“There’s something really special about being associated with Mountain Challenge,” recalled Maryville College alumna and former Mountain Challenge staff Jeanna Stewart.
That “something” can be hard to put into words, so Stewart describes it best through her life, much of which she credits to her experience with Mountain Challenge at Maryville College.
The 1999 MC graduate is now a successful regional director with Family Promise National, which is a nonprofit organization that provides resources for homeless families. Both Mountain Challenge and MC, she said taught her the importance of giving back to the community and helping others, leading her into a fulfilling professional life in social service and gratifying personal life filled with passion and adventure.
Stewart became “enamored” with Mountain Challenge after her freshman orientation and shortly after joined the staff. She fell in love not only with the outdoors, but also with the people, stories, and positivity, which she found herself surrounded with:
“I love that Mountain Challenge is an instant community. Once you’re in, you’re in. There are so many interesting people that pass through the doors at Crawford House and many of them have incredible stories to share,” she said.
Stewart has some stories of her own, many of them wild and memorable, from her time at Mountain Challenge. One instance in particular from her first Mountain Challenge spring break bicycle trip poignantly and bluntly illustrates the notion being “all in.”
Stewart recalled her naiveté when it came to cycling and insisted on wearing underwear underneath her bike shorts, which most cyclists avoid because of rashes and general discomfort. After a few hours one day, Stewart promptly went into a gas station and took them off.
She emerged, panties triumphantly in hand, and proudly announced to the group: “They’re coming off! You guys were right!” And into the trash they went.
Perhaps, though, the most profound influence Mountain Challenge had on Stewart’s life was the importance of personal reflection and pursuit. “The most important thing Mountain Challenge has taught me is how to live life…and not know the difference between working and playing.”
That mantra has guided Stewart’s personal hobbies, which include an array of outdoor activities, including trail running, road biking, rock climbing, working in the yard and doing anything else that gets her “outside and sweaty.”
When she is not scaling a mountainside in one form or another, Stewart enjoys pursuing her creative side, most recently through glass blowing. She also loves spending time with friends and family, which includes her two dogs, Gabby and Pedro.
Though she has not been actively involved with Mountain Challenge in years, she feels like she has never left. After moving to Maryville last year, Stewart now has an office in Crawford House, which she says has been a fantastic work environment for her.
“It’s great being around such positive and healthy, both physically and emotionally, people,” Stewart said.
After being reeled in as a freshman in 1995, Jeanna Stewart continues to embody the spirit of what it means to be a part of the Mountain Challenge family, to be “all in” when it comes to all areas of one’s life.