John Gans

“We’ve worked with STEP for over a decade, bringing more than 250 students on our Alaska leadership expeditions. It’s a partnership we’re so happy to have. This community we build is becoming more and more important for our country and for the world today.”
— Executive Director of NOLS

Though NOLS and STEP have different mission statements, there’s a lot of overlap. Reflecting on his conversations with NOLS graduates over the years, John says, “What stands out are the lessons in leadership and expedition behavior. These carry on for a lifetime in school, work, and any team setting where you work with people from various backgrounds.” But there are unique takeaways for STEP students: “Travel to a totally different environment – you can’t get much more different than Arizona to Alaska! A lot of students have never been on an airplane. For them, they realize they can choose a college that’s not just right down the road. It expands their horizons in terms of geography and possibilities.”

John admires STEP’s unique emphasis on pursuing a college degree. “The overlap in our missions – leadership, confidence, and knowledge – sets the students up well to pursue college degrees.”

On a personal level, John has witnessed how both STEP and NOLS are working together to build community with a wide geographic reach. “When my middle son, a NOLS grad, was preparing to leave Wyoming to go to Bowdoin College in Maine, he found out that his roommate was a STEP alum. It’s interesting to see how the dots connect… How a Wyoming public school kid and an Arizona STEP student make that connection. It builds community and it’s an important deal for our country and for the world.”