Meet Amanda Wygant

by Vicki Heisser  |   

Outdoor leadership student Amanda Wygant took some time to share a bit about herself and her aspirations as she begins classes at PWSC. Here are some highlights from our interview. 

PWSC: Hi, Amanda. To start, tell me where you are from and what some of your hobbies are; what do you like doing?

Amanda: I was born and raised in Kenny Lake, Alaska. I’ve lived there most of my life but have travelled and lived in various states along with Italy and Thailand. After I graduated high school in 2017, I planned to attend college. Last minute I changed my mind and ended up at Alyeska Ski Resort in Girdwood, Alaska. Living at a ski resort instilled a passion for snowboarding.

Thailand is where I discovered my love for water sports.  I spent three months there scuba diving and working as an underwater guide. It was a major growing point for me mentally, physically, and emotionally, as it pushed my comfort zone in many different ways. The reason I love diving so much is that it feels like an entirely different planet. The beauty of nature never ceases to amaze me.

Flying is another hobby of mine. I am a third generation pilot. Like scuba diving, flying brings you to another world to explore. It is meditation for me. I’ve been working on my private pilot’s license for the past three years. It’s been a great challenge for me financially and mentally. There is a lot of risk involved and it has definitely exceeded my comfort zone.

Last summer I worked as a white water kayak photo boater on the Shenandoah and Potomac rivers. Being a freelance photo boater was a dream job. It combined my love of photography and film with that of water sports. Before kayaking, I didn’t really do anything on rivers. It was exciting and challenging to learn another outdoor skill. I’m very much still a beginner and have a lot to learn about kayaking. I’m excited to have the opportunity to be a part of the sea kayaking class this fall.

PWSC: You clearly love the outdoors, so the program seems like a good fit. How did you hear about PWSC and our outdoor leadership program?

Amanda: When I was in high school I took an English class with PWSC, so that made me aware of the opportunity to attend school near home. I did not know about the leadership program until December of last year. After three years of being done with high school, I was ready to return to school. I was curious if there were any outdoor programs near me that would get me outdoor certifications.  I emailed with professor Ben Rush and ended up volunteering with him and his student Zech Wenzinger at the dog-mushing event, Copper Basin 300. Volunteering with them gave me an idea of the sort of things I may end up doing in the program. It ended up motivating me more to be a part of the outdoor leadership program.

PWSC: What are your motivations and ambitions for a career in the outdoors?

Amanda: I would love it if I could combine my love for flying with outdoor sports. I’d love to have a business that would focus on backcountry outdoor expeditions, exploring remote places. I also have hopes of being able to work in various countries with the outdoor certifications I get. I would love if my experience in the outdoors could bring me to Central or South America. Working in Antarctica would also be a very cool experience.

The psychological aspect of outdoor sports also motivates me. I would love to learn more about outdoor therapy and about helping people by bringing them into nature and involving them in outdoor activities.

Working for NOLS, the National Park Service, or Bureau of Land Management is also something I may consider.

PWSC: Great ideas. Is there anybody in your life that has been a great influence over your passion for the outdoors?

Amanda: I would say nature has been the biggest influence. My parents influenced my love for nature by raising me in rural Alaska.  It is something I will forever be grateful for.

Going to school at Kenny Lake where my entire high school was 22 students, I got to have many unique opportunities. I had one teacher, Mr. Voley, that loved the outdoors and combined our writing class with glacier walks, hiking, camping, rafting, and cross-country skiing. In high school, I also had the opportunity to be a part of the Outdoor Stewardship Program, which is a science and outdoor sport program that happens in the summer. My education definitely had a big influence in creating my passion for the outdoors.

PWSC: What are you looking forward to learning in your outdoor leadership classes? Is there any particular class that really excites you?

Amanda: I am looking forward to so many things. I really am excited to explore my fear and develop better risk management skills. Rock climbing excites me because I’ll get to push my comfort zone a lot because I have a fear of heights. I’ll be happy to find a way to climb and not be scared. Sea kayaking and rafting I’ll enjoy a lot because I love the water. It will be great to develop my kayaking skills more.