August 1, 2019
About RVA My Way: This is the first in a series where VCU students share how they’ve made Richmond their own and how it’s helped shape them in return.
Up until two years ago, rising junior Nikki Wilkins had never been in a raft or done any sort of recreational water activity. She’d never been camping. Growing up, her experience with nature was pretty much confined to her backyard.
When Nikki Wilkins came to Richmond as a VCU freshman, she had never been in a raft or done any sort of recreational water activity. Growing up, her experience with nature was pretty much confined to her backyard. Fast forward two years, and now she's a whitewater rafting guide with VCU's Outdoor Adventure Program, making the most of the urban campus's surprisingly close proximity to the James River and its class III and IV rapids.
That all changed during orientation, when she was taken on a hike at Belle Isle, a small island in the James River about a 30-minute walk from Virginia Commonwealth University’s urban campus. Fast forward to today. Wilkins, who is majoring in political science and minoring in African American Studies in the College of Humanities and Sciences, works at VCU’s Outdoor Adventure Program, where she does everything from caving to surfing and has completed the challenging Student Outdoor Leadership Experience program. She also works at RVA Paddlesports, a local rafting company. The Stafford, Virginia, native, who never considered herself the least bit outdoorsy before she came to VCU, is now an OAP raft guide who takes other students out onto the James River for adventures in Class II and IV whitewater rapids.
VCU News caught up with Nikki to talk about rafting on the James, her favorite things about Richmond, and how she transformed from nature newbie to nature lover.