Into the Unknown: New Student Orientation at Gould

Chris Hayward is seated at a wooden folding table on the Ordway Hall patio. It’s late summer and there’s not a cloud in sight. He’s activating the Garmin inReach handheld GPS communicators he will send out in a few days with the orientation trip leaders who will be traveling to remote areas without cell service.

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“We typically ask trip leaders to send a check-in at the end of each day,” Hayward explains. “We don’t want technology to interfere with the trips so we encourage them to use the communicators as little as possible. Usually, the message is ‘all is well’ and that’s it.”

Hayward is entering his thirteenth year at Gould and his eighth as the Director of Experiential Learning, a core part of Gould’s programming. He’s setting up equipment and making plans for the orientation trips new students are about to experience.

Within 24 hours of arriving in Bethel, incoming students are whisked away on group expeditions into the Maine wilderness and the White Mountains of New Hampshire. They are off to explore mountains, rivers, and lakes with tents, backpacks, canoes, kayaks, and bags of food, but there is more to Orientation than a simple camping trip.

“[Students are] nervous getting out of the car, and we instantly put them out on a three-day backpacking or canoeing trip,” says Hayward. “They come back relaxed. They’ve made new best friends and feel like they’ve been here a year already.”

It’s an intangible piece of Gould magic.

David Tempkin ’19, the student-elected speaker at Commencement in 2019,  joked that as soon as he set foot on campus he was met with, “Welcome to Gould kid. Now go hike Mount Washington.” The tent on the upper field erupted with laughter from families and students who knew exactly what he was talking about.

Ten groups went out into the woods this year on various trips, from hiking Mount Washington and Tumbledown, to paddling the Rangeley Lakes.

On the surface, it helps students adjust to Gould and meet their classmates. But as Chris Hayward explains it’s also a shared group experience and an intentional opportunity for them to begin to understand that “they can do challenging things and go into the unknown.”

This concept is threaded into every part of the Gould journey.

Molly Croes ’24, an incoming eleventh-grader from Stowe, Vermont didn’t know what to expect on her trip, but felt the significance right away.

“We hiked Table Rock in Grafton Notch and paddled the Androscoggin in canoes,” she says. “Both activities were more challenging than the group expected, but we worked together and overcame those challenges.”

The deeper more profound objective also resonated with her.

“Now we all have that shared experience to reflect on. Looking back you’re like, ‘Wow, I got out of my comfort zone and survived. I thought this was going to be impossible, but I actually did it.’ It gives you a confidence boost going into the school year.”

Hayward has distilled his purpose at Gould to its essence.

“I look at my job as helping kids realize how capable they are. That’s the story I like to tell. You think about the progression through the Four Point Program. By the time they are seniors, you can remind them of those feelings from registration day, orientation, travel experiences, service opportunities, creative pursuits, and from their Junior Four Point winter camping trip. ‘If anyone throws anything unknown at you, you can do it. You know you can do it.’”

Want to be part of the pack? Plan your visit to Gould today!

See more photos from the trips here
Private High School for Boys and Girls | Grades 9-12, Postgraduate and Winter Term for Grades 7-8 | Boarding School in the Mountains of Maine

Gould Academy guides students to be creative, courageous and resilient and to lead lives of fulfillment and purpose.