The Power of Growing from Experience

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Will Wilson '12 learned life lessons from a tough situation

By Nadine Fiedler

Senior Will Wilson loves the outdoors, almost more than anything. He goes on outdoor trips for the feeling of complete awareness and connection with the place and the people he’s with. He’s considered a leader in the senior class, for his outdoor skills, his generosity of spirit, and the trust he’s built among his peers and the faculty. That trust, however, was severely tested in Will’s sophomore year.
He and some friends broke some fundamental school rules on an outdoor trip. When teachers confronted them about what they had done, they covered it up and denied it. When the truth came out, Will was disciplined, placed on suspension for a week. That week at home turned out to be an important time for Will and the way he views the world.
“Going into my sophomore year, I would avoid getting into trouble, in any way I could,” says Will. “I thought it was worse than any growth I might have from those experiences. I did a lot of thinking during my suspension about why I lied and tried to protect myself. Although I didn’t see a change at first, it ultimately changed my view on truth. Now I take the truth very seriously.”
“I began to notice a change in myself when I got more involved in the outdoor program,” says Will. He was hesitant at first to go back on trips, knowing he had breached the trust of the outdoor program leaders and might not be given any more responsibility. “If you’re not trusted, especially in the out of doors, a lot of things can go wrong,” he says. “But I stayed with the program, because I felt it was one way for me to see new values, and a new viewpoint on the world. And I can’t live without being in the outdoors.” Due to his hard-earned honesty and his innate integrity, Will grew into a valued member of the outdoor program, as well as of the senior class.
Will was one of the leaders on a mountaineering trip to Canada last summer, and it was a joyful experience for him. “I like the idea that you are the one making the decisions and keeping the ones behind you safe—and having fun with it.” That love of leadership, and great concern for those he oversees, is one reason why Will decided to enter in the military Reserve Officer Training Corps scholarship program when he goes to college next year. He hopes to go to a college in Colorado—so he can participate in back-country skiing, rock climbing, and mountain climbing, of course.
Michael Heath, head of the Upper School, echoed what many staff members and faculty think about Will: “He is the kind of student you can point to and say, ‘We want students to be like that—to learn from a mistake that has had a profound impact.’ I am very proud of Will. More than anything else I could say, I trust him with this community implicitly.”  

Nadine Fiedler is the editor of the Caller and Catlin Gabel's director of publications and public relations.