Over the next eight weeks, UCF will be competing with universities nationwide to get the largest amount of people outdoors.
UCF has been accepted, along with nine other colleges and universities, to participate in the Outdoor Nation Campus Challenge. Put on by the Outdoor Foundation, the challenge will run starting Saturday and until Nov. 22. UCF Outdoor Adventure will commence its participation with a kick-off event at Lake Claire on Saturday called Paddle Fest.
Leading the initiative to allow UCF to participate was the UCF OA team. Although prizes will be given to the winning school, including a campus-wide celebration, the reason for getting UCF involved stretched beyond.
"People come to college and they want an experience. There's education, so there's the experience they're going to get from finding out what they want to study and what they want to do, and then there's the experience that they'll get from the community and that's what I want with this," said Alison Hughes, a graduate assistant for UCF OA. "I'm hoping to get people feeling like they are involved and are belonging to UCF."
The challenge extends to the entire UCF community members, not just students, Hughes said. Alumni, parents of students, faculty and staff can all participate.
According to the official website, oncampuschallenge.org, students and community members need to create an account with the site and then post pictures of themselves doing outdoorsy things to collect points for their school.
"We already believe in supporting healthy lifestyles with all of our areas, so this is kind of like another reason to extend that awareness," said Moé Corbett, an environmental studies senior and trip leader for UCF OA.
Hiking, climbing, water sports and even gardening can count toward the challenge. It is not just for the outdoor adventurer, Hughes added.
"You don't have to be an outdoor enthusiast to be a part of it. This is really to get people out there, to tread the water [and] see what it's about, and the cool thing is that there is these prizes. In case they don't like it, at least they got something else out of it," Corbett said.
When accepted, UCF OA was granted $5,000 from Outdoor Nation to spend on whatever it sees fit in encouraging its community to get outdoors and participate, Hughes said.
Stasia Raines, the director of marketing and communications for the Outdoor Foundation, said that the foundation was established to create a change in the way youth and young adults engage in outdoor recreation.
"There's just a loss of connection to the outdoors, and we really want to help change that and really sort of create a massive cultural shift as well," Raines said.
This is the first year that the challenge is taking place.
"We feel like it's successful if people really do get off their couches and turn off their computers and video games and everything and just spend a little bit more time outside," Raines said.
OA is already geared toward helping the UCF community enjoy the local outdoor area.
"What we do at OA is show people the beauty that Florida has to offer," Corbett said. "We may not have these super-cool mountains, but we have a bunch of water-based activities that we do and the services that we provide to students is to show them what Florida has to offer."
Hughes said that there is already a population of students who are engaged in all the outdoor services that OA offers, but she wants to see more people enjoying the outdoors here.
"We get about 30,000 total participants through our program in two months — climbing, challenge course, trips, rentals, Lake Claire, all of it — and what I wanted to see is getting more people involved," Hughes said. "That was kind of my thought process — let's get more people outside."