Wildcat Tracks: Luke Coco ’21

Many of us work at our job to be able to take a trip, but not everyone can say that their actual job is to take trips! Luke Coco has that enviable role as Grand Canyon University’s outdoor recreation team media guide. As a sophomore studying advertising and graphic design, Luke is in charge of documenting the content of the team’s trips, including photos and video and assisting in planning and leading them. “On the back end, I edit and color grade the footage and photos, then store them in our library of drives. Next year as a junior, I have been asked to be the Head Media Guide, which means I will be in charge of the entire media team and direct them for the next two years. Both roles require intense training for two weeks as we are Wilderness First Responders (WFRs), which is equivalent training to an EMT but for the backcountry,” he explained. 

While first visiting GCU’s campus in Phoenix, Arizona, Luke saw the amazing outdoor program setup. “I tore my hamstring my senior year doing time trials for the track team,” Luke explained. “When I was visiting GCU, I was able to take a golf cart around the huge campus. It enabled me to check out things that not everyone gets to see. On the east side of campus, they have part of a building called Basecamp, and I immediately knew I had to become a part of this program. Basecamp is a center for students and faculty where they can rent out anything from tents, sleeping bags, and camping stoves to stand-up paddle boards (SUPs, as we call them). All for as long as you like, at a super cheap price.”

According to Luke, GCU has a few categories of outdoor teams. “Throughout the recreation team, there are four branches of Outdoor Recreation: Basecamp, Adventures, Rock Wall, and Garden. Located next to Basecamp, we have in the past year created a community garden that hosts fifty garden beds, hammock shelves, fire pits, composting bins, and my favorite: the woodworking shed. The rock wall we have is one of the biggest in the nation owned by a university, and is open to the public the entire week,” Luke said. “And lastly, the Adventure team consists of twenty-eight student guides. We take students off campus to go camping, kayaking, snowboarding, canyoneering, and backpacking all over the West of the US. This includes California, Utah, Colorado, Arizona, and Nevada. To be on the guiding team, you have to go through three rounds of interviews with over 200 people applying for our limited spots. On the team, we have media and planning guides. As a planning guide, you plan out the trips and fill out an Emergency Action Plan (EAP) to plan for any injuries, constantly changing weather, and the layout of each destination we travel to along with a backup plan.”

Luke discovered his love of photography while a student at Westminster. “Attending Westminster was a crucial part of my life because the teachers and staff helped prepare and guide me for the next steps of my journey,” Luke said. “Two teachers who stick out to me are Mr. Sarra, who not only guided me with direction for my portfolio but also gave me advice and the creative freedom I needed to grow. Also, Mr. Maloy was a great role model to look up to when it came to treating people with a caring heart and meeting people where they were in life. These teachers helped lead me toward a path where I could explore and expand on my interests. I am forever grateful for their efforts and for dealing with my shenanigans! I would also like to recognize Mr. Rohlfing. His passion and creativity for marketing the school and the students are on a new level. Having the chance to experience his abilities and rely on him for guidance when I had questions was just as impactful. Graduating out of the COVID years was an eventful one, to say the least. Even though things were not ‘normal,’ and we all jumped through many hoops together, those years were the most memorable.”

“The life lesson I took away from Westminster is the kindness and humility the faculty and staff showed me. From being on the student council to running on the track and soccer field, all over Westminster were people who poured their passions into me, and because of them, I am who I am today. That passion helped create and inspire, making the classroom learning process more feasible. Even the staff in the math center who took time to help me understand concepts that were on a test the next day were all patient and kind no matter the circumstances, and that’s the greatest thing that I could take away from The Academy.”

That creative background came in handy when Luke started his freshmen year of college. “Coming into GCU, all I had was graphic design with a little photography experience, but because of this past year, I can confidently say that I am now both a photographer and graphic designer. I love photos so much and the process of editing them.”  Luckily for him, Luke is able to use these skills daily. “A typical day on the job can completely vary depending on what I have planned for the weekend. My day can range from editing photos and footage in the office, grabbing groceries for the weekend trips, working on marketing material for Basecamp, or taking photos of Outdoor Recreation events that we have going on. It truly is never a boring day on campus!”

Looking forward, Luke has a few destinations left on his bucket list. “This school year, I have personally helped lead 30 trips and, as a guiding team, have taken students on over 120,” Luke said. “Big Sur California and our Costa Rica missions trip are a few places on my bucket list! Our Horseshoe Bend paddle boarding, Black Canyon Canoeing, and Catalina Island bike packing are some of our more popular trips that I would love to be a part of.”

View Luke’s photography and graphic design portfolio at lukecoco.com or find him on Instagram: @luke_coco.

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