The Colgate Scene
January 1999
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People on the go

[IMAGE] An apprenticeship with nature
Molly Peterson Barnes '91 and her husband Christopher treasure intellectual curiosity and a passion for the wilderness, and together they have created a place to share them with others.

     In 1995 the couple founded the High Mountain Institute, a non-profit wilderness education school on 120 acres near Leadville, Colorado. After college, both Molly and Christopher, who met working in Colorado, were teaching during the school year and leading summer wilderness trips. They wanted to combine their dual professions.

     "We felt that, in an afternoon, we couldn't get far enough away from a shower to do anything meaningful," said Molly.

     HMI's motto, "simple in means, rich in ends," emphasizes their mission to teach others how to work, live and play as a complete experience -- a lifelong learning process that helps people become stronger citizens and guardians of the natural world.

     Starting their new lives together became a beginning for the school as well. "In lieu of wedding gifts, we asked for a donation to HMI," Molly explained. The campus, completed in time for their inaugural semester this fall, has five rustic, wood-heated student cabins and a main structure with library, classroom, dining and study space.

     HMI's signature program, the Rocky Mountain Semester, is a 16-week academic and wilderness program for high school juniors. Students take college-prep courses that develop reading, writing, critical thinking and communication skills, spending about half their time on campus and half on wilderness trips with faculty. "I really believe in the power of the natural world to be a great teacher," Molly stressed.

     Molly is academic director, Christopher the program director, and the couple takes turns leading expeditions as well. Molly's past work with teenagers, including as a counselor and wilderness leader at a residential treatment center for adjudicated boys in Wyoming, course leader for Deer Hill Expeditions in southwest Colorado, and instructor at the National Outdoor Leadership School, prepared her well.

     "Teenagers are like toddlers when they're out in the wilderness," she remarked by way of explaining why the trips are her favorite aspect of running HMI. "They ask great questions and absorb tons of information."

     Molly, who majored in political science, also draws from her Colgate experience as an RA and head resident, and she credits professors like Robert Kraynak with teaching her to write well, which "got us a long way" as she and Christopher were establishing HMI.

     With the campus in place, and nine faculty and 21 students hard at work on the first Rocky Mountain Semester, things are going extremely well. Molly reported they are adding four apprenticeships for recent college graduates.

     "The most fun was when the students first arrived and we realized that we actually did it." RAC

[IMAGE] Tzuen Yap's yo-yos
Tzuen Yap '00 is a busy fellow. He's the residence advisor at Asia Interest House, president of the China Club and a member of the core committee of the InterVarsity Christian Fellowship. He majors in computer science and English/theater, which somehow dovetails with his interest in children and games. He wants to create multimedia CD-ROMs that turn the computer screen into a stage. "I see lots of possibilities in that," says Yap.

     Tzuen Yap is also Colgate's best yo-yoer. Granted, there are not many people throwing yo-yos on campus, but Yap, who can be seen "walking the dog" as he walks to class, not to mention "rocking the baby," is creating a mini-resurgence. "I love to see people play with yo-yos," says Yap, whose friends find it irresistible when he starts doing tricks. "It's the state of yo," nods Yap. "You throw it down, do a trick -- the little box of motion -- that's sheer exhilaration."

     Yap picked up yo-yoing from his younger brother during the summer while at home in Singapore. The brothers watched videos, attended conventions and practiced. Over the break Tzuen worked as a marshal at a laser tag center, where fascinated kids urged him on to do tricks. "I got to yo-yo six to eight hours a day," says Yap, who was part of the latest rage to sweep Singapore.

     Stateside, sales of yo-yos have reached heights unseen since JFK's administration and have increased tenfold this year over last. Meanwhile, Yap is mastering the 25 basic tricks, from sleeping -- which is the foundation of 90 percent of what is done with a yo-yo --through the brain twister and atom master, up to Buddha's revenge and the hydrogen bomb. Once a yo-yoer has conquered those tricks, there is two-handed yo-yoing to keep life from getting boring.

     "It's all in the arm," says Yap, who has a decidedly stronger biceps and calloused finger thanks to his yo-yos. The skill toy also helps prevent carpal tunnel syndrome. "Yo-yoing is just a hobby, but it's good for me."

     Yap has yet to enter any competitions, though there are plenty in both tricks and freestyle. In trick competition yo-yoers must run through a set of compulsory moves, while free stylers, usually with two yo-yos, perform three-minute routines choreographed to music.

     For now, Yap is content to explore the possibilities of the yo-yo while introducing friends to the wonders of the toy that has ancient roots as a weapon.

     "That's cool," say people when Tzuen weaves the yo-yo string around his fingers. "Let me try that," they clamor when he whips the yo-yo out then lets it pop over his shoulder before climbing the string back into his hand.

     "The yo-yo is an extension of the will," says Yap. Of course, the will has to be backed up by plenty of practice. "A yo-yo has to be durable," says Yap, who favors the Spintastic, which sells for under $15 and is relatively cheap in a market where top-end yo-yos can fetch more than $100.

     "Oopsey." Yap has been foiled once again by Buddha's revenge, an intricate multi-step trick he has yet to complete successfully. Even in his dogged pursuit of the move, Tzuen Yap finds time to help others, introducing more and folks to yo-yos at every turn. "There is a real sense of satisfaction seeing the look on someone's face when they can finally do a trick." JH

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