Award-Winning Film AN AMERICAN ASCENT Screened at Eagle Rock

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Editor’s Note: Today’s post, which focuses on the recent screening of AN AMERICAN ASCENT — an award-winning documentary film about the first African-American expedition to tackle North America’s highest peak (Denali) — comes to us from outgoing Teaching Fellow in Outdoor Education, Leila Ayad, Leila was one of the many Eagle Rock community members who attended the July 21 screening of the film in our Learning Resource Center’s Amphitheater. Eagle Rock co-hosted the event along with NOLS (National Outdoor Leadership School) — a leading provider of Wilderness-based expeditions for youth and adults. Each year, by way of NOLS’ Gateway Partnership Program, select Eagle Rock School students receive a highly coveted scholarship to participate in a NOLS expedition. Below is Leila’s write-up of the July 21st event here at Eagle Rock.

By Leila Ayad, 2017/2018 Public Allies Teaching Fellow in Outdoor Education

This past trimester, Eagle Rock School and NOLS hosted a screening of the documentary film, “AN AMERICAN ASCENT,” which follows the first-ever all African-American expedition to attempt to ascend Denali, the highest peak in North America.

NOLS representative Amy Mautz arrived on campus, bringing along the film and Stephen Shobe, one of the climbers featured in the film, which was shot in the summer of 2013 in Alaska.

Shobe dined with a group of Eagle Rock students and hosted a Q & A session following a viewing of the film.

Students were able to ask him personal questions about his experiences and share stories from their own multi-week wilderness trips that introduces all incoming students to Eagle Rock School when they first arrive on campus. Along with the free swag provided by NOLS, students had the opportunity to meet an esteemed American mountaineer who to many does not fit the mold of what it means to be an outdoors person.

The conversations spanned Shobe’s experiences in the world of mountain climbing, nestled within the larger dialogue of fostering diversity, equity and inclusion in human-powered outdoor recreational pursuits — especially those taking place in the backcountry.

(Stephen Shobe with Eagle Rock School student Ixtel Nava-Barron.)
(Stephen Shobe with Eagle Rock School student.)

At one point in the film, one of the climbers remarked, “It’s almost as if the mountain dares you to make a mistake,” and Shobe agrees, describing the power of mountain and the power within each individual. Many students were able to see themselves in Shobe and find representation in a field they had not considered before. Students who attended the screening were able to see the value of outdoor exploration from hearing Shobe’s story.

The film prompted a buzz of excitement on campus surrounding a pair of Eagle Rock students who embarked on a NOLS expedition earlier this summer. Students Ixtel Nava-Barron and Hendrick Paz received full scholarships from NOLS for the adventure.

(Stephen Shobe with Eagle Rock School student Hendrick Paz.)
(Stephen Shobe with Eagle Rock School student.)

Many of the students attending the screening said they are gearing up for the NOLS application process next spring, when, hopefully, they can be the next Eagle Rock School student to explore new places in themselves through a wilderness expedition.

If your school or organization is interested in hosting a screening of AN AMERICAN ASCENT, visit the film’s website and click on the Host a Screening button.

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