The beginning of each school year represents a new adventure, and as Upper School students learned today from guest speaker Jennifer Pharr Davis, the experience of the journey is what matters most. A hiker, author, speaker, and National Geographic Adventurer of the Year who has covered over 14,000 miles of long-distance trails on six different continents, Davis shared with students about hiking the Appalachian Trail multiple times and the life lessons she learned along the way. In addition to presenting during Assembly, she also had the opportunity to visit several classrooms throughout the day.

In 2011, Davis covered the 2,185-mile Appalachian Trail in forty-six days, eleven hours, and twenty minutes, maintaining a remarkable average of forty-seven miles per day and thus claiming the then overall (male or female) fastest known time on the Appalachian Trail. She was the first woman to set the record. In telling of her record-setting journey, Davis emphasized that her achievement came from not racing a clock but instead challenging herself to do her best and discover of what she was truly capable. Realizing the distinction made all the difference, especially in telling her story to inspire others.

“Some people wanted to summarize my entire journey with numbers. I’m not saying the numbers aren’t good to work toward or are not important. I’m proud of the numbers I accomplished, but they do not define my journey,” she noted. “The most important part of the experience was the lessons that I learned, the memories that I made, and the relationships that I formed. You can work to get the best numbers that you can, but remember, at the end of the day when you are filling out your college applications, they do not define your time here. I want you to appreciate the lessons that you are learning that cannot be put to numbers, the memories that you make, and the relationships that you form. And I wish the best for you on whatever path life takes you down.”