26 Dec The 2nd Annual Matthew Henson Polar Explorer Scholarship
The Joy Trip Project is excited to announce the 2nd recipient of the Matthew Henson Memorial Polar Explorer Scholarship. In partnership with Polar Explorers, an Illinois-based guiding company, we are pleased to award Christine Meissner free tuition to attend a five-day introduction to a winter travel training course in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness of Northern Minnesota. Christine will be joined by last year’s scholar awardee Stephan Scott to help guide and mentor her journey in the world of cold weather overland travel.
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 expeditions.
At the turn of the last century, Matthew Henson (1866-1955), a leading member of the 1909 Robert Perry Expedition, sponsored by the National Geographic Society, 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.
“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.
This year’s scholarship recipient is an outdoor adventurer who says she feels most like her authentic self when she is outside in nature. Christine became an avid hiker in 2010 while living in the mountains of Macedonia as a Peace Corps Volunteer. She is currently a professional guide with She Travels Adventure Company, where she leads Black women and women of color on multi-night hiking trips to Banff National Park and the Great Smoky Mountains two times a year. Christine is also a group leader with Outdoor Afro, a not-for-profit organization dedicated to inspiring Black connections and leadership in nature. In her role, she leads kayaking, hiking and camping events for the Chicago network throughout the year and also serves as a coach in the organization to newer volunteer group leaders. Christine is the proud fur mother to an Australian Shepard named Titus, who also loves to hike and camp!
“My goals are to inspire and reconnect other Black people and people of color with nature, to build community and create the conditions for safe and joyful recreation,” says Christine. “I want to be a part of the wave of outdoor enthusiasts to show that the outdoors can be enjoyed by all and break the visual barrier of who is typically considered to be an outdoor adventurer. The Matthew Henson Scholarship Program will support me in improving my technical skills for cold weather recreation, which I can take back to my community and pay it forward by leading more cold weather events and helping people stay connected to nature 365 days out of the year.”
The Matthew Henson Scholarship is part of our ongoing mission at the Joy Trip Project to provide both training assistance and role models for aspiring outdoor professionals. Christine will be invited to share her skills and expertise with next year’s scholarship recipient so that we can continue to inspire new adventurers well into the future.
We are grateful to the many organizations who provide us with gear footwear and technical clothing items to support the safety and comfort of our participates.