OLA Alumni Highlight

Max Tanous ‘16 was a highly involved Community School student-athlete during his time at the school. Then and now, Max is committed in everything that he does; from being a part of several clubs on campus, to being a passionate and driven student. One of Max’s highlights during his time at Community School was his time with the Outdoor Leadership Academy (OLA), during which he exemplified many of the qualities and skills our current OLA participants hope to achieve. Max is currently attending Bowdoin College in Maine, where he finds his time at Community School and member of the OLA has helped him out greatly as he navigates college and beyond.

What kind of person would you recommend join the OLA?
Someone who wants to develop outdoor and leadership skills in the front county of the back country. So many of the skills I learned in the backcountry were helpful in the classroom. I think that the kid who is a good fit for the OLA is someone who already enjoys spending time in the outdoors!

Do you have a favorite memory from your time in the OLA? 
My favorite memory would be the five days I spent climbing Mt. Baker in Washington State during my tenth grade summer. I learning a lot about different climbing techniques and learned more about mountaineering and outdoor leadership in general. Its where I learned the most about leading trips up mountains.

What makes you most proud about completing the Outdoor Leadership Academy curriculum?
It’s not easy, so I am proud of the time, energy, and commitment that I put into graduating from the program! Now that I am in college, I have started to look into guiding professionally during the summer time. My time with the OLA took me a big step toward getting certification. Learning technical skills and now putting those skills and putting them onto paper and try to get jobs with some of the biggest guiding companies in the world. Those companies have valued the experience I bring to the table, and most of those skills were learning through the OLA program. I know without a doubt that my time with the OLA has given me a leg up in the outdoor industry, and will continue to do so. The fact that I have been able to confidently apply for very specific and highly competitive jobs in the outdoor industry has been very motivating.

What tips would you give a student who is interested in joining the OLA?
Really make an effort to look at and take advantage of all of the opportunities that the OLA offers. It is easy to miss some of the great options that the OLA provides because of a busy schedule with academics and extra curriculars at the school. If you make the time to take all of the neat classes, it makes for night and day experience for you in the program. Not only are they fun but you are working toward completing the requirements that you will need to graduate from the program.

In what ways do you think time in OLA prepared you for college?
You learn a lot of leadership skills that are transferable to the classroom. In the OLA, you figure out when to take leadership role, when to sit back and listen which is a wonderful skill in college. I have learned when to participate, and when to listen. The OLA has also helped me learn to set goals, as we have to manage a four-year goal of managing the expectations set for you. You need to keep track of tasks and requirements, break them down, and figure out how to compete them in a timely manner. My time management skills have been an asset to me in college and a large part of that is because of the OLA.

What was the most defining experience for you in the Outdoor Leadership Academy?
The most defining trip for me was most certainly when the years of Outdoor Leadership Academy preparation culminated in my leading the fall campout together with my friend and OLA alum Piersen Carlsen. The teachers truly allowed Piersen and I to take charge in every way; they stepped back and we confidently led kids of all ages and skill levels and made them feel comfortable while having a good time. For us to do that confidently on our own was an experience I won’t soon forget.

What do you miss most about Sun Valley? 
I miss the mountain community in the Wood River Valley. Being surrounded by so many people who shared my passion for the outdoors was incredible. I miss my teachers at Community School, and having such a close relationship with all of my teachers and being able to go to them and work with them closely is something that has been hard to find at college and really anywhere except for CS.

The OLA advisors are all so knowledgeable about all of the environments in the backcountry and outdoors, on water and land. No matter what your proficiency and skill in the outdoors they want to work with you to build those skills. They make being outside even more enjoyable.