Cassandra Biette Prepares For A Life Devoted To The Environment

Senior is planning a gap year to explore outdoor leadership skills before heading to college.

From now until June 5, Belmont Patch will feature High School seniors who are graduating this year.

Cassandra Biette often jokes with her father that the perfect job for her would be going camping and being paid for doing so.

Even mentioning it makes the Belmont High School senior laugh a bit.

But Biette has a plan after graduation that just may turn her fantasy into reality.

She has decided to postpone college and instead take a gap year to pursue an educational experience that is “totally different” from her schooling over the past 13 years.

After working as a counselor for her second year at Habitat’s summer camp, Biette will spend September through December at the National Outdoor Leadership School in Wyoming, attending its year-away-from-college semester in the Rocky Mountains where she will be hiking, rafting, learning wilderness first aid and how to teach those skills to others.

For the months of March and April 2012, Biette will attend an outdoor leadership course through Outward Bound in North Carolina where she will be doing similar activities in the Appalachian Mountains.

And that’s the prequel to training for a job as an environmental steward and teaching others how to appreciate, respect and live in the natural, outdoor world.

 “I’d like to pursue a career in the environment and outdoor education so this will give me a good preparation in practical skills before going to college where I plan to major in environmental studies,” said Biette. “I’m not sure exactly what my job will be some day but I can foresee being a leader at one of the National Outdoor Leadership School programs.”

Important to connect with the environment

Biette firmly believes we should all respect the environment and learn to live along with it.

That respect, she said, comes from direct interaction.

“If you start with the ‘Big Picture,’ a lot of people see the environmental degradation as an important issue,” Biette said. “And we need people in high positions to make decisions that protect the environment.”

But the most important step toward the stewardship, Biette believes, is to provide opportunities for interaction to people when they are young.

“If children are out in the environment when they are young, they will have a personal connection that they will carry with them through their entire lives that, in turn, makes an environmentally conscious global community,” she said.

That has certainly been the case in Biette’s life.

Ever since she can remember, Biette has loved being outside and, in particular, camping with her family.

Outdoor lover her entire life

They’ve been going on camping trips in Canada every year and Biette relishes that time to just spend time with her family in an environment where there is “nothing else around.”

Recently, she tried white-water kayaking for the first time and found it the most “terrifying and amazing” experience of her life.

Just being surrounded by the huge and dramatic waters, all alone in her kayak and trying to maneuver through, brought home the realization that she is just one tiny part of this large, wonderful environment.

In addition to the lovely experience of being outdoors, Biette also finds a tremendous amount of solace in the historical aspects of her family’s camping trips.

“My father went camping with his family when he was growing up,” she said. “That’s very meaningful to me and I want to be able to do it with my own family some day.”

From the mountains to the classroom

At this time, Biette is fairly certain she will be attending Dickinson College in Pennsylvania. Currently, she is working on getting  permission to take her gap year and defer attendance until the fall of 2012.

Final plans are a bit up in the air, however,  because she still has yet to hear from Colby, Hamilton and Bates colleges.

“I’m still interested if I get into Colby but I don’t want to get my hopes up too high,” Biette said. “I could hear any time but definitely by July 1.”

Biette’s first choice was Bowdoin College, where she has wanted to go since she was a child, and she recalls being devastated when she didn’t get in.

Ultimately, however, she decided she had to “let it go” and now feels a bit of relief.

“It’s a very prestigious school and more high-stress than Dickinson,” Biette said. “I’ve a lot of stress here in the Belmont schools so going to Dickinson will be better for me.”

Biette has loved being educated in the Belmont Schools, beginning with Winn Brook Elementary, then Chenery Middle School and for the last four years at Belmont High School.

She feels she received an excellent education, particularly at the high school where she took interesting courses including Advanced Placement environmental science and completed an independent study on how children interact with nature.

“My peers, teachers and administrators at the high school have been very supportive of my passion for environmental education and nature,” Biette said.

“That support gave me confidence and helped me know who I am as a person.”


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