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Students learn leadership on ropes course

Jessica Brown, left, shows Maddy Johnson about knot-tying during a weeklong certification training for challenge course facilitators.
For recent University of North Georgia graduate Amelia DeRamus, there's no place she'd rather be than shimmying up a rock outcropping or making her way along a high ropes course.  Add in a group of children needing a boost in self-confidence and DeRamus is right in her element.

"I realized that I love it a lot, because I like the psychology behind it, which has a lot to do with self-motivation and teaching kids how to have self-confidence," she said. "I like to help people overcome their phobias and being up high in the trees helps them overcome a lot of that. I'd like to be able to do this for the rest of my life."

Ropes course
Amelia DeRamus, standing at foot of climbing wall, looks over the work
by Maddy Johnson, top left, and Maggie Aceto as they set up a ropes
course challenge.

DeRamus was among several UNG students taking part in weeklong certification training for challenge course instructors this spring—the first time this certification has been offered at UNG. The training took place on the ropes course at UNG's Pine Valley Recreation Area. Designed by H. Michael Hyams Jr., former vice president for student affairs and dean of students, the course is used for student orientation and other activities with the goal of helping students and others develop leadership skills through challenging adventures.

Jessica Brown, assistant director of recreational sports on UNG's Dahlonega campus, is a facilitator on UNG's ropes course and has taught many of the department's student workers, like DeRamus, how to guide groups through the course. Students learn more than just knots, belays and carabineers; they learn leadership, communication and confidence.

"I like to train students on the ropes course so they get new experiences and learn new things," Brown said. "Some of those students fall in love with it and decide they want to do this after college. There are graduate degrees and programs that they can work in related to challenge courses, and, obviously, there's a career in facilitating challenge courses like these."

That's exactly what DeRamus, of Kennesaw, Ga., has in mind. She earned her bachelor's degree in psychology on May 10, and plans to pursue a master's degree in counseling. She enjoyed climbing from an early age, but really got hooked on challenge courses after going through Brown's training. She's worked the climbing wall at the Dahlonega campus' Recreation Center and facilitated ropes courses at summer camps for the past two years.

Maddy Johnson, a rising sophomore from Snellville, Ga., taking the certification course, is one of those who overcame her fear of heights through the ropes course.

"I didn't know much about it, but I love learning new things, and so when they asked me to take the course, I said 'Sure, why not?' because I love learning new things and I'm going to be working in the Rec Center," Johnson said as she worked on setting up one of the ropes course challenges. "I'm terrified of heights, but I'm so glad I did this because I'm really not scared anymore."

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