If you’re stranded in the wilderness with just the clothes on your back, you’ll want to have Sarah Lumley with you.
The Wellington Secondary School graduate learned wilderness survival techniques through air cadets and teaches it to junior members at the Albert Head Air Cadet Summer Training Centre near Victoria.
Lumley knows how to build a waterproof shelter out of pine boughs, make a signal fire and identify edible flora in the bush.
“I’ve been an outdoor kid pretty much all my life,” she said. “I love being outside and doing things.”
Lumley joined the 205 Collishaw Royal Canadian Air Cadet Squadron about a year after moving to Nanaimo halfway through her Grade 8 year.
Before this, Lumley and her brother and sister moved to different army bases with her parents – her mother was an air force nurse and her father a medical assistant in the army and then a full-time caregiver.
Lumley liked the survival training aspect of cadets best.
At the end of her Grade 10 year, she spent three nights in the bush as part of a six-week wilderness survival training program in Nova Scotia. Last spring, she took a sea survival course, during which she was turned upside down in a cage in a salt water pool.
She’s also worked her way up in the ranks of her local squadron and is now warrant officer second class and squadron deputy parade commander, which Lumley likens to being second in command of the squadron.
Through cadets, Lumley also competed in biathlons – she won a silver medal in the provincial championships and helped instruct junior officers this year.
But there’s more to Lumley than just cadets.
Lumley was student council president this year and taught Grade 8 students techniques to survive high school as part of her school’s Link Crew mentorship program.
She will attend Vancouver Island University in September, but plans to transfer to the University of British Columbia’s environmental design program.
From there, she wants to complete a master’s degree in architecture, focusing on old and new methods of reducing energy, which would combine Lumley’s aptitude for math and science with her artistic talents – she does a lot of sketching and painting – and her desire to help preserve the outdoor experiences she’s had for future generations.
Bil Derby, administration officer for Lumley’s cadet unit, said Lumley sets the standard for the other cadets.
“She’s a very quiet leader, but she leads with a lot of strength,” he said. “She doesn’t settle. She’s a goal setter.”