Ryan Neese on the Kennicott Glacier - Photo: Ryan Neese

Ryan Neese on the Kennicott Glacier - Photo: Ryan Neese

Discovering Fulfillment Through Group Cohesion in the Wrangell Mountains

by Ryan Neese, 2017

With the support of a scholarship from the Wrangell Mountains Center, Ryan Neese participated in the 2017 Alaska Wrangell Mountains Field Studies, offered through The Evergreen State College. With Ryan’s permission, here are a few excerpts from his much longer Essay:  “Discovering Fulfillment Through Group Cohesion in the Wrangell Mountains

 Students arrive at the footbridge - Photo: Nate Anderson

Students arrive at the footbridge - Photo: Nate Anderson

“In front of us is a footbridge, the gateway to the towns of McCarthy and Kennecott: formerly abandoned copper mining towns from the early 1900’s…. But more importantly, the town of McCarthy represents a diverse and sometimes controversial community of remote Alaskans that is quite unlike any rural town I’ve ever encountered.”

“Working alongside classmates and the staff of Wrangell Mountains Center that first week provided me that same familial feeling as everyone completed their “joys” of gardening, chopping wood, heating water, fixing broken fences, and cooking meals. Immediately everyone had a role to fill and other people to rely on. I began to feel appreciated, needed, and incredibly comfortable being myself and letting my guard down.”

“The sun almost never sets, your chair is a rock and your desk is your lap, the temperature could drastically change in a day, it takes a lot of extra effort to do simple tasks like cook dinner and find a bathroom, and you will probably never sleep…. Thankfully what I found this summer is that this environment, sometimes as chaotic as it is, brings out the best in people. I connected very strongly with my classmates within our first week here…. My group members felt they had roles they could fill, people to laugh with, welcoming feelings, trusting relationships, and they were not afraid to be themselves.”

 Students and instructors on the Kuskalana Traverse - Photo: Will Chang

Students and instructors on the Kuskalana Traverse - Photo: Will Chang

 Photo: Ryan Neese

Photo: Ryan Neese

“Everywhere I went I saw happy people being themselves, looking out for everyone, welcoming and including outsiders, and doing the many jobs required to keep this town moving…. People smiled and said “Hello” as you walked down the street. This used to be the norm in America but somewhere along the way, as our cities got larger and our technology improved, these ideals were lost. McCarthy, with its diverse populace, represents the ideal community to me. And I feel my group of classmates and I reflected [this] extraordinary community….”

“A lot of residents I met said, ‘This place changes you.’ And I believe that to be true. Not quite modern, not quite ancient, McCarthy has got it just right.”

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