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Young Loyola New Orleans alumni prepare to take the ‘Big Muddy Adventure’

Loyola press release - July 21, 2015

Recent graduates in business and environmental studies draw on Jesuit education to help at-risk youth, focus on attention to Louisiana wetlands

Two recent Loyola University New Orleans graduates who have shared a love of the outdoors since they met on campus four years ago, will canoe the 2,300 mile length of the Mississippi River.

Malcolm Reed of Washington, D.C. and Mitchell Selby, of Oklahoma City, Okla., met during their freshman year at Loyola, and have been friends ever since. They both studied abroad during their junior years at the University of the South Pacific in Fiji, and feel a close connection from this shared experience, and an all-around love for the great outdoors. The trip, which is expected to take about three months, is a journey of self-exploration, as well as an opportunity to raise awareness about the great outdoors. Having lived in New Orleans for the past four years, Reed and Selby understand the difficulty that many children face in getting out of the city and into the natural environment. They planned their trip hoping to make a difference. They depart Aug. 14.

“We firmly believe outdoor education to be one of the most important aspects of youth development, and that is why we are tying our own personal journey to the development of New Orleans inner city youth. Being immersed in nature holds a pivotal role in personal and emotional growth, and through this trip we hope to not only grow independently, but also provide a means for others to do the same,” said Reed, who graduated this summer from Loyola New Orleans’ College of Business.

Both Reed and Selby firmly believe in the Jesuit value of stimulating personal growth through service and community engagement.

“I believe that my education at Loyola has allowed me to develop a genuine love for learning, as well as a broader perspective on the world and unrelenting desire to experience new people, places, and cultures,” Reed said.

"These values really steered us toward finally committing to this trip as we both have a passion for adventure, and desire to promote outdoor education. We feel that this trip will allow us to serve as an example for others to embrace adventure and uncertainty in their lives, and exemplify the power that the natural world holds for personal growth.”

Reed and Selby have set up a fundraising page to help raise money for the trip, including gear and food. A portion of proceeds will be given to the Friends of Louisiana Outdoors Outreach Program, or LOOP, which provides a hands-on approach to educational and recreational outdoor programs for at-risk youth, allowing them the opportunity to experience the diverse wetlands ecosystem of Southern Louisiana. Already they have surpassed their initial fundraising goal and the pair look forward to raising more money in the future.

Weather permitting, the two plan on paddling between 40 to 60 miles per day. Reed and Selby will begin from Minnesota’s Lake Itasca, travel through 10 states before being greeted by friends and family at the "Fly" in Audubon Park in Uptown New Orleans, then paddle the remaining 50 miles to the Gulf of Mexico. They hope to hitch a ride back to New Orleans on a fishing boat.

“During the three months of travel, we will be making frequent stops in cities and towns to experience the unique people and places along the length of the river. Along with personal growth, a major goal for us is to explore the ‘raw’ pioneer spirit of America, gaining a broader perspective of the country, as well as accumulating countless connections and experiences along the way,” said Selby, who was an environmental studies major at Loyola.

To chronicle this adventure, Reed and Selby will be updating a blog that will depict their day-to-day experiences on the river, and will also be creating a documentary style-video at the end of the trip to fully explore the impact and scope of the journey. Also, through a Q-and-A portion of their blog, they plan to educate LOOP participants about the Mississippi River and wetland ecosystems, as well as teach wilderness survival skills and boat safety knowledge.

To donate to the “Big Muddy Adventure,” visit http://www.gofundme.com/bigmuddyadventure.

For updates on Reed and Selby's trip, visit https://bigmuddyadventure.wordpress.com/.