Joe Kay

by Vicki Heisser  |   

 Joe Kay always wanted to do something related to the outdoors, but as he says, he “never knew what.” The Wisconsin native has always been adventurous, even taking a gap year after high school to explore the Virgin Islands. But after that gap year, Kay needed to figure out what to do next. 

It was a chance scroll through Facebook that led him to Prince William Sound College (PWSC). He was taken with the beautiful images he saw and, as he notes, “The fact that there was no out-of-state tuition really helped me because I was pretty broke. That was a big factor and then just the fact that it was located in the heart of Alaska, surrounded by the mountains really piqued my interest.”

Growing up in Wisconsin, Kay was always exploring the outdoors. “I was homeschooled for the most part of my life, and my siblings and I were always outside. We would go on family camping trips, and as I grew up, I would go on longer and longer hikes.” Kay loves how being outdoors makes him feel. “I can just relax and not stress about anything. So being outside feels like it’s a stress reliever.” 

Kay is someone who needs to be outdoors rather than in a traditional classroom setting. This is why the outdoor leadership program was so appealing to him. 

“The fact that I could teach in the mountains, or just learn all the skills and then share them to younger people, I think that'll be really cool.” 

Having chosen to pursue a program far from home, Kay has had the support of his family along the way. “My parents have been a huge influence in my life. They have always supported me. My parents were like, do what you want as long as you like it and you have somewhat of a plan. They really helped me get here.” 

Kay has also found support here at PWSC. For him, his outdoor leadership instructor Benjamin Rush and academic advisor Heidi Franke have been of great help. “Heidi helped me a lot when I was in Wisconsin trying to figure out just everything about this. Ben really sounds like he cares about what you're going to do in the future. He's not just trying to get you through the program.”

Being in Alaska now, in a program that allows him to do what he loves has motivated Kay. He’s working hard and knows that he’s doing his best. “I know that if I put in 100 percent of the effort, I can be satisfied with myself.”

Being satisfied with yourself and finding what you love are two things Kay wants others like him to think about as they look for schools. “Do what you want. I know there's a lot of pressure in high school that you have to go to a four-year school, but just do what you want to do because you will figure it out.”