OARS & The Pam & George Wendt Foundation Announce 2022 Guide School Scholarship

Fully-sponsored, Need-based Scholarships Available for Whitewater Guide Training Programs in California & Utah

Angels Camp, Calif. — In 2021, OARS, together with the Pam & George Wendt Foundation, launched a fully-sponsored need-based Guide School Scholarship. The scholarship, now open to applicants for 2022, aims to help individuals with limited resources attend OARS’s highly sought-after guide training programs and improve access for anyone interested in a career in the whitewater rafting industry.

OARS Guide School, which was first established in 1979 and has set the industry standard for raft guide training programs, teaches students the fundamentals of whitewater like rope and boat rigging skills, swiftwater rescue, how to guide a paddle raft and food prep and packing. Other areas of focus include teamwork, leadership, river etiquette and Leave No Trace principles.

“Our guide schools are taught by some of our top river guides and are one of the best ways to get your foot in the door as a whitewater rafting guide,“ said Steve Markle, OARS Vice President of Sales and Marketing. “As a leader in the whitewater community, it’s important we expand our outreach and help create opportunities for anyone who has an interest in working as a professional river guide.”

According to Markle, preference for guide school scholarships will be given to individuals with financial need, BIPOC and LGBTQ+ candidates, and applicants seeking full-time work as a river guide. Those selected will receive mentorship, full tuition to attend an OARS guide school on the American River in California, or the Split Mountain stretch of the Green River in Utah, as well as a gift card from NRS to help them purchase essential gear for the river.

Southern California resident Michael Ruelas was one of four individuals awarded a scholarship by the Pam & George Wendt Foundation in 2021. Ruelas completed California Whitewater Guide School and was hired to work for OARS as a commercial river guide on the American River this past season.

“I was on the river for over 60 days,” said Ruelas, who plans to continue guiding and has dreams of eventually leading a trip in Grand Canyon. “A Grand Canyon trip would be the pinnacle of my rafting career.”

Scholarship recipient Stevie Soto from Yuma, Arizona attended OARS 2021 Dinosaur Guide School and spent the season working for OARS on the Colorado, Green, and San Juan Rivers out of Moab, Utah. When asked how guide school helped advance her career goals, Soto replied: “I have my dream job! At the place where I know I can continue to grow into myself and with an amazing group of guides. Looking forward to the next 20 years!”

While OARS does not guarantee employment after attending guide school, scholarship recipients who successfully complete guide school will be given priority. Finding talented, hard-working individuals who are seeking full-time work as river guides has been part of the company’s plan for these programs all along. The scholarship is an opportunity for the company to cast a wider net and attract a more diverse pool of future river guides.

Ruelas’ advice for anyone considering applying for the 2022 scholarship? “Just be open. Be ready to learn and work hard. OARS has got you, so just jump into it.”

The deadline to apply for The Pam & George Wendt Guide School scholarship is March 1, 2022. Applicants can apply here.

For more information on the Guide School, visit: https://www.oars.com/guide-school/.

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