Jennifer Jones said reminding her students to practice self-care is a daily occurrence and a habit that she, too, insists on practicing. Her preferred method — summiting mountains.
Jones is the Master of Social Work (MSW) program coordinator and field education coordinator at Newman University. She is also a 2008 Newman MSW graduate. Her job entails duties such as recruiting and advising MSW students, connecting with community stakeholders for student involvement opportunities, handling the logistics of student learning and teaching a seminar course that coincides with student practicum.
Her ultimate goal, however, is to help students find a respectable work-life balance. By taking care of themselves first, the students are better equipped to fully help others, she said.
“We as social workers, by nature, are helpers and sometimes neglect ourselves,” explained Jones. “We need to have an outlet that makes us happy and carve out time to spend with our loved ones.”
She emphasized the need for both professional and personal goals, which results in increased life satisfaction. Personal goals unrelated to an everyday job are a great way to build new skills and can provide a sense of purpose outside of the workforce.
Jones’ personal goal ties into her love of the outdoors and her passion for hiking. She has always enjoyed the outdoors, she said, but became serious about hiking in the last few years.
“My goal is to do as many 14ers in Colorado as I can,” said Jones. “There are 58 total in Colorado and I hope to do at least half of them.” A fourteener refers to a mountain that exceeds 14,000 feet above sea level.
“It is fun and a great way to be in my favorite place while challenging myself physically and mentally. Plus, after a long hike, we always find a local brewery and enjoy a beer outside as our victory.”
Her boyfriend and close friends who also enjoy the outdoors and hiking provide her with even more incentive to tackle her goal. Jones said it all started a few years ago when her friend, Dietra, signed up for a Pikes Peak Marathon and Ascent. They started looking into 14ers and discussing a plan to climb them.
Using 14ers.com and the AllTrails app as guides, Jones and her hiking buddies stay up to date on weather conditions and are able to track which mountains they have conquered and which ones they want to tackle next.
“My boyfriend, Brett, and I did our first one two years ago with my cousin. We hiked Mount Bierstadt in June and got to hike in the snow using spikes on our shoes and experience the fun of glissading down the mountain. After that, I was hooked.”
So far, she has summited seven peaks in all — Mounts Bierstadt, Yale, Shavano, Princeton, Sherman, Elbert and La Plata.
“It is always a great feeling to summit a 14er. The views are breathtaking and you know you accomplished something that not many people in the world ever get to do. To have loved ones to share that moment with is priceless. We take it in, get our picture, chat with other hikers and then get down before it storms.”
The adventure is what keeps her going back for more. Each hike is unique and comes with its own good and bad moments but that is what makes for a great story and an experience that will not soon be forgotten.
Not every mountain is a great experience, though, and for Jones, that particular hike was Mount Princeton — she is glad that one is done and over with. Even though she knows there will be others that are similarly lower on the enjoyment scale, she looks forward to experiencing as many hikes as she can.
She is already planning her 2021 hikes with the Decalibron in mind, which consists of four mountains — Mounts Bross, Cameron, Democrat and Lincoln.
“July and August are the best months in Colorado to hike 14ers,” she said. “We do not have a date set yet but we are going to add in a day to relax and chill. I am going to try and sneak in two in June, Pikes Peak and Quandary Peak, before our big trip. The Decalibron takes about a full day to do. The earlier we start the better to avoid afternoon storms and summit all four.
“The hike can be treacherous at times, but getting to the top makes it all worthwhile. And luckily, I have a partner and good friends that share the same passion.”