As I write this, University of Florida Scholars are heading out into the BWCA and it is an unbelievably balmy 78 in Ely, Minnesota!
UFL’s expedition packing list was interesting: parkas, rain gear, mittens, boots and lots of layers. Be prepared for snow or rain, ice or open water. We told students they might practice their j-stroke, or they might drag and skid canoes over ice. Right now, Miami is a sunny 82, so perhaps these young adults are not too far out of their comfort zone today (tomorrow will likely be a different story– this is MN after all–if you don’t like the weather, wait 5 minutes).
Here in St. Paul, we’ve got Miami beat– it’s an unseasonable 86. Maybe that nasty mountain of dirty snow just off of Lexington Parkway will finally disappear. These days, it seems we’ve got to be prepared for just about anything.
Always the journey, never the destination.
Some things are fairly predictable, though. May is typically a month of celebration, and preparation. In times of key transition, it seems we walk a knife edge of sorts. No matter if we are saying, “farewell” to winter, or, “hello” to college, we glance back and reflect while simultaneously keeping the compass trained on our true north. May is full of graduations– graduations from endeavor and achievement, and graduations to the the next adventure and challenge.
Life is my college. May I graduate well, and earn some honors!
Louisa May Alcott
Many of our students, like the Florida Scholars, will head out into the field for capstone experiences this spring and summer. They embark on challenging expeditions that call on them to harness and hone skills they’ve spent years growing.
This month, the University of Southern Mississippi will head out for 7 days on the Superior Hiking Trail. Two crews of athletic leaders–most of them women–will synthesize a year of learning and experience gained through a rigorous tenure in the USM’s Leadership Academy. We can’t wait to see what this crew learns to leverage on their Outward Bound expedition.
In June, the young men and mentors of St. Paul’s own New Lens Urban Mentoring Society will head out for two expeditions to celebrate the achievements of a journey they started last fall. An expedition is not a static celebration; it is a call to strive with greater confidence, a chance to employ skills among peers with leadership in mind. We love to work with local organizations year ’round because we see students realize great benefits from a progression of programming that builds relationship thoughtfully and consistently.
I have found the best way to give advice to your children is to find out what they want and then advise them to do it.
Harry S. Truman
Sometimes we drive toward student growth through a series of single day adventures that move students into greater capacity and community over time. When they reach the end of the year, students have developed personal strengths and identified group assets, and they are ready for a “final”– the expedition. Although expeditions do test students, this isn’t a typical “test.” The expedition is an opportunity to grow autonomy and deepen community. It is a time to say, “Who am I today? Who will I be tomorrow?” Speaking of New Lens, the May issue of Minnesota Conservation Volunteer is hot off the press. Rock, Rope, and Risk covers the story of our partnership with New Lens, and the impact of experiential education on young lives. We’d like to thank author, Ryan Rodgers, and photographer, Tom Thulen, for telling such a vivid story.
Take the first step in faith. You don’t have to see the whole staircase, just take the first step.
Martin Luther King, Jr.
This May, three young men will graduate from Open World Learning Community. Today they are college-bound, but they went Outward Bound way back in middle school. Their journey started with a program we call STRIVE. “STRIVE,” as former VOBSter Laura Greenlee-Karp once said, “is for students on the cusp of greatness.” These young men are now STRIVE graduates and high school graduates. Not only did they progress through three years of programming with VOBS, they, in turn, mentored the next generation of STRIVE and became school leaders.
Once upon a time, these now mature and measured young men were a bit impulsive and they had some trouble finding their “true north.” Today, Christian wants to become a mechanic, Lee Andrew wants to start his own business and Malik wants to be an artist who helps others “live a good life.” A lot of achievement is in the rearview mirror, and still more is out there on the horizon.
Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.
As we celebrate with those we serve, we’d also like to take a moment to thank our partners for accepting the challenge of collaboration. Planning, recruitment, investment– we know how hard our partners work to make greatness possible for students. Like you, we strive to help families, funders and champions understand the power of experiential learning. We appreciate your determination and we will do our best to support your efforts. As we look ahead and make plans for greater partnership, we’d like to share an opportunity with you. Target is accepting applications for transportation funding. We realize that sometimes transportation is a very real and expensive hurdle. Maybe this opportunity can help.
We’d not only like to help you get your students to course, we’d like to help you get them on course. Fall and winter are great seasons to consider an expedition. We still have calendar flexibility for fall/winter opportunities and we have a lot of lead time for designing just the right program. Please reach out if you are interested in connecting your students to the power of a multi-day experience. Where there is a will, there is a way!
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Thank you for your commitment to our communities!
You may encounter many defeats, but you must not be defeated. In fact, it may be necessary to encounter the defeats, so you can know who you are, what you can rise from, how you can still come out of it.