I had the great privilege to interview my friend and her son in regards to some awesome news! The week before the Christmas holiday, they received a notification that he was accepted into the spring semester at The Outdoor Academy.

Let me frame that for you:

“The Outdoor Academy is an accredited residential semester school for high achieving sophomores and select freshman and juniors. Focused on intellect, environment, community, and craft, OA delivers rigorous high school academics infused with experiential education in the heart of the Blue Ridge Mountains. Our small community of students will also spend a quarter of their semester developing technical and wilderness leadership skills on backpacking, climbing, and paddling adventures all over the Southeast.” (from the OA website)

I know that was a long pull from their website, but I need you to understand the full picture of the opportunity ahead.

Patrick McCollum is currently a sophomore a Hawbridge Charter school located in Saxapahaw, NC. Active and engaged in academics and sports, and filling a good part of his free time during the week with a part-time job, Patrick is more than what meets the eye.

The Outdoor Academy only accepts up to 30 students per semester – and Patrick was chosen to be one of them.

After attending an information session about the OA (he admits that a fellow student, an alumni of the OA program, gets credit for pestering him to attend the info meeting), he knew that it was the right opportunity for him and purposed to send in an application.

As it’s been explained to me, it’s like camping and boarding school and an intense physical commitment all rolled into one. Patrick is particularly excited about the blacksmithing class – and is mentally preparing to join the other students in chopping wood for the furnace that helps heat the dorms. He’s a hands-on learner; with auditory and kinesthetic being his strongest learning styles.

“He did all of the pieces, everything that was required of him. And all the follow up,” says Cara.

She heard a lot of “Hey, Mom…” from Patrick as reminders to keep things on track.

With a nod of thanks to his Biology teacher, Christine Huntington, for supporting him and helping him stay focused, Patrick’s mom credits her son for taking the initiative and being committed to getting all the loose ends tied – even after the application was submitted.

We Alone, a poem by Alice Walker on Patrick's phonePatrick had to complete a timed essay as a part of the consideration process. In 10 minutes he had to express his perspective on the poem, “We Alone” by Alice Walker. The OA staff were looking for how his writing style would unfold under pressure.

“I’m excited for him,” says Cara. “To be the kid who was so stressed out about a writing test in kindergarten that he was under the table, and the EC teacher had to call me to come coax him out from under the table.”

Her story continues:

She called me at work. I worked in Burlington. He was in school in Mebane. She called me and said, “Cara, I just need him to write something on the paper so that he doesn’t get a zero. I can’t even get him to come out from under the table, he’s so stressed out. Is there anything that you recommend I do?”

I said, “Can I come? I understand that it’s a writing test, that there are regulations about things that can and cannot be done for the child.”

She said, “Yea, just come on.”

She briefed me on what I could and couldn’t do and say, and I went in the room. We had a coping moment – Patrick and I.

I say to him, “Hey, whatcha doin’ under there? It’s just a piece of paper and it’s just a pencil. That piece of paper and that pencil can’t beat you. You’re better than the paper and the pencil.”

So we did a big goofy breath in and a big goofy breath out, because that’s what we used to do when he was little and when he was super stressed out, and I just sat there in the room with him.

Cara continues with pride shining bright in her eyes, “To go from having such anxiety writing a few sentences, to he’s emailed a poem and has 10 minutes to write whatever his breakdown of the poem is – and he just goes ‘Oh, Okay’ and does it. And gets into this school where only a handful of people get in…”

“To know where he’s come from, to now see him find out about a program, express the interest in it, see it all the way through the application process and follow up – even keeping track of me – and on top of that, working part-time at the general store to help make it possible.”

Patrick is heading to the OA during the 2016 spring semester. That means he’s leaving soon and is now focused on preparing for the time away. This includes saving up money from his part-time job washing dishes at the Saxapahaw General Store to help pay for tuition.

The OA offers scholarships and Patrick will qualify for some of that money to help pay the balance on his account, but there’s still a significant amount to pay for this opportunity.

Cara states it simply on his GoFundMe page: “As his mom, I would love to say I have the money readily available to write the check today for the balance, but that is not the case.”

Help send Patrick to The Outdoor Academy with your contribution to his tuition fund. You’ve got 2 options:

1.) Go to bit.ly/supportpatrick and process a payment via his GoFundMe account

2.) Send a check to jab’s plethora, ATTN: Support Patrick, PO Box 904, Graham, NC 27253 – this option is provided with Cara’s blessing for those who do not prefer to process payments via GoFundMe.

Help spread the word by sharing this post with your connections: the more people who know, the more people who can help. Every dollar counts.

“He is so responsible, the most kind-hearted person, a care-taker kind of person,” Cara says as we wrap up the interview.

She’s proud of the way her son is growing up. In fact, you can see Cara’s additional thoughts after the interview was done.