Making an outdoor hobby into a career is a dream shared by all Outdoor Recreation Leadership (ORL) students. Hundreds of aspiring mountaineers, raft guides, and rock climbers have joined the ranks of Colorado Mountain College Leadville students, looking to gain the skills necessary to turn that dream into a reality.
Don Nguyen, a 29-year-old ORL alumnus from Oklahoma City, is currently living in Washington state, working as a climbing instructor and mountain guide on Mount Rainier and Mount Shasta. He credits the Colorado Mountain College Leadville outdoor program and faculty for bridging the gap between hobby and career.
“CMC’s program and its experienced instructors gave me the technical skills, certifications and direction to work the dream job I have now,” says Don. “I learned about the types of leaders, and how various leadership styles relate to the many fields of outdoor guiding and instructing.”
Though he is currently content exploring the Pacific Northwest, Leadville will always hold a special place for Don. “I miss that beautiful mountain town charm of Leadville.” said Nguyen, “Seeing Elbert and Massive out my window framed by conifers was a pleasure I will never forget.”
Truly a life-long learner, Don has found various opportunities to continue honing his outdoor skills, both on and off camera. He was recently featured on the Discovery channel survival series, Naked and Afraid.
“I was dropped into Namibia with a person the TV network chose to be incompatible personality-wise with me.” says Don, “I used every single teamwork building and conflict resolution exercise I had learned from CMC. I felt that having these techniques and strategies helped reduce conflict with my partner on the show, built teamwork, and gave a good frame work on running the camp and staying on mission to finish the 21-day challenge.”
Don’s advice for future ORL students is clear: Colorado Mountain College is a place where students that are dedicated and invested in their education will have all the tools necessary to succeed.
“CMC is a school where you get a return proportionate to what you put in.” said Nguyen, “If you study hard, practice, and in your spare time get out and build on your skills, those skills become yours.”