After spending a semester in the Blue Ridge Mountains, completing an EMT certification and undergoing a major spine reconstruction surgery, Art Isom plans to attend Ithaca College, majoring in biology or pre-med.
During his second semester of his junior year, Isom decided to enroll in Outdoor Academy in North Carolina. Outdoor Academy is a boarding semester located in the Blue Ridge Mountains.
While at Outdoor Academy, Isom spent weekdays doing academic activities and weekends on trips, backpacking, paddling and climbing.
“I think high school is really about two things. One, preparing you for college and the other one is like finding who you want to be and building your own identity, and I think I had already done pretty well academically throughout middle school and early high school, and I felt like I would naturally become prepared for college academically, and I wanted to focus more on my identity,” Isom said.
While at Outdoor Academy, Isom participated in group living, over 100 miles of hiking, and a culminating three days alone in the wilderness with no phone, books or light. In addition to his physical education in Outdoor Academy, Isom developed understanding on working with others and stress management.
“I learned a lot about how I deal with stress and pressure and how I can sort of recognize that, not necessarily change it, but recognize where my weaknesses are and then sort of adapt and let other people know so they can be filled,” Isom said.
Latin teacher Jeff Smith had Isom in class before and after Isom went to Outdoor Academy. Smith said Isom’s experiences at Outdoor Academy will help him once he arrives at university.
“Going away to college, it’s going to prepare him for that because he is not going to have any issues with the adaptation to that,” Smith said.
After returning to Webster for his first semester of senior year, Isom graduated early and pursued an emergency medical technician (EMT) certification. Isom spent 10 weeks on his state EMT certification and has since worked an overnight shift in the Mercy Hospital emergency room and in ambulance rides for Lemay Fire Protection District.
“It (Webster) is a very secluded part of society, and as an EMT, you are put in people’s lives, you are put in people’s houses, you are put when people are in their worst days, and you see a lot of stuff,” Isom said.
Isom hopes to use his EMT certification to find work in college but must pass the national exam in order to work outside of Missouri.
Through his activities and time at high school, Susan Vugteveen, Isom’s mother, believed that Isom’s perspective changed to consider how he could help others and positively impact his community.
“He went from a very internal view to a very external view, like, ‘what can I do for others? How can I be of service to others,’” Vugteveen said.
Most recently, Isom underwent surgery on April 4, to correct a congenital spinal abnormality. Although his spine condition was initially insignificant, it was worsened by his activities and other health issues. Isom is going through a recovery process spanning four-to-six months.
“It was part of a long-standing health issue I have had since birth that was sort of exacerbated by activities. I only think marching band, backpacking probably progressed that health issue, but I still have no regrets,” Isom said.
During college, Isom wants to be involved in outdoor education.
“I think I want to get involved in outdoor education and providing people with opportunities to backpack and paddle and climb,” Isom said.
This will be Luca Giordano’s first year on ECHO Staff, but he also made several contributions while taking journalism class his junior year.