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Author | Journalist | Speaker

Updated: Mar 9, 2022

“Far better it is to dare mighty things, to win glorious triumphs, even though checkered by failure, than to take rank with those poor spirits who neither enjoy much nor suffer much, because they live in the gray twilight that knows neither victory nor defeat.” –Theodore Roosevelt

“Let the world change you, and you can change the world.” -Tagline for The Motorcycle Diaries

Thanks to all those who chose to support this scholarship (NOW CLOSED).

Name: The “Dare Mighty Things” Scholarship

Amount: $1,000

Deadline: Jan 31, 2011 [Deadline has passed.] Number of awards: 1

Who can apply? Undergraduate students of all majors in their junior and senior years are encouraged to apply. Must be an American citizen enrolled in an American institution. (We will make exceptions on a case by case basis.)

What is the award for? To support students who wish to embark on adventures UNRELATED to their schoolwork and careers.

Mission– The Dare Mighty Things Scholarship Foundation believes the world is one big classroom. We want to encourage graduates to create their own “curriculum” by pursing dreams unrelated to college and careers. We envision a world comprised of principled, deliberative, physically vigorous and creative individuals uniquely shaped by their scholarly and worldly educations.

Scholarship Description– The Dare Mighty Things Scholarship is for students with dreams. The bigger, the badder, the bolder the dream—the better. The dream can be of a personal nature (train-hopping across the country) or of a social nature (teaching school children about organic farming). Whatever the dream, it must be of your own making. If your dream—to others—seems impractical, unfeasible, eccentric, or crazy, you are in the right place.

Because of sobering financial realities, many students are forced to compromise their ideals and postpone dreams. We don’t want you to sell out; we want you to live the life you’ve imagined. We want students who wish to spend their post-graduate years growing, developing, and enjoying their lives outside of classroom walls. We hope that you’ll come back from your journey enriched from your experiences and eager to share it with others. You and the world will be the better for it.

Requirements– Undergraduate students of all majors in their junior and senior years are encouraged to apply. Must be an American citizen student enrolled at an American institution. (We will make exceptions on a case by case basis.)

Please email a personal photo, essay, and questionnaire (details of which can all be found below) to DareMightyThingsScholarship (at) by 8 a.m., January 31st 2011. The winner will be decided soon after.

Disclaimer: The scholarship was created on the blog, “The Spartan Student” ( The winner will have his/her essay and picture posted on the blog. (Applicants may request not to have certain personal information revealed.)

Disclaimer 2: The author of the blog and creator of the scholarship holds the right to haunt you for the rest of your life if you let your dream go unrealized.

Disclaimer 3: The winner is strongly encouraged to write a follow-up essay/travel narrative, or to provide some other artistic media (photos, video, poetry, etc) to be viewed on the blog.

Application– (Please paste the questions and your answers to the following questions onto a Word document.)

  • Name:

  • Date of birth:

  • Are you a junior, senior, or other (ex: second-year senior)?

  • What is your current school?

  • What other higher learning institutions have you attended?

  • What month and year do you intend to graduate?

  • What is your major? Why did you choose it? How will you “use” it? (Please limit response to no more than two paragraphs.)

  • How much student debt will you graduate with?

  • When do you intend to pursue the dream that you’ve described in your essay? How will the money awarded help you carry it out? (Please limit response to no more than two paragraphs.)

  • Please provide two references, your relation with them (professors, employers, and relatives are acceptable), as well as their email addresses and phone numbers. (We do not desire actual letters of recommendation; contact information will suffice.)

Essay question– Please describe the dream you intend to pursue after graduation (or during your studies). Write the essay in whatever way you wish, but it would be helpful to explain why you have this dream, what you expect to gain from it, etc. Six words of advice: Don’t be afraid to be passionate. The essay should be 2-3 pages long. (12-point font, Times New Roman, double-spaced.)

You have a good chance if… 1. your dream is bold and of your own creation. Working on Wall Street for a hedge fund is certainly a “worldly experience,” but it’s not the type that we wish to support. We encourage dreams that fall outside the parameters of “the system.” These are the types of journeys we wish to help fund: a cycling tour through South America, a backpacking trip through Africa, a road trip to Alaska, the creation of your own planet-saving non-profit organization, etc. If it’s your dream to “hunt and kill elephant poachers, extract their teeth postmortem and display them as a warning to ivory dealers,” then you’re the person we’re looking for. While we don’t expect something so extreme, the bolder your dream is, the better the chance you have.

2. you plan on embarking on your journey SOON. We want to reward those who donated and made this scholarship possible with evidence that their money has been put to good use. In other words, we want you to embark on your journey and tell us about it in a reasonable amount of time. This summer would be great. If you plan on doing it ten years from now, then please–if this scholarship is still around–wait nine years to apply.

Send all inquiries and materials to: (now closed)

  • Ken Ilgunas

Updated: Mar 21, 2022

May ’06 – May ’07– I moved back up to Coldfoot to work as a cook and tour guide to begin to pay off my 32K student debt.

Summer ’08– First season as a backcountry ranger in the Gates of the Arctic National Park

Summer ’09– Second season as a backcountry ranger in the Gates of the Arctic National Park

The following stories were written in 2009 about my second season as a ranger.

6/1/09- Training week for us rangers.

6/12/09- Reflections on mosquitoes.

6/22/09- Some fairly close encounters with beaver and wolf.

7/3/09- I see James’ Suburban. One of my inspirations behind vandwelling.

7/4/09- My beard is 65 days old.

7/31/09- I patrol the Arrigetch Peaks.

8/6/09- I get stalked by a black bear.

8/25/09- I canoe down the Noatak River. Grizzly and caribou encounters.

8/30/09- I packraft down the Charley River and visit the site of a famous plane crash. [This story was added in January of 2011.] 10/30/09- I discuss Chris McCandless of Into the Wild-fame. 8/3/10- I write a letter to my old park complaining about the installation of four weather monitoring stations

I moved back to Coldfoot, Alaska in June 2011 to write my book.

6/4/11- I arrive in AK

6/6/11- Couple photos of animals in Denali

6/9/11- A tour of my new home.

6/13/11- Sightings of fox and porcupine

6/15/11- Couple pictures of the McCandless bus.

6/25/11- Pictures of my 2-day hike up Slate Creek Trail

7/5/11- Pictures from the Continental Divide in the Brooks Range

7/19/11- Thoughts on being the “Writer in Resident”

7/25/11- My best friend Josh is involved in a National Scandal

8/4/11- My friend Josh Spice and me take an exploratory trip up Nuterwik Creek

8/6/11- Some more reflections on Josh’s national scandal

8/7/11- I get paid well for writing for the first time. Plus some reflections on campus farms and sustainability education.

8/8/11- I take some odd jobs in the arctic to save a little money.

8/13/11- The owner of the camp asks me if I can fill in and work at Deadhorse for a couple weeks

8/15/11- First impressions of my new home, Deadhorse

8/21/11- I’m washing spoons now. Existential crisis, here I come.

8/30/11- I packraft the Sag River for three days

9/12/11- I try to packraft to the Arctic Ocean, but run out of time. Must, then, sneak through the hyper secure Prudhoe Bay oilfields.

10/5/11- A pina colada almost kills me. I leave Deadhorse.

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