We here at The National Center for Outdoor & Adventure Education (NCOAE) are very proud of the Education Without Walls program and its students! Education Without Walls is a wilderness-based outdoor education program that engages 13 to 18 year old students in a variety of adventure activities, including backpacking, rock climbing, surfing, kayaking, and camping. This non-profit program, established by the The National Center for Outdoor & Adventure Education (NCOAE), provides scholarships for motivated students in financial need, to participate in outdoor adventure programming.
By using Wilderness as a classroom, Education Without Walls offers an exceptional learning environment — one where instructors foster curiosity, students apply critical thinking, and memories are constructed and not soon forgotten. Instructors use NCOAE’s Core Curriculum to guide lesson planning and the facilitation of experiential education activities that focus on personal development, community building and the acquisition and mastery of technical outdoor skills. As a result, Education Without Walls students make close friends and learn incredible skills, all while having a blast on adventures of a lifetime.
We’d like to introduce you to one of the many success stories that has come out of Education Without Walls — Joaly Canseco — and tell you a little about her background and thoughts about her own life-changing experience with Education Without Walls.
Joaly, who is now 19 years old, first started participating in Education Without Walls back when she was 13. We sat her down for a brief Q&A, and here is what she had to say:
NCOAE: What were things like at home back when you first heard about Education Without Walls?
Joaly: We were new to living in Wilmington (North Carolina) and I was at a new school and going to an after-school program called Dreams. There was just my mother and my two siblings living in a three-bedroom apartment.
NCOAE: What year did you first participate in Education Without Walls, and for how many years did you participate?
Joaly: My first trip was in 2013 and I participated in at least one trip each summer except the summer of 2016. That year my mother was expecting. She cleaned beach houses in the summer months and needed a little help.
NCOAE: Why did you first want to participate in Education Without Walls?
Joaly: At first, I just thought it would be a small camp experience and I wanted to do something over the summer other than help my mom clean beach houses. I never thought it would be the first time I travel six hours from home and stay in the middle of a forest for 12 days!
NCOAE: What benefits did you derive from participating in Education Without Walls?
Joaly: I have learned to love nature and appreciate everything around me and I also learned how to use critical thinking skills at home when things got tough. I also have met amazing people throughout the years. And I treasure those friendship and the guidance they have given me over the years.
NCOAE: How would your life be different today if you had not become an Education Without Walls student?
Joaly: Of course, I wouldn’t have had the amazing opportunity to go across the country and visit the amazing state of Alaska. My first hike, kayak trip, surfing lessons, airplane ride, glacier hike — and spotting a live bear — were all the result of Education Without Walls, and for that I am grateful.
NCOAE: What was a favorite part about being enrolled in Education Without Walls?
Joaly: The adventures and laughs I had with my groups. Each trip is completely different and the memories from each of those adventures will never fade.
NCOAE: What was your least favorite part about being enrolled in Education Without Walls?
Joaly: Probably the lessons, because sometimes we had to talk about tough topics. But those conversations helped me as a person to grow and learn. I knew I was in a safe space with the people who were around me.
NCOAE: What advice can you offer to a young person thinking about becoming involved in Education Without Walls?
Joaly: Do it! You won’t regret it. It will give you stories others won’t have, and you will be around an amazing group of people and connected with them in such a special way. The friendship you have with them will be like no other.
NCOAE: Do any Education Without Walls trips, in particular, stand out for you? If so, which trip and why was it so memorable?
Joaly: Of course, my trip to Alaska was the most memorable. It was one of my longest trips but my top favorite. It wasn’t an easy trip — and all my trips were challenging in some way. But this trip pushed me to the limit. I had to work for 11 or 12 days and wake up every morning and hike to the stop and get to work. It wasn’t easy but in the end, it was worth it.
All the laughs and jokes I had with my fellow group members are some of my favorite memories. I talk about my trip to Alaska all the time. So much so that most of my friends know all my stories. But it was an amazing trip and I’m so grateful that I had the opportunity to go on it.
NCOAE: What are you doing now?
Joaly: Right now, I am in my second semester at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte. I am pursuing a major in Public Health and a minor in Health System Management. I am working two jobs — one on campus and one off — and focusing on my schoolwork. I hope to begin planning on a trip to Pisgah National Forest where it all began and show my friends the amazing memories we can make in the middle of a beautiful forest.
NCOAE: What would you like to be doing 10 years from now?
Joaly: By the time I’m 29, I hope to be done with graduate school and hopefully working in a clinic of some sort getting real-life experience in my field of work. I will still be living in Charlotte in a small apartment with my roommate/ best friend. I will hopefully have already visited many different places on my bucket list like Mexico, France, and California.