Photo Credit: Anne Skidmore
Photo Credit: Anne Skidmore

Name: Gashim Nyapir

Age: 23

Hometown: Portland, ME

Sending school: King Middle School

Tell us a little bit about yourself.

I was born in South Sudan and moved to Portland, Maine in 2004, at the age of seven. I have lived in Maine for the majority of my life. I graduated from Casco Bay High School in 2015. After high school, I decided to stay close to home by going to Southern Maine Community College. While at SMCC, I studied sociology with a focus in psychology because I wanted to understand how the world around me works. 

I was introduced to Kismet Rock Foundation and Mike Jewell while I was attending King Middle School. Although I had only lived in the United States for several years, rock climbing came naturally to me. After graduating from the program in 2014, I wanted to work at Kismet because of the amazing in-house staff, the great people, and my experiences as a student during the summer. I wanted to give back the love I felt while in the program. In 2015 I interned with the in-house staff and volunteered at the cliff during the Kismet summer program. I became a board member in December of 2015. Kismet is a wonderful place for young people to grow, experience, and learn. I am forever grateful and humbled by it.

Gashim climbing at Echo Crag in Franconia Notch during his 4th summer at Kismet.
Gashim climbing at Echo Crag in Franconia Notch during his 4th summer at Kismet.

How long have you been a part of the Kismet Family?

I have been a part of the Kismet family for ten years now, I began climbing with Kismet in 2010 as a student.

What made you decide you wanted to spend your summers at Kismet as a student? 

Kismet has a special impact on people who have been through the program. As a middle schooler, I would spend most of my time playing sports. Whether it was an organized event or a pick-up game. I was originally interested in Kismet because rock climbing was another sport I could check off my list. Now, Kismet has a much deeper meaning and role in my life.

What is your current role at Kismet? How long have you been in that role?

I am a part of the in-house staff team and I am also a board member. During the climbing programs, especially on multi-pitch climbs, I provide extra help and assistance to the guide. During the year I am available to our Portland students when they need support and even as a form of transportation during the season. I am very flexible with my role to help Kismet continue to have a positive impact on the students.

What do you do for work now?

I am currently a Customer Service Ramp Agent for Piedmont airlines, which is a branch under American Airlines. However, I recently became an Ed Tech 1 teacher at Casco Bay High School, which is where I graduated from back in 2015. The two subjects that I primarily help teach are science and math. My main focus is to provide a helping hand to students and teachers. I love being around people during their happy moments, sad moments, and joyful moments.

Gashim with his group at their Kismet graduation in 2014.
Gashim with his group at their Kismet graduation in 2014.

Did your time at Kismet have any impact on who you are today? Tell us about it. 

My time at Kismet Rock Foundation did have an impact on who I am today, but I am not a product of my environment. As someone who was born in a completely different country and has lived outside of the U.S, my views are constantly influenced by my surroundings. I do not know how much of an impact Kismet had in my life and it is unfair for me to completely say because it extends beyond the four years that I was a student. It is about giving someone the chance to do something extraordinary and experience life. Words can’t express how grateful I am for having Kismet in my life, now I’m trying to provide that same opportunity to our newcomers, through my roles as an in-house staff member, board member, mentor, friend, and role model.

Do you have a specific memory from your time as a student that you can share with us?

Every memory I had at Kismet was special. One of my favorite memories was from my first year, on our first day of climbing outside. We were at the base of White Horse and my climbing instructor suggested we all “race to the anchor”. Everyone in the group thought it was a good idea and we began to gear up. I won one race and my instructor won another.

What is one lesson that Kismet has taught you? 

Teamwork makes the dream work! Rock climbing is a unique sport because it requires everyone to participate to achieve the goal, it requires is a true team effort.

Gashim teaching two of his Kismet students how to solve a rubik's cube.
Gashim teaching two of his Kismet students how to solve a rubik's cube.

What have you learned from your time as an in-house staff member? 

At Kismet, the in-house staff members are more than just "in-house staff." They are surrogate parents, role models, teachers, coaches, friends, mentors, and more. During my time as a staff member, one of the most important lessons I’ve learned is to “try to be the best support system for the students”. Whether it is climbing, prepping a certain meal, or providing clothing. I try to help them with whatever the matter is.

What advice would you give an incoming first-year student?

Advice that I would give to a first-year student would be to not hold yourself back, whether it is from the climbing itself or opening up to new people.

Are you still climbing?

Yes, I am still climbing but not as often as I would like. During the off-season from Kismet, my schedules are constantly bombarded with my two jobs so I don’t have much of the free time for myself. Thanks to Salt Pump Climbing Center in Scarborough, Maine, I get some climbing done when I can.

Tell us about any upcoming goals you might have

My new goal for 2020 is to become financially more aware. Whether it is how I earn money or how I spend money, I want to understand it completely.

If you're explaining your experience with Kismet to someone who's never heard of the organization before, what do you tell them? 

Kismet Rock Foundation is a nonprofit organization that offers technical climbing to middle school students through scholarships. As a middle school student, technical rock climbing was never something that I could participate in on my own. Kismet provides scholarships to students like myself so that we can fully experience the great outdoors.