Trailblazers’ appreciation for the outdoors

Members of Trailblazers pose with their trip gear during an alternate service break participating in a trail restoration at Pisgah national forest (2018) // Photo courtesy of Samuel Rapoport

During this time a lot of us are spending most of our time indoors.

One organization in particular is doing their part to encourage people to get up and out into the great outdoors, Trailblazers.

The Trailblazers have been around for years, however, their cause has only grown more important as time has gone on.

In order to get the rundown on what the Trailblazers stand for as well as what their events and activities look like currently, the Technique sat down with Trailblazers president, graduate AE Samuel Rapoport.

Rapoport began by explaining how he got involved with the Trailblazers during his freshman year at Tech.

As someone who grew up involved in service work and outdoor activities through Boy Scouts and Eagle Scouts, Rapoport knew he wanted to continue with a similar program in college.

He found what he was looking for when he attended an alternate service break that fall.

“So my freshman year I went on a trip with Trailblazers over fall break to, I think it was the Smoky Mountains, and I was really into it.

I mean, we just kind of just like bummed around in the woods for a few days and were camping and hanging out and doing fun stuff.

And then like a day or two into it we did a trail walk out at the park.”

“After that, I went on like three or four trips. Then at the end of my junior year, like all my buddies in the club were graduating, and we were at Zion National Park, gorgeous Park, out in Utah.

I remember at the end of the trip, they were like, ‘Hey, would you want to lead the next trip?’ And I was like, ‘Yeah, sure’. And then, yeah here I am a few years later.”

Rapoport went on to express his favorite aspects of the club, and what he enjoys most about his involvement with it.

“My favorite part about the club is just getting people out into nature who never would have otherwise.

Like during the fall and spring break trips, most of the people there were graduate and international students who have, you know, never been to places like Cloudland Canyon or any of these places in the States because like, they don’t have a car or they’re just going to the big name things everyone knows.”

“It’s so nice to get people exposed to the outdoors.

I think it fosters appreciation for just how beautiful it is and the importance of keeping those kinds of places as they are.”

The Trailblazers not only enjoy outdoor activities, the group also works to foster the importance of the environment and local ecology.

The group works to promote environmental awareness and sustainable practices.

“Most of what we do is service work in Atlanta and we also go to local parks to learn about you know, like the plants and the relationships among everything.

We also do stuff like helping to remove invasive species from ecosystems locally.

I love that we do a lot at local parks because it’s one thing to go to like the Grand Canyon and see the Grand Canyon and say, man that’s cool,” said Rapoport.

He continued explaining how “it’s another thing to you know, go to all the parks around in like a three mile radius and really understand all like the old growth forests and all the interconnected relationships between the plants and like the ecosystem there and how fragile it is.”

Rapoport also emphasized the importance of teaching people about local ecology in order for them to understand the larger “global narrative.”

“You know, there’s these tiny little pockets of like what the world used to be and like what Georgia used to be before it was developed and like you can still see that in those local ecosystems.

I think you have to teach the importance of protecting those little pockets and little areas.

Once people understand how much damage construction and like invasive species and all these things do to our local ecosystems, then you start thinking about the larger worldview.”

Rapoport then went on to explain how COVID has impacted the Trailblazers and how the operation of the club has shifted during the pandemic.

“Yeah, things look different than they did given COVID, especially like the large-scale events the club does, like local service stuff and then the big breaks during spring break and fall break. But locally, like, we still work really tightly with a nonprofit here in Atlanta called Ecoaddendum.”

“This semester, we’re trying to branch out a little bit more just given COVID and like, having a variety of activities people engaged in.

We will probably have events like, every week or every other week. We’ll probably be doing things with Ecoaddendum, like I said before, just things like going to local parks learning to understand the ecosystem and other things like really moving invasive species.”

To join the Trailblazers or to learn more about the organization, students can simply attend an event or a meeting. To find out more about upcoming events and future meetings visit the Trailblazers page on Engage.