The Matthew Henson Polar Explorer Scholarship

The Matthew Henson Polar Explorer Scholarship

In partnership with Polar Explorers, an Illinois-based guiding company, the Joy Trip Project is proud to announce the first recipients of the Matthew Henson Scholarship! Emily Ford and Stephen Scott have been awarded free tuition to attend a five-day introduction to a winter travel training course in the Boundary Waters Wilderness Area of Northern Minnesota. To honor the legacy of the great innovator of Arctic exploration and winter adventure, this program aims to inspire people of color – in particular, emerging outdoor guides or people with current or future positions of leadership in the outdoor industry – to embrace cold weather activities, and to build the necessary skill set to thrive (and not just survive) during extreme low temperature weather expedition travel.

At the turn of the last century, Matthew Henson (1866-1955), a leading member of the 1909 Robert Perry Expedition, was the first person in history to stand on the North Pole. This remarkable accomplishment was ignored and even denied by many who refused to give credit to a Black American. In the hopes of encouraging a new generation of explorers to seek out and achieve uncommon endeavors of human fortitude and resilience, the Matthew Henson Scholarship aspires to provide the training and resources necessary for early-career guides and trip leaders to learn the skills they will need to successfully venture into the wilds of nature and encourage others in their community to safely follow.

“There’s no limit to the impact we can have changing the landscape of the outdoor industry and inspiring a new generation of backcountry users to be as passionate as we all are about diversity and inclusion in the outdoors (and especially in cold weather recreation),” says Polar Explorers director Annie Aggens.

Emily Ford

The recipients of the inaugural Matthew Henson Scholarship have demonstrated not only an abiding interest in winter outdoor recreation, but a willingness to share their experiences with others. Emily Ford recently completed a through hike of the Ice Age National Scenic Hiking Trail in Winter. A documentary about her 1,200-mile journey called Breaking Trail is currently part of the Banff Mountain Film Festival World Tour.

“I want to show other people that the outdoors is for everyone in every season. I think that more people of color are getting out in the warmer months and climates, but winter is still under appreciated and leaves a gap in wilderness equity,” Ford wrote in her application. “I know that I have a lot to learn, but like Matt Henson, I crave to learn any skill that I can in case an adventure arises.”

Stephan Scott is a husband and father of three small children based in Minneapolis who works hard at getting his family and friends into the outdoors whenever possible. As a recreation leader in his community, he wants to improve upon his skills so that he can better promote the many opportunities to play outside near home and around the world.

“Being an Outdoor Afro leader in Minnesota, I think it would be an excellent way to build events up North,” Scott wrote. “My dream goal would be to setup a travel company that caters to BIPOC adventures both national and international. I would love to transition into a career that pairs travel and adventure together.”

Stephen Scott

The Polar Explorers training course is open to the public and runs from February 2 through 6, 2022. A few slots remain open. You can register at

The Matthew Henson Scholarship covers the basic costs of training. The Joy Trip Project aims to support this effort by subsidizing a portion of additional expenses that include gear and transportation. If you or your company would like to contribute this or future scholarship programs, please write to us at for details or make a financial contribution of support at the link below. Your tax-deductible contribution will be processed by our fiscal sponsor the Keystone Policy Center.