The opportunity to work with a hero doesn’t happen often. Wilderness Center board member Melanie Waite-Altringer has admired Will Steger from afar since she was in 11th grade. She blames her social studies teacher. Steger was on his Trans-Antarctic Expedition at the time and her teacher forced the entire class to pay attention.

“She had us follow him throughout the entire year and we were all upset at first. We thought it was going to be boring and horrible,” Waite-Altringer said. “Then we all ended up being pretty big fans of him.”

Waite-Altringer has been a member of the biology faculty at Anoka-Ramsey Community College for 20 years. She joined the Wilderness Center board in 2016. That summer she also coordinated the “Life off the Grid Energy Conference” at the Center. The conference was designed to educate teachers about how to present new material in energy fields with an eye on attracting young people to carry the technology forward.

She said being on the board enables her to connect with more people than just students at ARCC. Holding the conference at the Wilderness Center greatly expanded overall outreach.

“I’m teaching teachers. But they can then reach so many more students every year. So we’re touching and affecting many people,” she said. “This is totally something different than just coming out of a book. These are real-life experiences that you can pass on to others.”

As a result, she has a desire to help complete the Center. “The future hope for me is that it can affect all aspects of anything having to do with the environment, whether it’s a law, whether it’s education, whether it’s just experiences.”

Waite-Altringer, 43, lives in Elk River, Minnesota. She said she grew up in a nature-loving family. Their vacations were nature-based trips, and they hunted and fished. She enjoys those same activities today with her husband and children.

“Almost everything we do for enjoyment is related to the outdoors somehow. I grew up that way and I’m still that way,” she said.

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