Wyatt Pajtash is a fourth year student majoring in geography and economics at UWEC from Drummond, Wisconsin and for his Service-Learning, he worked to guide visually impaired athletes from his high school in Cross-Country and skiing.
When Wyatt was a freshman, he first saw the opportunity on a Facebook post and decided that it looked interesting and decided to get involved.
“I decided to reach out and see if I could guide a couple of cross-country runners and then after that I found out that they needed more guides for cross-country skiing because there’s more hills, more turns, and faster speeds… …I thought it was a unique opportunity and a few years back in my hometown we held a Paralympics World Cup Ski Race and I thought it was a good way to give back.”
Wyatt also talked about how important it is for those with disabilities to be able to compete at the same level as everyone else can.
“Making sure everyone has equal advantages to try to be competitive is very important. I remember when I was in High School and the twins I worked with didn’t have guides during their middle school race and they kept running into flags. They just weren’t able to compete at their highest level but with a guide, it levels the playing field a bit.”
Wyatt also talked about how he was able to guide a girl from Madison in the State Skiing Tournament who went on to compete in the Pyeongchang Winter Paralympics in 2018. What is also challenging about what Wyatt did was being physically fit enough to keep up with the runners and skiers while also having to shout out descriptions and directions.
“It adds to its own element. I’m not personally racing, I’m helping someone race. I feel like what’s more important is putting myself in their shoes and trying to give them the best descriptions of the course so they know when to put in all their energy and when they need to ease up a little bit.”
Wyatt’s commitment to guiding visually impaired cross-country runners and skiers goes way above his service-learning requirement. Wyatt continues to work with area athletes from his hometown and plans to keep making a positive impact. Thanks to Blugolds like Wyatt, the athletes he guides and the individuals at the races can experience the importance of community.