EXCEL first aidDuring spring break, many students are participating in Nobles’ Experiential & Community Engaged Learning (EXCEL) program in diverse locations around the world. Students are visiting Cambodia and Vietnam, China, Guatemala, New Orleans, Alabama and Georgia, Rwanda and South Africa. This summer, they will visit Colorado, Spain, New Hampshire and Camp Sunshine in Maine. As Nobles’ Travel Program Director Henry Kinard explains, preparing for these trips is an annual yearlong process. “The trips are all quite different from each other,” Kinard says, “so they all present their own challenges as far as preparation and risk management.”

Trip leaders are the key people who organize and prepare the details of each trip. “The job is gigantic and there are a lot of things to think about,” Kinard says. The trip leader manual, which includes key dates and protocol details, eases the process for the many seasoned leaders. All trip leaders and chaperones have been CPR- and first aid-certified. Informal conversations throughout the year smooth the smaller details, such as transportation. Kinard explains, “Transportation is different in certain countries, so there’s always more attention to vetting transportation companies when we’re leaving the country. So we ask, ‘Do your vans have seatbelts?’ That’s not a given everywhere we go, so it’s something we really have to make sure of.”

The school also has an annual risk-management trip leader training, run either in-house or by Lodestone Safety International. The training focuses on safety, security and travel health, often through case scenarios. “Our goal is to develop each trip leader’s judgment and situational awareness,” Kinard says. After three years of preparation from Lodestone, this year’s in-house training “tapped into the wealth of experience and knowledge that we have on the trip leader cohort. We still ran case scenarios, but we made them very Nobles-trip specific.”

Training also includes cross-cultural preparation, which indirectly involves risk management. Trip leaders grapple with questions like “How do you take a diverse group of Nobles kids into a different environment?” Co-Dean of Diversity Initiatives Erica Pernell helped raise trip leader awareness about ethnocentricism and cultural relativism. Kinard explains cultural relativism: “We don’t want to judge different places according to our own norms, but through how they experience things.” The EXCEL team and trip leaders educate students about destinations before leaving, which is especially important on service trips. “We’re not just landing somewhere, doing work and then leaving. We want to help students understand the systematic issues or power relationships that created the need for us to be there in the first place.”

Students traveling together also have time to bond during the year before they head to various destinations. “That bonding is so important,” Kinard says, “not only just for the kids’ day-to-day experiences, but also as it affects risk management. If the group knows each other, cares about each other and is looking out for each other, that makes the trip better and safer for everyone in the end.”


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