By GENE PATTERSON
6 News Anchor/Reporter
MARYVILLE (WATE) - At Maryville College, educators believe a sound mind and sound body go together.
They believe it so much that all freshmen go through a program known as the Mountain Challenge.
Started by Bruce Guillaume, the challenge gets people outdoors where they face issues of trust, leadership and change.
On the Alpine Tower, one must overcome a fear of falling by trusting those on the ground.
From personal experience on this day, I can tell you that is not as easy a task as it may look.
"It's a great way to prepare people, not just for school, but for life. They ask you to do a lot of things you wouldn't be asked anywhere else," said Maryville College junior Eric Kearney. "Just going outside and doing these things is a great experience and they really challenge you to step out of your comfort zone."
The program was started 25 years ago by founder Bruce Guillaume. It's one of only about 20 in the country, and maybe the only one of its kind in the south.
While there are traditional ropes courses and hiking trails, students can tailor their challenges. Guillaume says as long as its outdoors, he'll consider it.
"One of the things that's happened over the years is that people have forgotten how to be outside," he said. "People are spending a lot more time inside and it's not even the activity, but just being outside."
Guillaume's daughter, Emily, is a freshman at Maryville College and has spent her life outdoors.
Despite years of exposure, even she gained an appreciation for the challenge experience.
"It was fun to go through it with a group," she said. "We slipped up at times and got frustrated, but that's part of it."
In its first year, 60 students participated in the Mountain Challenge. Now thousands do, including off-campus groups.
And there is tremendous buy-in from the Maryville College faculty and administration. They believe that academics benefit when students are active.
In fact, studies show that students' grades actually improve with fitness.
"So what we think is, anything that we can do to help anybody, but especially college and younger kids has got to be a good thing," Bruce Guillaume said.
He and the Mountain Challenge are examples of the Spirit of East Tennessee.
For more on the Maryville College Mountain Challenge visit their website.
If you know someone who you believe is an example of the Spirit of East Tennessee, e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org.