Member Spotlight: Caitlin

Member Spotlight,

Meet Caitlin McCormick Small!

Caitlin SCaitlin (she/her/hers) grew up in Northborough, MA, a small town near Worcester. She now lives in Gloucester and works in Beverly, MA as the Executive Director of Project Adventure

Tell us a bit about what you do at your organization. 
No 2 days are alike in this position. I took over in 2020, when we were in the midst of the Covid crisis, and we weren't sure we would survive as an organization. We had to drastically downsize, so during that time I was wearing all hats: grant writer, program designer, marketer... the person who cleaned the closets when we had a mouse infestation - you name it, I did it! Over the years as we re-build, there are times when I play a role closer to our programs, writing curriculum or developing new program ideas, but most often I get to be the champion of our work and adventure in general. I have learned that my greatest value to PA is as a relationship-builder. By meeting people, teaching them about what we do, and getting them as excited as I am about the power of experiential learning, I open doors. Then our team, who is so talented and capable, can take over and craft whatever our partners need: new challenge courses, or mental health programming in schools, or an excellent day for students on our course. I also spend a lot of time looking forward and working on our organization's strategy. The world around is changing so quickly, our communities' needs are changing, and we have to keep up. We have to raise funds for our programs, keep our staff trained in new modalities and perspectives, and evolve what we do. I work with our board to design our strategic plan and to meet our organizational goals. And, maybe most importantly, I try to craft a positive program culture. I want all of our staff to feel heard, seen, and valued. I put a lot of energy into communicating with them, listening to them, and trying to make decisions that are best for us all.
Tell us more about yourself! 
I came to Project Adventure via education, mental health, and youth development. I worked for many years in urban afterschool programs, where we did a lot of what PA does but didn't know it! After directing youth programs for many years, I went to graduate school in Education and began working as a trainer/facilitator, coaching schools to institute practices that are good for young people's social and emotional wellbeing, from relationship-building to supporting youth voice to creating diverse and "brave" spaces. I came to PA first as the Director of Social-Emotional Learning, then was promoted to E.D. Before PA I didn't know anything about experiential education, but I learned quickly that I was doing much of it without knowing it! Other things about me: I went to Sarah Lawrence College for undergrad, UMass for graduate. I lived in New Zealand and Israel for a year. I love the ocean and all things on and in the water. I enjoy reading, writing, and creating mediocre but enjoyable art. I live with my husband and our dog, Atticus, on 10 acres of land near the Gloucester coast.
What excites you when you think about the future of Experiential Education?
The world is awakening to the ways that traditional education does not serve so many students. It doesn't get them where we want them to be academically, socially, or emotionally. Experiential Education is a way we can meet all of those needs, individually or at once. I see how Experiential Ed can support young people who need the support so badly right now.
Who or what inspires you?
Feminist writers and thinkers like Roxane Gay, Margaret Atwood, and Audre Lorde. Books about good leadership. Sitting by the ocean.
In your free time, we can probably find you:
Working in the gardens and on the 10 acres of land around our house.
How long have you been involved with AEE?
Since 2020 when I became executive director.
What is the most rewarding part about being a Member of AEE?
This community and the support I've received. Sherry has been a wonderful connection in this role (which can often be a lonely one). The women who I met at last year's conference who have been part of AEE since the beginning and fought for women's presence in outdoor and experiential ed - they don't know me, but they inspire me every day to keep making my mark in this field! It feels good to be part of something greater than myself, or even than my organization. We are part of that greater fabric.
Favorite Moment at AEE?
See above - The session about the history of women at the 2023 conference. I was so moved and honored to be a part of this field, to learn from them, and to know that my path was made possible because of them! I was moved to tears in that session.
Fun Fact:
My husband and I built our house (with our hands, from scratch) during the pandemic and beyond. It's 98% done!

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