Surmounting a 12-foot wall. Steadying a dangerous balance board. Traversing metal tightropes woven through a maze of ‘safe’ trees. With symbolic parallels to the challenges young men will face in their academic, athletic, and professional careers, Ralph Fedele ’04 and Josh Collins ’95, P’23 expose every Trinity-Pawling junior to elements of team-bonding and leadership at the Indian Mountain School Outdoor Program.

Members of the rising senior class are taken out of their comfort zones by approaching team-based elements in the low ropes area, and then pushing themselves to climb a shaky ladder 30 feet into the trees during the high ropes session. The group camps overnight, sleeping in a wooden lean-to without the comfort of Wi-Fi or running water.

Collins says the most effective part of the ropes course comes through “conversations, telling stories, and watching students learn more about themselves.” He has led the ropes course trips for 17 years, spurned by his affinity for the outdoors after growing up hiking, hunting, and fishing. As Dean of Students, he enjoys the opportunity to connect with the boys in a new setting, saying that “many boys have never been on a hike through the woods, let alone spent the night in the woods or sat around a campfire.”

Fedele’s passion for the outdoors and his service as a U.S. Marine with deployments to Afghanistan in 2010 and 2012 make him an ideal guide for the boys. In his third year as a ropes course leader he pushes students with a delicate balance of empathy and expectation. On campus, Fedele teaches English and coaches varsity wrestling and varsity baseball, alongside Collins. As alumni, the two embody and impart characteristics essential for each student at Trinity-Pawling School to take into their senior year, and onward for the rest of their lives.

by Cyrus Rothwell-Ferraris