Eric Cooper

by Vicki Heisser  |   

For Eric Cooper, it was, as he states, his passion for fishing, being outdoors, and living in Alaska, which led him to choose PWSC. When looking for schools, Eric says that what caught his attention was PWSC’s outdoor program because, quite simply, he “love[s] the outdoor activities.” Eric explains, “I thought it would be fun to have classes where you go outside, you learn about your environment and how to be safe in it. Taking classes like Wilderness First Responder, though challenging, I learned a lot. After taking that class and some other ones, I feel like I have become much more competent and comfortable in the outdoors, if something happens I know I can rely on myself.”

As part of the outdoor leadership curriculum, Eric is doing his internship through the PWSC Health and Fitness Center (HFC). When asked how he got this internship, Eric explains, “I work for HFC and I knew last year, a student had completed a successful internship through the Center, so I approached Kayla Echols, HFC Coordinator, to see if we could work together and come up with something I could do.”

Kayla was ecstatic about this idea, noting “It was perfect timing to get Eric involved with our Employee Wellness Program. The program was ready to go, but we needed someone that was interested in doing it. Modeled after a UAA program called, Wellness Breaks, it is grounded in the 6 dimensions of wellness. Physical, Occupational, Social, Intellectual, Emotional and Spiritual. We want everyone to feel more energized and less stressed afterwards.”

Eric has really enjoyed the hands on, creative aspects of this internship opportunity. As Eric develops the exercise plans for the programs, he says, “I look for activities that people will enjoy doing.” Not only does he feel he’s helping others, but he has also learned a lot about himself through this experience. Eric notes, “I have definitely seen some personal growth during this internship. Going to the gym, working with the equipment, public speaking, organizing and leading group activities really used to take me out of my comfort zone. I feel more confident now and more knowledgeable, too. This has been a great experience. I have had a lot of support, too. Kayla, my internship supervisor and mentor has been there to help me when I felt I needed it.”

The Employee Wellness Program has been a hit. In fact, Kayla shares, “We want to share it with other employers in the community.” Eric graduated this May, and he’s enjoyed his experience in Alaska so much that it’s helped shape his goals. When asked what his plans are he said, “I want to be a commercial fly fishing guide. I love fishing, especially in Alaska. During the summer of 2017 when my dad, who always wanted to come to Alaska, visited me, I took him to my favorite fishing spot where I caught a big silver salmon in front of him. It was very cool that I was able to share that moment with him.”