Ropes Course Instructors: What it Takes to Don the Yellow Shirt

William Wang ’24 in Features | October 14, 2022

With their yellow shirts and unrelenting positivity at dawn on a Sunday morning, the Ropes Course Instructors (RCIs) spearhead a number of important social activities throughout the school year. Leading events including II Form Orientation and the Night Climb at the Joshua L. Miner Ropes Course, affectionately known as the Josh,he RCIs play a critical role in fostering a sense of community. The Head RCIs, V Formers Reese Abromavage, Andrew Boanoh, Ford Collins, and Emma Kim are no strangers to the responsibilities and challenges of their position. 
“The role of an RCI is to help build a community in the many senses of the word…This year we’re really trying to cater a lot of our facilitation towards the [Student Council] theme of ONE, so that’s a focus on unity and innovation. A lot of the bonding activities we put together for groups that come up to the Josh work towards these goals,” Boanoh remarked.
Although RCIs work on a multitude of events across the school year, II Form Orientation stands out as the most important to them. Boanoh believes that “on orientation day, an RCI’s face is one of the first connections II Formers make with Lawrenceville, so it’s vital that from that moment, we are examples of what it means to be a Lawrentian.” 
Collins spoke of his own II Form Orientation experiences as the driving influence behind his joining the RCI team. “They endured the exhausting heat and helped break down the barriers that exist in those first days of [II Form] year,” recalled Collins. “My RCIs welcomed me into the community, saying ‘hi’ to me around campus weeks after orientation. The small gesture of greeting me made me feel more a part of Lawrenceville. By joining the RCIs, I could show my gratitude and pass along the tradition of helping to welcome all the new students into our community.”
The Head RCIs play a critical role beyond their work on the Josh; they meet with Heads of Houses and faculty members to set goals for bonding, make schedules, inspect the equipment, and perfect optimal belay setups. But before the school year or even II Form Orientation begins, all RCIs convene for their preseason. RCI preseason is a week-long training program during which participants learn about the research, theory, and practical skills needed to belay someone 70 feet up in the air, as well as how to create valuable lessons from these experiences. At the end of the week, students take a written and practical test to assess the skills that they have learned.
In addition to II Form Orientation, the RCIs plan and schedule a number of other activities, including House sessions and Night Climbs. Night Climbs are a highlight of the Fall Term; Abromavage said that  “it is an opportunity for all the students to climb, and we usually have music and s'mores.” House events on the Josh, on the other hand, play an important role in building bonds and contributing to a sense of community. 
According to Collins, “climbing requires you to have trust in the belayer. The Josh is all about bringing people together, and it’s one of the things that I think helps to make Lawrenceville the community that it is.”
Although the application process for RCIs may seem competitive and challenging, Boanoh believes the easiest way to stand out is simple: “I know it’s cliché, but just be yourself!” 
Abromavage prioritizes applicants who “will be good leaders. This means they present good ideas during the tryout, are good leaders, and have belay and outdoor leadership skills.” 
Collins said that although “it helps if you have belaying skills…it is by no means necessary. I, myself, had no prior experience belaying before becoming a RCI.” It is clear to Collins that the most important role of an RCI is “to be able to lead and work with a team” and to “foster an environment where people can grow and bond with one another.” For Collins, his time as an RCI has been “a highlight of [his] Lawrenceville career” and says that “if you have any interest at all you should apply. My advice is to be yourself and just have fun during the application process.” The next time you’re out on the Josh, be sure to thank your RCIs—they put in hours behind the scenes to help make our community what it is.