Greetings VOBS Friends,
At Voyageur Outward Bound School, we want to engage and inspire. I’m writing today to tell you that we are reaching out to fellow organizations and leaders in the Twin Cities community and beyond to learn from and lift up their educational, humanitarian and civic endeavors.
VOBS has worked with 40 Minnesota partner organizations over the last nine years. We collaborate with many via our urban base in St. Paul, Minn.: Twin Cities Center. Until the pandemic temporarily interrupted our programs this spring, we worked actively with more than 20 local organizations, serving youth and adults affiliated with Minnesota schools, community colleges, nonprofits and for-profits. We are very proud of our local collaborations and every single day we are humbled to partner with these vital Twin Cities and greater Minnesota institutions:
Business Women’s Circle
College of Saint Scholastica
Friends School of Minnesota
Gordon Parks High School
ISD 622 Community Education
Minneapolis Community & Technical College
New Lens Urban Mentoring Society
North Hennepin Community College
Northwest Passage High School
Open World Learning Community
Saint Paul City Schools
Saint Philip’s Catholic School
TRIO Student Support Services Metro State
University of Minnesota Duluth
University of Minnesota Twin Cities
Upward Bound Dakota County Technical College
Upward Bound University of Minnesota
Upward Bound University of Wisconsin River Falls
Over the years, we have learned a great deal from our partners and we surely have a lot more to learn. Minnesota is, thankfully, a vibrant and complex state, with myriad cultures, histories and experiences. Minnesotans have commonalities and differences, but when I consider the organizations we are proud to partner with, I know we all have one thing in common:
We are united by compassion.
Our partner organizations lead with compassion. “Compassion” may or may not appear in their mission statement, but compassion is valued by their leadership teams and staff and this value informs their mode of service and how they support youth and adults. The organizations listed above are collections of people who care deeply for their community and those they serve, and they seek ways to advance the lives of youth and adults in Minnesota.
VOBS’ goal in partner program collaboration is to support their goals and advance the work that they do with students and stakeholders. Ujamaa Place, for instance, is both a VOBS program partner, and a stalwart anti-racism leader in St. Paul and the Midwest. Ujamaa teaches “young African American men how to navigate inequality, poverty and a criminal justice system built to perpetuate recidivism.”
“I am coming to you as the CEO of an organization that serves the most marginalized population in society, African American men, aged 18-30. Ujamaa Place serves on the front lines of the war on injustice by helping men navigate systemic poverty and racism, connection to the criminal justice system, homelessness and unemployment.
We pray that the solidarity we are witnessing from around the world is a sign that we are collectively ready to pluck the ugly root of systemic racism for good. We regret that it took the murders of George Floyd, Philando Castile, Eric Garner, Ahmaud Arbery and countless others for people to finally be fed up. We stand on mighty shoulders that taught us freedom and justice is not a given, and that we must continue to teach each generation to fight for equality.”
Otis Zanders, President and CEO, Ujamaa Place, June 1, 2020
Outward Bound’s vision is more compassionate and resilient people, for a more compassionate and resilient world. This vision is not new to VOBS or any of the 11 Outward Bound schools across the nation. What is new is that the murder of George Floyd and subsequent global outcry has made our organization acutely aware of our potential role as an ally. We stand in solidarity with those, like Mr. Zanders and his team at Ujamaa Place, who work for a more compassionate world in their quest for equality and justice.
In this moment, our evolving organizational goal is to be a better partner and ally in the pursuit of a more compassionate and resilient world.
Currently, I share this weekly message (the one you’re reading right now) with a readership of more than 11,000 alumni, friends, staff and stakeholders. I will continue to use this platform to inspire you by sharing VOBS student, staff and alumni stories, but I’d also like to commit to lifting up the work of our partner and fellow organizations in the days, weeks and years to come.
If you’d like VOBS to share your work with our readers, please consider using this:
The pandemic and our national reckoning with racism provide imperatives for VOBS to continue to serve students and lean into Outward Bound values: compassion, integrity, excellence, inclusion and safety. We will continue to invite people to learn from each other, through challenge and discovery. We will continue to strive to serve more students and we will continue to create greater access to our programs through robust fundraising.
We can’t continue to serve students without you. We need you. Whether you are a student, an alum, a parent, a partner, a teacher, a team member, a Trustee, a donor, or a funder, VOBS needs you. We need your partnership, your insight, your leadership, your experience, your energy, and your support.
“We are insignificant–nothing–on our own. A drop in a vast ocean.
Together we are powerful.
Together we create change.
Together we move forward.
Together we lift each other up.”
Trevor, VOBS Alum