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Sharp Learns Life is About the Journey
Southeast senior Mitchell Sharp says the best thing he learned in college came from Professor of Health, Human Performance and Recreation Edward Leoni ᾰ Life is about the journey and not the destination.
The path of Sharp’s journey thus far has stretched from his hometown of Sikeston, Mo., to the campus of Southeast and the office of Dr. Sarah Hardin, professor of Recreation; from there, it goes blazing all around the country, across the scorching sands of Utah and through roaring Appalachian rivers. He currently is involved in a semester-long internship as an outdoor education instructor at Snow Mountain Ranch at the YMCA of the Rockies near Winter Park, Colo.
“Oh man, it’s great,” Sharp said. “I’m teaching outdoor education to junior high school students from Denver. I teach survival, outdoor living skills, beaver ecology, forest ecology, wetland ecology, etc. The kids are usually great, and I get to spend 30 to 50 hours a week outside in the Rocky Mountains ᾰ tell me a desk job that can beat that.”
In addition, Sharp says he is learning to interact with people from all over the world, thanks to the YMCA’s strong international employment program.
“I really enjoy anything that gives me a chance to see and do something new,” Sharp said. “Growing up, I played a lot of baseball and football, and all of the fields looked exactly the same. I got to travel a little bit doing that, but I never really found anything new, different or exciting. Since I walked into Dr. Hardin’s office two and a half years ago, I’ve been challenged with new activities on a weekly and monthly basis.”
Through the Department of Recreation, Sharp has gone on a spring break ski trip to Steamboat Springs, Colo., two summer pre-session trips to the southeastern United States and a three-week backpacking trip to Utah last spring. In Utah, he earned “wilderness first-aid” and “leave no trace” certifications and learned a lot about how to be an effective leader in the outdoors. He is grateful for the opportunities he’s had and appreciative of the dedication of his professors.
“I love how the teachers are passionate and how they participate in the learning process,” Sharp said. “They have a trip planned every time there’s some time off from school, and the teachers come right along with the students. They also stress experiential learning, which teaches you about life and not necessarily the x's and o's of a particular subject. I’ve learned things about myself and how to deal with others while experiencing some of the most beautiful parts of the country, and I wouldn’t trade those experiences for a million dollars.”
One wonders what Sharp would trade for a million dollars, especially since he’s a guy who’s done a lot of hard work for no pay. On top of his classes and trips, he found time to do volunteer work for the Boys and Girls Club, the Osage Center, the Girl Scouts and the Boy Scouts.
“I think the thing that has prepared me best for the working world is all of the volunteer experience I’ve gained while I’ve been a student,” he said. “It allows me to deal with things pretty well that seem to really bother my co-workers.”
Dr. Hardin, whom Sharp accompanied on a hiking, rafting, sea kayaking and mountain biking trip across the southeast U.S., describes him as a really good, helpful, laid-back guy, whose willingness to learn makes him a great part of a team.
“Mitch is a person of the highest integrity who mixes down-home southern charm with an interest in worldly things,” Hardin said.
Describing himself, Sharp says he always tries to “go for it.”
“I try to always go with what I like and not really what’s cool at the moment to other people,” he said. “I’m brave enough to be a loner, but smart enough to know who my friends are and why they’re important.”
Although he will complement his degree in recreation with a minor in outdoor leadership, Sharp began his studies at Southeast as a business major.
That was part of his journey, too, and he hasn’t ruled out pursuing a graduate degree in business or accounting. He encourages students to just get involved, no matter what field you’re in.
“Don’t feel bad or question yourself if you don’t know where you want to end up or what you want to do when you enter the adult world,” Sharp said. “It will all figure itself out.”