My name is Sophie Aitken, currently, I’m studying a Certificate of Outdoor and Adventure Education at Tai Poutini Polytechnic in Greymouth. This is driven by my love of all things outdoors. I enjoy rock climbing, tramping, mountaineering, mountain biking, kayaking and rafting. I’m sure you’re getting the point, basically, if it’s outside, in the wilderness and has a bit of adrenaline I’d be keen to give it a go.
I joined the Pinnacle Programme in 2016 and I have loved every step of the journey. I was driven to apply due to my love of all things outdoors and the opportunity to attend Spirit of Adventure and Outward bound was too good to let pass by. Little did I know that spending time doing what I’d love would be the least valuable part of the programme compared to the self-confidence, connections, feedback, goal setting, networking, and the opportunity to be pushed to find out who I actually am.
My voyage with the Spirit of New Zealand happened at the perfect time for me. I was at boarding school and really needed a boost in confidence. The seed for my goal to join the RNZAF started when I met a FLT LT on board. From there, with the help of Pinnacle, I was able to join the RNZAF which was a stepping stone to where I am now.
Outward Bound was unlike anything I thought it would be. Again, I was looking forward to spending 21 days in the outdoors. I quickly discovered that this was just the facilitator for the key learnings that were happening. I think the biggest thing I gained from Outward Bound was self-confidence, especially being able to comfortably lead a group that were older than me. Returning from Outward Bound I finally joined Wakatipu Land Search and Rescue, something I had been wanting to do for almost a year but the fear of not being able to speak my opinion in a potentially high-risk environment was holding me back.
In 2019 I attend Kai Waho. This was an amazing week that forced us to stop and take a break from the craziness of our lives and take the time to think. It was a great time for goal setting, reflection, and learning about the environment and ourselves. The wisdom that was provided here was game changing.
Currently, I’m looking to work in the polar regions after I finish studying. My goal is to connect people to the land through meaningful experience and empower them to make a difference to the environment through their daily lives.
I truly believe that the Pinnacle Programme is best summed up by this quote, “We are like dwarfs perched on the shoulders of giants… we see more and farther than our predecessors, not because we have keener vision or greater height, but because we are lifted up and borne aloft on their gigantic stature.” The greatest take away is being a member of the Pinnacle family, the team that runs it, the students themselves and everyone you meet along your journey. I would not have achieved what I have today had I not been lifted up onto the shoulders of the Pinnacle programme.