Grandfather Mountain offers students a unique opportunity — the chance to learn about nature from nature itself.

But with North Carolina schools facing sizable budget constraints, this isn’t always possible.

Enter the Grandfather Mountain Field Trip Scholarship, a program designed for schools in financial need, and one that’s already had a profound effect on some North Carolina students.

Guests kickoff their visit by registering their personalized All-Access Pass, selecting their favorite school and lighting that school’s helmet. We have over 765 colleges and universities represented on our three-story Helmet Wall presented by Southwest Airlines.

From there, visitors can test their football skills at the Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl Skill Zone. Kick a field goal through the uprights of our regulation goal post, run an agility drill, catch a diving pass in the end zone and take the quarterback challenge all on our indoor playing field.

“My kids do not have a connection with the real world,” said Cheryl Bauer, a teacher from Valmead Elementary School in Lenoir, N.C. “Many of them have limited exposure to the gift that is out here in our natural environment.”

This past October, Bauer brought her third-grade class to Grandfather Mountain for an experience she’s certain none of them will forget.

Hiking in a pristine mountain environment, learning about native plants, watching river otters frolic in their habitat and overcoming fears by crossing the Mile High Swinging Bridge, the students were “totally amazed,” Bauer said.

“This connection with nature doesn’t happen while they’re at school,” she said. “It happens when we get out of here. We’re a Title 1 school, so we have limited funding, and I was really excited to take my students out into this natural environment.”

About the Scholarship

Robin and William Pribble pose with their daughter, Kit, at a June dedication ceremony at Grandfather Mountain in honor of their late son, Nathan Pribble. To honor his memory, the Pribbles requested that all memorial donations go to the Grandfather Mountain Stewardship Foundation to help finance field trips for under-funded schools. Photo courtesy of the Grandfather Mountain Stewardship Foundation

The scholarship was established in spring 2015 in honor of the late Nathan Pribble, a teenager who loved the “great outdoors.” But to Pribble, that term was something of an understatement.

To him, it meant connecting with nature — a wholesome, organic bond, enhanced only by sharing it with one’s family and friends.

He and his family — parents William and Robin, sister Kit and brother Carson — shared this connection at Grandfather Mountain, traveling frequently from their home in Apex, N.C., to the Linville-based attraction.

When Pribble died unexpectedly in October 2014 at the age of 18, his parents decided to honor their son’s memory by sharing his passion for nature with others.

“Nathan was a nature lover all his life, so it was only natural that we asked for memorials to go somewhere that would mean something to Nathan,” Robin Pribble said.

His family requested that memorial contributions be made to the Grandfather Mountain Stewardship Foundation, the nonprofit organization that oversees the attraction, to help provide field trips for schools that could not afford them.

“Helping students that otherwise might not have an opportunity to go to Grandfather Mountain is something that would matter to him,” Robin Pribble said.

Students in Cheryl Bauer’s third-grade class from Valmead Elementary School in Lenoir, N.C., pose with the Mildred the Bear statue at Grandfather Mountain during their October visit. Their field trip was made possible through the Grandfather Mountain Field Trip Scholarship, established in memory of the late Nathan Pribble. Photo by Frank Ruggiero | Grandfather Mountain Stewardship Foundation

In addition to individual contributions made in Pribble’s memory, the fund is bolstered by a donation from Holbrook Field Trips, an Apex company that frequently brings school groups to Grandfather Mountain. The mountain welcomed its first scholarship recipients in October —Bauer’s third grade class.

Following the field trip, Bauer said she could now return to the classroom and make a different kind of connection — the kind that Pribble loved to share.

For Robin Pribble, it was a joy to see her son’s legacy have such a meaningful impact.

“For these students, having the opportunity to spend a day outside of the classroom and in the fresh air was life-changing,” she said. “I believe the students and chaperones left the mountain that day with more knowledge and love of nature than when they arrived that morning. It was a beautiful thing to see.”

How to Apply

Scholarships, which are awarded for spring and fall field trips, are primarily offered to North Carolina public schools, although other organizations with students may apply.


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