Gillian M. Reinhard ’20
For about a sixth of each incoming first-year class, students will find comradery through Quest, Trinity’s outdoor, backpacking pre-orientation program. The Tripod spoke with longtime Quest leader Will Tjeltveit ’20, as a group of almost 50 Quest participants, leaders, and alumni prepares over the coming weekend to hike the 52 mile length of Connecticut’s portion of the Appalachian Trail (referred to fondly by participants as the “AT”) over the course of 24 hours.
The purpose of this event, called Quest-a-thon, is to fundraise for the pre-orientation program. Currently, Quest is entirely self-funded through fundraising efforts and participant fees. Each year requires about $40,000 for the entire program, which includes the purchase of new gear, transportation, and food. Additionally, the Perrin Scholarship fund offers fee waivers for interested students who express demonstrated need. For Quest-a-thon, the goal for each participant of this intensive hike is to raise $100 for the benefit of the program.
Tjeltveit spoke fondly about his own experience with Quest, as both a first-year participant and upperclassmen leader. The program offers four and 10 day programs for students. Typically, groups are composed of six first-years and two upperclassmen leaders who facilitate conversations and connections in the group as well as the health and safety of participants on the trail. Students learn the ins-and-outs of undertaking a challenging hike through the Appalachian Trial. Tjeltveit participated in the 10 day trip, which is “a little different than what most participants do on the four day trips. You’re out there for twice the amount of time, but you really make strong connections with the people you’re with.” He commented that he is still friends with many of those he hiked with as a first-year student.
According to Tjeltveit, Quest began as an initiative from the early 2000s to allow first-year students to find a community before classes even begin. Originally, the program was a 20-day backpacking and canoeing trip in Canada, but has since relocated to the Connecticut portion of the Appalachian Trail. Three alumni from that pilot program will be joining the team for Quest-a-thon.
The sense of community for Quest participants, leaders, and alumni is strong. Tjeltveit spoke especially highly of the bonds that are formed between Quest leaders, who complete a training process each year to ensure that the groups are prepared for the Appalachian Trail. To maintain the bonds formed by Quest, the leaders design activities throughout the school year. This upcoming Thursday (Nov. 14), a Quest reunion will be held in Hamlin.
“I’ve met so many wonderful people through Quest,” commented Tjeltveit. “The program is based around hiking, but is also about the people and connections you make.”
Those interested in Quest-a-thon can check out the program’s Instagram page (@trinitycollquest) for live updates throughout the weekend as well as a link to a donation page.