JULY 2018: Volunteer of the Month
GGO is super excited to share with you July's volunteer of the month, Ben Aiken. Starting in August, Ben will no longer be a volunteer, as he will be transitioning into a new position as GGO's Educational Director. Ben has been volunteering with GGO since 2015 and we are so excited for him to be working in our Chicago office! We asked him a few questions to highlight his hard work and dedication.
Q: How did you originally get involved with GGO?
A: Nadav approached me with the idea back in 2015. We worked together on other outdoor projects and I had experience working with St. Louis schools and in enrichment programs. So it seemed to be the perfect fit! I have been volunteering ever since.
Q: How did you help found GGO?
A: I leveraged my experience in St. Louis schools and helped build our first few school partnerships. Since then I moved to Dallas-Fort Worth and started our Texas branch!
Q: What are you most excited about to begin working with GGO?
A: I can’t wait to move to Chicago and grow our organization there!
Q: What unique things will you bring as a GGO employee?
A: I’ve been an elementary teacher for the past two years so I’m excited to use my experience to train our leaders and write a great curriculum. I think we have a phenomenal opportunity to use our environment as a classroom and let learning come to life around us.
Q: Do you have a favorite experience or memory of your time as a volunteer?
A: There are so many, I’m having trouble picking one! Our rock-climbing trip with Uplift Meridian in May was a blast! Sharing our garden, some great food, and the rock wall with the parents was so much fun! It is always cool to see kids go outside their comfort zone and accomplish something they didn’t think they could.
Q: Why do you like volunteering with GGO?
A: While teaching has been rewarding the opportunity to educate and mentor with the outdoors is truly unique. I grew up camping and exploring often so GGO is a way for me to share my passion with others. Additionally, I am especially proud when teachers tell me how their students have improved academically and socially because of GGO. It shows how our program can have an impact beyond our sessions and be a positive influence in a child’s life.
Q: Do you have any advice for someone who is considering becoming a volunteer?
A: Mentorship works both ways. As much as you lead and teach the students they will impact you. Be prepared to learn a lot!
Q: What is something you are passionate about/love talking about?
A: Bike touring. Exploring by bike it the perfect way to travel. It’s faster than walking or hiking so you see more, but not as quick or separated as driving. I’ve toured the United States, Italy, and Iceland by bike and I look forward to more trips!
Q: Please write any additional comments about GGO
A: The wilderness has a profound way of stripping things down so you realize what’s most important in life. Even if we aren’t Bear Grylls we should all get outside and gain a bit of perspective sometimes. Go explore!