Paul Pregont (USA) - Expedition Director, Team Member
Click here if you would like to send Paul a note of encouragement or would just like to say 'Hello' while he is on the expedition.
Paul has led a life of high adventure that has enabled him to combine his love of the outdoors with his passion for enlightening people through education. As an educator, explorer, environmentalist and lecturer, he has traveled thousands of miles by dogsled in the Arctic regions and has become a leader in "adventure learning" from development through implementation of online classroom expeditions.
As a member of the US Disabled Ski Team, high achievement in teaching came early to Pregont. He was a dedicated teacher and coach of blind students -- gaining their trust to lead them down the slopes of a mountain solely on his voice commands. After several National Championships, Pregont and his legally blind partner won three World Championship medals in 1990.
In 1991 Pregont joined Will Steger at his Homestead in Ely, Minnesota to be a team member of the 1992 - 1995 International Arctic Project (IAP) that completed a four-month traverse of the Arctic Ocean by dogsled and canoe. Featured in the January 1996 issue of National Geographic, the expedition team made telecommunication history by communicating daily with millions worldwide via the Internet and sending the first digital image from the North Pole.
Upon completion of IAP, Pregont saw the continued need for innovative K-12 education solutions that apply emerging advanced information technologies. Interacting with scores of students worldwide, he had experienced first-hand the power of using exploration, adventure and real-time communication to promote interactive, collaborative learning. In 1996 Pregont founded NOMADS Adventure & Education - a leader in the concept adventure learning.
Pregont's commitment to environmental responsibility extended to a corporate environment in 1988 when he founded Mid-States Recycling Systems, Inc. in Chicago, IL to market equipment for recycling plastic, glass and paper. Among the firm's achievements was supplying equipment to the City of Chicago for their "Blue Bag" Material Recycling Facility.
Interview With Paul Pregont
What is your favorite food?
Caribou Steak fried in butter always seems to hit the spot. I like Lobster a lot, too, but it's kind of hard to get that when I'm dog sledding in the arctic. For snacks, I really like GORP (good old raisons and peanuts) and cliff bars.
What is your favorite movie?
Forest Gump is one of my all time favorites because the whole story is really engaging and interesting. I also think the movie has a lot of positive messages.
List some of your hobbies or interests.
Training and taking care of the Polar Huskies takes up most of my time, and even though it is my job, I always enjoy being with them. I also like white water rafting, being outdoors and reading. I usually read books about the arctic and the people who live there.
Who are some of your role models or heroes?
My father has always been an important role model for me. He taught me to be persistent and not quit even when things get really tough. Michael Jordon is one of my heroes because he works very hard even though he has achieved great success. He is also a good team leader.
What was one of your favorite classes or subjects in school?
I liked learning about things that happened in the past, so history was always a favorite. I liked geography, too, because I have always been interested in maps.
What is one of your favorite childhood memories?
When I was in second grade, I had a Shetland Pony named Tiny who I rode a lot. I even herded sheep with her. She was partially blind, but still trusted me enough to take her different places. I spent a lot of time caring for animals like sheep, cattle and rabbits when I helped out at our neighbors farm. I spent so much time there that the family even assigned me my own chores.
What advice do you have for the students of today?
My advice for young people today is to work hard and keep working on your goals. You may experience temporary set backs, but if you keep trying, you will succeed at whatever you set your mind to.
Why do you think it is important to study other cultures?
We all have different values, perspectives and opinions. If people study other cultures, they will be able to understand differences rather than put negative labels on people. We live in a global environment and in order to understand how to work and live together we must learn from each other.
How and when did you first become a dog musher?
It all started when a friend asked me to come and work at Will Steger's homestead in 1991. Two days after I got there, someone handed me some harnesses and said, "let's go." Almost two months later, I mushed a team of Polar Huskies to Yellowknife, NWT on a 72 day expedition.
What do you like best about being on an expedition? What do you like the least?
I really like life on the trail. I become very relaxed and enjoy working with the dogs. Having problems with the stove when its 40 degrees below zero is probably what I like least.
Why did you start NOMADS?
When I was involved with previous projects, we had lots of great feedback from students and teachers. Mille and I felt that schools would continue to be interested in these types of education programs if they were offered annually. I also wanted to teach people about the importance and fragility of arctic regions.
Give an example of one funny or strange thing that happened to you on a previous trip or expedition.
On an expedition a couple of years ago, Mille and I were traveling towards Arviat, Manitoba. I had spotted some caribou (the dogs had not seen them yet). I stopped and went to tell Mille to be careful. About that same time, Cola saw the caribou and literally took off! I chased the team for a full two hours!?! Looking back its funny, but at the time it was very scary being separated from my team.
What do you like about the Arctic?
Just about everything! The Arctic is amazing because it is so unspoiled and home to an incredible variety of wildlife. In the spring, the light is simply amazing - it makes everything beautiful.
What are your specific responsibilities when you are on the trail?
I am the Expedition Leader, that means I am in charge of the final decisions navigation. Almost all of the decisions are made by the group. I collect a lot of information and listen to what the team has to say and in the time of decision the big questions are most often tossed out for everyone to have a say. In an emergency is when the leadership becomes more directed.
What do you hope students involved in GoNorth! will learn?
I hope that the students involved in the GoNorth! program will learn more about the Inuit and why the Arctic region is so important. I also would like students to be able to learn from each other