By Yunga Webb | Director of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion
This February, we were fortunate to welcome Dom Mullins and community friend and Access Wild Places mentor Mirna Valerio—aka The Mirnavator— to campus for Access Outdoors for All. This special day-long event helped to kick off our celebration of Black History Month with our students, faculty and staff, guest students from Northwood School and Keene Central School, and our broader community. Most importantly, the day provided the opportunity to have a conversation around how we can help to eliminate cultural and racial barriers to accessing the outdoors.
Dom kicked off the day by engaging NCS students and faculty, as well as visiting students, with activities that showcased his wide and varied talents and experiences as an ice climber, combat veteran, former professional ballet dancer, sociologist, and member of Full Circle Everest—the first all-Black expedition team to summit Mount Everest. This included a ballet dance clinic with more than 30 participating students and faculty joining in on the fun, as well as an ice climbing trip up nearby Pitchoff Mountain with 10 students and five faculty members.
Mirna joined us in the evening for a dinner with community partners that focused on brainstorming ways we can work together to eliminate cultural and racial barriers to accessing the outdoors and increase accessibility to the outdoors for all people. Together, Dom and Mirna then led presentations that were followed by a roundtable “action and ideas” discussion centered around how we can put our thoughts into action for marginalized communities to access the outdoors, during which community partners were able to network and establish next steps in this effort.
To cap off the day, we welcomed 200 community members for a public presentation in the WallyPAC where Dom and Mirna shared their respective and inspiring success stories—from Dom’s life journey that led him to become a member of the first Mt. Everest expedition comprised entirely of Black climbers, to Mirna’s path to become an ultra-marathon runner, author of A Beautiful Work in Progress, and the 2018 National Geographic Adventurer of the Year. If you missed the event, you can watch a recording at the video link below and check out this local news feature from MyChamplainValley.com that highlighted the day.
Students fondly recalled Dom’s celebratory “fist bumps” throughout the day when they would accomplish something, and many appreciated how he defined success as a journey and not an accomplishment—an important reminder from this “fist bump” of a day working toward a stronger community at NCS and beyond.