For some students, one semester of CAP class with Cottonwood Institute just isn’t enough. And could you blame them? Connecting with the outdoors, learning critical 21st-century skills, effecting meaningful change in their communities—what’s not to love? And for a certain devoted subset of those students, like Leo Canner, even two semesters of CAP only serve to inspire more curiosity. Leo, as a student at New Vista High School, took CAP a whopping three times! He’s remained a familiar face to the CI community ever since, most recently livening up Beats on the Creek and The Throwdown with the Icon Frame, his revolutionary twist on the classic photo booth!
We caught up with Leo about his CAP experience, how CI has impacted his life since high school, and what to do in a hailstorm.
What CI program(s) did you take and when?
During my time at New Vista High School in Boulder between 2004 and 2008, I took CAP three times, back when Ford was the only instructor (the most the administration would allow). I also worked with CAP a few times for “4 Days In May,” a NVHS program aimed at tackling important community issues in and around Boulder.
What do you remember most about your CI experience?
Growing up in Boulder with parents who love to be outdoors, I had been exposed to camping a lot, but the concepts of “leave no trace” and basic survival skills that we got from CAP were amazing. I also remember, and quote to this day, a line from a short story about backwoods etiquette we were shown as part of the class: “We have all noticed the golf ball-sized chunks of hail embedding themselves in our faces, so there is no need to mention it to the rest of the group, just keep going.”
What are you up to these days?
After a short stint in Steamboat Springs as an EMT and ski bum, I came down to Denver to get degrees in biology and political science, which I have yet to use because I started and now run a photo booth and social media marketing company called Icon Frame.
Are there any skills or things you learned from CI that have come in handy in your life?
Along with countless camping, rafting, backing trips, a month-long NOLS adventure and volunteer work with Steamboat Springs search and rescue, I got heavily (possibly unhealthily) into fly fishing, which has taken me all over and has called upon various survival skills and exposed me to a lot of golf ball-sized chunks of hail.
Looking back now, how has your CI experience impacted you long term?
Along with instilling a life-long love for all things outdoors, CI showed me the joy you can get from taking people out and showing them the right way to do things both for their safety and for the preservation of our most important natural resources.
How has your CI experience helped you create positive change in your community?
Aside from wandering around in the woods with a bag picking up other people’s trash, CI showed me how important conservation is, and I have been able to instill those ideas in many of my friends.
Based on your CI experience, what advice would you give to other students?
You never know what part of a CI trip you will remember ten years later and how the things you learn with CI will alter the course of your life. If nothing else, knowing how—even in a basic sense—to function in the woods may one day save your life…or at least make you look cool.
Thank you to Leo Canner for his contributions!
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