The Breckenridge Outdoor Education Center (BOEC) truly is a place that encourages the continuation of professional development and the giving back to those we serve. Not long ago, we shared the stories of Jillian Palacio and Steve Rubin who both went from interns to full-time staff members as they continue to advance their careers with the BOEC. In this most recent story, though, the stars aligned over the BOEC in perfect fashion as yet another former intern has returned to the BOEC as a member of the Board of Directors, this time 19 years after her initial introduction to the organization.
Jennifer Schappert, husband DJ and their two children.
Born and raised in Kremmling, CO surrounded by dirt, sage brush, lakes and mountains it was only natural that Jennifer Schappert would develop a love of the great outdoors at a very young age. Early on, her parents placed an emphasis on taking part in outdoor activities where Jen would initially find inner peace by simply being out in the sunshine, sensing absolute silence and breathing in the fresh air. However, once she combined this love of nature with the exhilaration of carving down a freshly powdered ski slope, the excitement of tackling some whitewater or the satisfaction of reaching the top of a challenging climb, the 43-year-old found a new sense of enthusiasm for what the outdoors could hold. A feeling that she quickly realized would be selfish to keep all to herself.
“We were not put on this earth to keep these experiences to ourselves,” reflects Schappert. “But rather to share the joy with others, especially those who may not otherwise have the opportunity to get outdoors so readily.”
Jennifer with visually impaired students.
With this newfound appreciation for the outdoors in hand, Jen attended college at Colorado State University in Fort Collins and graduated with a Masters of Science degree in Health and Exercise Science with a concentration in wellness. Upon graduation, she moved to Bozeman, MT to work as a lift operator and it was there that she solidified her passion for introducing others to the great outdoors when she began volunteering with Eagle Mount’s adaptive ski program, igniting a path that ultimately led her to the BOEC in 2002 as a winter intern.
Jen originally heard about the Internship Program from her brother whom had completed the program a few years earlier, so she packed her bags and moved to Breckenridge in 2002 specifically to intern for BOEC’s Adaptive Ski & Snowboard Program, an experience that she chronicles as “indescribable.”
“From day one you are gaining skills in communication, compromise, patience and decision making,” she remembers. “Then comes insight on differently abled participants, how to best meet their needs and what it takes to work together for a successful day. Not to mention the definition of success varying greatly from person to person. The memories created are truly irreplaceable.”
Jen (back) tethering an adaptive student.
After graduating from the Intern Program Jen took her experiences into her new role as an adaptive ski instructor before moving on to summer program coordinator and eventually the volunteer coordinator for the organization … all roles in which she flourished.
“I am one of the fortunate individuals in life that fell into a career allowing me to achieve self actualization (based on Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs),” says Schappert. “During peak summer and winter seasons the BOEC is organized chaos, an environment in which I thrive. There’s never a dull moment and days are long and exhausting and fulfilling. Working for a non-profit, it doesn’t matter what your title is, you help out whenever a need arises.”
Help out she did for a number of years as she continued to make her mark on the BOEC delivering exceptionally high quality experiences for all those who participated. But it wasn’t one sided as the BOEC made its mark on Jen as well. She has a wealth of memories that she points to, but a few of the more impactful ones are skiing with a child who has autism while listening to him squeal in delight as he rides up the chairlift for the first time, listening to a participant with a traumatic brain injury strum on his guitar and sing “Black Bird Singing in the Dead of Night,” watching teary eyed parents be filled with gratitude when their son with cerebral palsy is able to balance and glide on skis unassisted, and cheering on two young men with down syndrome as they arm wrestle previous ski program director Gene Gamber and anyone else who will participate.
The Schappert family goes sledding.
It’s certainly amazing how powerful these memories can be, and for Jen they will last a lifetime … A lifetime that now includes spreading her compassion throughout a Summit County community that she refers to as a “magical little place she is extremely fortunate to call her home.” Jen and her husband, DJ, have two sweet kiddos ages 8 and 10, one very active black lab, and she works as a substitute teacher and health assistant in local elementary schools. Jen is also the secretary for another local non-profit, Summit in Honduras, and is the PTA president at Upper Blue Elementary School. And now, as one of the newest members of BOEC’s Board of Directors, things seem to have come full circle with Jen back where she belongs, albeit in a new role that she cherishes.
“I am honored for the opportunity to continue involvement with the organization,” says Schappert. “I am more of a quality over quantity person and will strive to ensure we continue programming at the highest level. As a Board member I hope to listen, gain understanding and contribute wherever needed. Some come up with incredible vision, my strength is more of making that vision come to fruition. I am excited to be on such a qualified and dedicated team of individuals working towards a common goal.”
The Schappert family goes backpacking.
That passion that she speaks to brings Jen back to her days as a youngster when she realized that the outdoors is just too amazing to not be experienced by everyone, including those with disabilities and special needs. That passion speaks to her days working on the front lines for BOEC’s adaptive organization as an intern, instructor and staff member. That passion speaks to Jen’s overall enthusiasm for the difference the BOEC makes in the lives of its staff and participants by providing opportunities for people of all ages and abilities to take part in the great outdoors.
She says, “Anyone can ski. Anyone can stand up paddleboard. Anyone can participate in an 80’s themed dance party. There are no limitations as to what humans can do. Sometimes, however, it takes a little creativity, a little adaptation and a lot of determination to accomplish one’s goals. That’s what the BOEC does. We provide expertise, encouragement, dedication, duct tape, padding and a whole lot of heart to ensure employees are cared for,
gear and supplies are safe and functional, decisions are made with thoughtful consideration and participants receive the best possible experience they could ever hope for. If you’re looking for an organization to contribute to, you can be confident the BOEC will use your time, funds and skills to benefit participants both directly and indirectly.”
Jen goes backcountry skiing.
Welcome back to the BOEC, Jennifer Schappert. Your knowledge, dedication and experience is certainly a welcome addition to the Board of Directors. We look forward to many years of chasing your passion in the great outdoors!