Hauling lumber up three miles of trail in Vermont in the pouring rain did not intimidate the seven freshmen members and two upperclassmen leaders of FOP 62, but it did impress the Green Mountain Club of Vermont, which awarded its Group of the Year Volunteer Award to the service trip last month.
The Green Mountain Club, a non-profit which maintains Vermont’s Long Trail, the oldest long-distance trail in the country, organizes group service trips.
However, it does not award the Group of the Year award every year, according to Membership and Volunteer Coordinator Mari Zagarins.
“We wait for a group that really deserves the award rather than just giving it out to anybody,” she said. “Harvard did a really great job this year.”
FOP 62, one of five service trips organized by Harvard’s First-Year Outdoor Program, was responsible for carrying 12 foot-long pieces of lumber up three miles of the Skylight Pond Trail to the Skyline Lodge in order to build a handicap accessible outhouse on the site. The trip was labeled C, the highest level of difficulty among FOP service trips.
An unexpected amount of lumber and pouring rain on the second day of hiking slowed progress and the absence of a building permit obstructed building plans. But the team members motivated each other to keep going and ultimately the group decided to give up their day of free hiking and finish the task, according to Michael L. Zamora ’14, one of the team members.
“We wanted to get the job done,” he said.
Zamora was “completely surprised” when he heard about winning the award. “None of us had expected something like this,” he said.
The group drove to Vermont on September 25 for the award ceremony, where they received a special plaque and complimentary year-long memberships to the Green Mountain Club, said Rebecca J. Howe ’11, co-leader of the team. The costs for the trip were covered by FOP.
“It’s great that FOP was able to make that possible for us. Our FOPpers were really proud that they were able to contribute to the trail,” she said.
“FOP is delighted to be honored with this award,” said FOP Director Paul “Coz” R. Teplitz ’03.
FOP, Harvard’s oldest pre-orientation program, has been working to strengthen its service program for many years now because it wants to give back to the trails it uses so extensively, according to Teplitz.
Incoming freshmen “are asking questions that are central to their identity,” Teplitz said, “and we think that service is a worthy value to have in one’s life.”