"We pick the ideas and try to make sure that we can bring that to life. We also try to go to stranger places in New Jersey, places that are not talked about as much to explore. We plan to visit Grounds For Sculpture [in Hamilton, New Jersey] and also want to go cave exploring in Ogdensburg, New Jersey," Gonzalez mentioned. "We try to find the things that are interesting, and that is what our club is trying to push for."
The recent organization saw its inception in 2015 by Amy Sprinkle, Ph.D., a biology professor who wanted to start an inclusive organization that involved educational and recreational opportunities related to the environment. Her goal was to have a student group that got out of the classroom and into the world around them.
"Sprinkle was the person responsible for starting all of this. She was beloved by the staff and students all over. She was amazing," Gonzalez commented.
Camping, hiking, rock climbing, traveling around the state to sites such as Turtle Back Zoo in West Orange, New Jersey, and paintballing are just some of the experiences that the organization enjoyed together.
"I loved Grounds for Sculpture. I had gone to that place many times, but the greatest thing is when everyone sees the sculptures before we get there and they are all in just really weird positions," Gonzalez said. "People [in our group] look around and ask what they are, and they get there and say how gigantic it is, and say how they are astounded that they can touch them! It is very immersive. It is different, and it is a breath of fresh air."
The executive board of OAR believes that these trips, activities and experiences do not only benefit their abilities to excel in their school work and occupation, but also in their networking skills and accumulation of experience in a role of leadership, no matter the difficulty.
Aazeen Nasir, a senior psychology major and the vice president of the organization and the former director of public relations for her group, believed that her advancement in leadership roles motivated her to grow not only as a student but as a motivation to improve as a vocal leader in her group.
"I remember when Stacy and I were walking around one day, we found information desks that told us about different groups, and we both decided that we wanted to try something new. We were told about the OAR and the different trips and events, things that I had not done before. I wanted to join a club where I would be exposed to those kind of things. I wanted to step outside of my comfort zone," Nasir said. "I was originally going for PR, but then I got moved up to vice president. That was exciting and it was also a way to grow for me, because I was not previously involved on campus. My senior year was when I was finally exposed to those kind of things and I got really excited about that. Now, I am more excited about the trips that we will take this semester."
The student organization also prioritizes a sense of community in the many events and functions they put together.
"It is all about community. The thing is that, on campus, we are all about academics and we are all trying to make sure that we can get from one place to the next, while we finish our classes and just be done with school," Gonzalez said. "We are supposed to be bonding, not just over similar interests, but bonding over something that we are doing together and actually having an adventure, because that is what we are all about."
For more information on the fairly new group at Kean that focuses on community, a passion for the outdoors and adventure, visit the OAR's official site on Cougar Link. Also, the organization can be reached at their email: firstname.lastname@example.org.