Pathway to Purpose: Ann Bancroft — Education Through Exploration
by Adrienne Jordan
As we launch Prouty i•will, and begin a journey of transformation with twenty bold women leaders, we thought it appropriate to also reflect on women who have inspired us, those who have courageously dared to walk in their calling and live in their purpose. Ann Bancroft, the first known woman to cross the ice to both the North and South Poles, is the personification of a woman who knows why she is here on this earth — to explore and to educate. Ann fully accepts this responsibility, and pushes at the edges daily to continually learn, grow, and teach.
Recently, Ann visited the Prouty Project to share about her life’s story and polar expeditions. We learned her passion for educating others was fully revealed through her willingness to take big risks as an explorer. Ann shared her stories about finding and living in her purpose, and here are a few learnings that resonated and will help guide us as we lead others through Prouty i•will.
“Exploration is a lot of what you don’t know and a little of what you do know.”
As a child, Ann found books of early explorers fascinating, and these books planted the seed of exploration in her at an early age. Her dream as a 10-year old was to become an explorer and educator, she just hadn’t worked out the details of her life’s plan quite yet. Starting her career as a physical and special education teacher and athletic coach, Ann yearned for something more. A few years into her career as an educator, Ann interviewed and was selected to be part of a North Pole expedition team of eight people and 49 dogs. She took a huge chance, left her teaching position and changed her life. Ann shared that her naïveté about exploration was very helpful, it didn’t allow her to think about the barriers and talk herself out of going on the expedition. And while fully capable, her ability to accept there was much she didn’t know, created space for her to also accept every day of the expedition as a healthy challenge, with new solutions. This mindset allowed Ann and her team to navigate and run at the same time — there was no room for procrastination, many times they had to just “go for broke”.
“Responsibility rides on our sleds.”
When Ann returned home from the North Pole, she first had to adjust to being thrust into the spotlight as the first woman to cross the ice to the North Pole. The feelings of excitement, bewilderment and at times unworthiness eventually gave way to an epiphany — Ann’s platform as an explorer had provided her an avenue to be an educator outside of the classroom. Her passion had met her purpose and her dream as a 10-year old had been realized. Just as important, Ann felt being the “first woman” came with the responsibility to do something with the opportunity, and has since completed more expeditions which were followed by millions of people. She has also worked to increase access to exploration for youth, and founded the Ann Bancroft Foundation, an organization that empowers girls to imagine something bigger and helps them reach their full potential. Ann encouraged us to “land on purpose” and always know that what we all choose to do with our lives matters.
The Prouty Project recently hosted a trip to the North Pole for our 20th anniversary of STRETCH Expeditions. Hearing Ann’s story, and then having the opportunity to travel to the North Pole was a once-in-a-lifetime experience. You can read excerpts and see pictures from our 2019 STRETCH Expedition explorers here on our blog.
Prouty i•will hopes to bring Ann’s spirit and lessons to life as it will offer women the chance to immerse themselves in unique opportunities to stretch, grow and transform.