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2012 Top-Rated Nonprofit

National Outdoor Leadership School

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Nonprofit Overview

Causes: Environment, Environmental Education

Mission: To be the leading source and teacher of wilderness skills and leadership that serve people and the environment.

Results: With courses ranging from 10 days to a full academic year, we attract highly motivated students who want to learn how to lead. NOLS graduates have everything needed to lead others in the backcountry, as well as the leadership ability to excel at work or in the classroom. We expect a great deal of our students. NOLS courses are demanding, because we believe people thrive when challenged. Our hands-on, learn-by-doing approach means our graduates get the skills they need to be competent, responsible wilderness travelers long after their course.

Target demographics: NOLS serves students from age 14 to over 70.

Geographic areas served: NOLS graduates are from all 50 states and 42 countries.

Programs: We believe positive, ethical leaders change the world. Based on this belief, NOLS has, over the last 46 years, become the leader in wilderness education. Founded in 1965 by legendary mountaineer Paul Petzoldt, NOLS takes students of all ages on remote wilderness expeditions and teaches them technical outdoor skills, leadership, and environmental ethics. What NOLS teaches cannot be learned in a traditional classroom or on a city street. It takes practice to learn outdoor skills and time to develop leadership. The backcountry provides the ideal setting for this unique, experiential education—NOLS classrooms are some of the world’s wildest and most awe-inspiring locations. We believe living in untouched places like our classrooms will teach students responsibility for all that surrounds us.

Community Stories

2 Stories from Volunteers, Donors & Supporters

General Member of the Public

Rating: 5

It has been 2 years from now and my NOLS course is still in fresh in my memory. The wallpaper on my computerscreen is one of the photos i took during the course and so are the posters in my bedroom. But wat still reminds me of this course every single day, other than the pictures, is the way it inspired me to think about life, nature and the wellbeing of the ones you care about most. Furthermore, the instructors knew exactly what they were doing which made me feel safe in the outdoors. I still have contact with my fellow NOLS students and I am now saving to go on another trip next summer. Taking part in a NOLS activity is indeed a life changing experience.

General Member of the Public

Rating: 5

I attended NOLS in 1997, participating in their Fall Semester in the Rockies. That semester helped shape me into the person I am today. Due to NOLS, I am confidant in my leadership abilities, constantly aware of my surroundings, and able to keep an open mind. These assets are invaluable. The staff is top notch. As far as non-profits, NOLS is at the top of my list. I am grateful to have had the opportunity to attend NOLS and will be a life long supporter. Grade A organization, in my book.