The impact of an Outward Bound course is both different for everyone, yet the same.
Chia Vang, a 2013 graduate of Voyageur Outward Bound School (VOBS) and a partner school, the River’s Edge Academy shared, “these programs taught me about moving past obstacles and what it means to be a leader.”
She goes on to share about her backpacking expedition, “there were many, many times I just wanted to throw my backpack down, sit down and close my eyes. While we were climbing a really steep hill, I was at the point of giving up, but I thought, ‘If I give up that means all I am doing is letting my crew down.’ At that point I decided to set a positive example and encouraged my peers to keep going and keep pushing. I wanted to motivate them. After all the pushing, we reached the top. With all of the girls up there it felt like a huge accomplishment that we accomplished together. It made me realize that I overcame my weak inner-voice by not letting it get the best of me. Instead I changed my obstacle into a strength – motivation.”
While Chia’s learning is her own; her gain, like others, is becoming a confident young woman ready to take steps forward in her life. If we unpack this statement a bit we find evidence common to the impact students express in our, rite of passage, graduation ceremony. Individually, our students discover that perseverance leads to success. They’ve learned through their choices, increased their self-awareness and experienced achievement. They’ve learned they are resilient, powerful and capable. As a crew, they’ve learned how to collaborate and to use tools to support the groups’ success, including how to communicate honestly and effectively. They’ve realized they are a crew and not merely passengers on a trip.
Throughout the VOBS experience instructors facilitate discussion and reflection to help our students understand that the lessons in the wilderness apply to their lives at home. Chia’s statement is one interpretation of learning to do more than one ever thought possible.
Understanding the full impact of a Voyageur Outward Bound School course takes a different amount of time for all of our graduates, but once they return home with their renewed confidence and belief in themselves they carry themselves a little differently. Because they successfully completed their course, they now know they can succeed at “this” too, whatever this may be.
Our post-course feedback tells us that our graduates start to make choices that are different than in the past and the trajectory of their life begins to change. They feel comfortable taking appropriate risks. They set higher personal goals. They realize the challenges they faced on course help them navigate the challenges they face in life.
When we evaluate our students’ experiences, they acknowledge gains in:
- CHARACTER – self-confidence, resilience and empowerment
- LEADERSHIP – goal setting, creative problem solving, collaboration and communication
- SERVICE – compassion and environmental awareness and stewardship
These gains are the very social and emotional traits and skills the experts tell us people need to be successful in school, work, relationships and community. These traits make a difference as students navigate education, employment, relationship or community.
We often receive letters or phone calls from graduates 5, 10, 20 or 30-40 years after their VOBS course. “Outward Bound changed my life” they say. They go on to share that while going on their Voyageur Outward Bound course didn’t protect them from experiencing adversity in life, they were better equipped to face life’s challenges.
As alumni look back on their experience they discover the direction of their life changed after their course. They find they have better handled life’s challenges and adversity and made better choices because of what they experienced with VOBS. Ultimately, through the discovery of their strength of character, their ability to lead and determination to serve their community they help create a more resilient and compassionate world.
These changes wouldn’t occur without our values, design principles or our progression. This strong foundation builds strong alumni and the Outward Bound course becomes the metaphor as they continue to navigate their life.
Discover an Outward Bound course that is right for you.