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The Flor-Ala

The Student News Site of University of North Alabama

The Flor-Ala

The Student News Site of University of North Alabama

The Flor-Ala

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Outdoor Adventure Center offers accessible outdoor fun

Across Pine Street from Norton Auditorium lies the University of North Alabama’s Outdoor Adventure Center, a resource for all of students’ outdoor activity needs. 

Luke Persall, a UNA graduate, has worked at the OAC since 2019, and he also oversees intramural sports and club sports. Along with several student employees and a graduate assistant, Persall seeks to carry out the purpose of the OAC, which is to encourage students to try new things.

“We’re about getting the students outside and experiencing something new,” said Persall. “A lot of what we do is to challenge the students to do something new. Obviously, we have those that are already interested in outdoor activities, but we really try to reach those for whom this might not be their norm, and they want to get out and experience new things.” 

One of the OAC’s benefits is the supply of outdoor gear that students are able to check out free of charge. From camping supplies, to bicycles, to outdoor sports equipment, to kayaks, students can find something they are interested in trying, no matter their skill level or prior experience. Front desk workers are trained to be able to demonstrate to students how to use the equipment, so anyone with questions is encouraged to ask.

“Not only do we do the gear checkout, which is great for those who already know how to use it, but we also do organized events, trips and workshops where we’ll talk about how to use the equipment,” Persall said. “If you’re interested in taking this stuff camping, we’ll show you how to use it. We’re very open-minded over here. We want everyone to be able to enjoy the outdoors.”

Persall tries to offer a variety of trips for students of all experience levels. Each semester, the OAC typically holds an entry-level trip to Cane Creek Nature Preserve in Muscle Shoals, and they also take students on day hikes periodically. The Center also hosts kayaking events, which are popular with students. Bigger, paid trips are offered intermittently, such as trips to Six Flags, and they also take students to do more intense outdoor activities such as high ropes courses and ziplining. 

In addition to trips, Persall holds events at the OAC, like “Get S’more,” an annual event during Mane Month. They continue this tradition throughout the semester, hosting monthly bonfires with snacks on the lawn of the OAC.

A core group of OAC trip and event participants are international students, who are excited to see the beauty of nature away from home.

“We’ve seen a huge uptick in international students,” Persall said. “Students from International Student Services come over here a lot. They seem very interested in what our local area has to offer. They’re here on campus all day, and we can take them out and see different parts of nature in Alabama and the South that they might not be exposed to a lot, so that’s really cool.” 

With the amount of events the OAC holds monthly, it would be difficult for Persall to do it all on his own, which is why he has a team of twelve people, including himself, to distribute responsibilities between. 

The OAC’s student workers typically run the front desk of the center and check out equipment. If they are comfortable, they are also able to help lead the trips that the OAC hosts, especially if they are familiar with the area the group will be traveling to.

The majority of Persall’s student workers are undergraduates, but he does have one Graduate Assistant, Lia Lopez Figueroa. As a Graduate Assistant, Lopez is responsible for making sure that the center is running smoothly and helping Persall to plan the events. 

“The GA role is very critical over here,” Persall said. “This is kind of an isolated location, and my office is in the SRC, so it’s a lot of back-and-forth for me. The GA spot is huge for us as a department. With all of this paperwork that typically undergrad students have to do, there’s got to be somebody over here to make sure that’s kept in order, and we have a lot of equipment in here. We’ve got a lot that comes in and out our doors, so that GA spot is very critical to help me keep an eye on all of that.”

For Lopez Figueroa, who has always gotten enjoyment and peace from outdoor activities, getting to assist students in their aspirations to do just that is fulfilling. 

“It’s a peaceful and wholesome environment centered around outdoor activities and incredibly fun events,” said Lopez Figueroa. “I truly relish organizing nature-related events and providing students with a space where they can unwind and relieve the stress that college life can sometimes bring. Moreover, being a Graduate Assistant at the OAC has allowed me to become more engaged in university activities, connect with many individuals and make new friends. It has provided me with professional experience that enables me to continue my development and learning as a future professional.”

More than anything, the workers at the OAC love to get people outdoors to try new things, and they offer the resources and supplies to achieve that goal.

“To find out if you enjoy the outdoors, you’ve got to be out there,” said Kaytee Boyles, a student worker for the OAC. “We offer plenty of opportunities for students to get outside and have a great time, either on their own or with friends. Plus, the OAC provides all the gear you need for activities like camping, biking, hammocking, pickleball, paddleboarding, kayaking and more, and the best part is, it won’t cost you a thing.”

Persall encourages anyone who is interested to check out the OAC and its resources. Upcoming events are available on CampusGroups.

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About the Contributor
Kelley Peters
Kelley Peters, Managing Editor
Kelley is a junior from Tupelo, Miss. who is majoring in English literature with a minor in applied linguistics. She is currently Managing Editor for The Flor-Ala. She has loved reading for as long as she can remember, which developed her love of storytelling and the English language. Her career goal is to become an English professor at a university. She was previously a volunteer writer in the Fall of 2021, became a Staff Writer in January of 2022 and moved to being News Editor in January of 2023.

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