Apr 9, 2021 | ACTIVE LIFE | By Lorea Zabaleta | Illustration by Bibi Powers

This year, Colorado College Outdoor Education (CCOE) expanded the options for students seeking funding for their outdoor endeavors.

The new Pathways Grants are available starting this summer for students looking to plan, propose, and execute a six-day (or longer) trip in the contiguous U.S. Applications are due on April 19.

“The goal of these of the Pathways Grants, is to kind of provide a pathway, if you will, from wherever a student is, and the hopefully end goal of maybe getting them on an expedition,” said Kate Macklin, the Ritt Memorial Fund coordinator.

It’s “a big jump” from going on your first hike to going on multi-week expeditions, she said. Pathways trips are intended to act as an intermediary step for students newer to an activity, or the outdoors in general, to practice and gain new skills in a lower risk environment.

Two main differences make Pathways trips less daunting than their expedition counterparts. Pathways have a six-day minimum time spent in the field as opposed to a 12-day minimum; additionally, Pathways trips are not required to enter areas as remote as Ritt expeditions.

“The threshold is a little bit different because we want to increase the accessibility of these experiences to students, and if students aren’t super comfortable going like, really, really deep in there, then that’s okay,” Macklin said.

She also said that they haven’t found the exact language for the Pathways Grant threshold but that students should be “carrying their own weight” whether that’s via backpack, boat, or bike bags — essentially, no car camping.

Macklin said that for this year they are anticipating giving out the $500 grants to 12 students. She said this number is fewer than the longer expedition grants but if the trips are really popular, they can put more funds toward them in the future.

Macklin also said that the process for a Pathways Grant is roughly the same as that of a Ritt Expedition Grant. The level of risk could be similar, and CCOE needs all the same information, she said.

However, the deadlines for Pathways are a little more on a “rolling basis,” due about a month before all of the major breaks in the academic year. Those deadlines are set so that CCOE can review the application and approve it with enough time for the student(s) to actually prepare for the trip. Students can also take a Pathways trip at any other time they wish, so long as they submit an application a month before their departure date.

In terms of COVID-19, the precautions and additions to the application for students are the same as for Ritt grants this year. Also, the pandemic delayed the release of the grants, from the fall to now. Another barrier CCOE is encountering in the launch of Pathways Grants is simply getting the word out because of their newness. (So check them out!)

And last but not least, Macklin said a “secondary benefit” of the Pathways Grants is that they give students a second chance should their Ritt Kellogg Expedition Grant be rejected, because Pathways occur on a more frequent basis.

“Historically it’s kind of like, sorry, try again next year,” she said of the old system.

Macklin’s goal is to get people outside, so Pathways is a “cool” way to increase the likelihood that people will be able to.

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