#20of “23 Stories of Change” for our City Skyline Challenge!
Steve Hagler started his career working with recently arrived immigrants in the San Francisco Unified School District. His students had often been through difficult times and often lacked a connection to San Francisco that would allow them to push through the social and economic difficulties they were facing. Then Steve learned about experiential education first-hand through an Outward Bound course.
Steve recalls his Outward Bound experience in the Sangre de Cristo mountains: “30 days in the mountains gave me a lot of time to think and to internalize how it feels to push through long, hard days and cold windy nights. We spent most evenings at about 12,000 feet where it was windy and barren. One evening we got into camp after a particularly exhausting day and were out in a 30 mph wind for hours just trying to light stoves to make a hot meal. It was a hardship but everybody accepted the situation. Even though that sounds miserable, we were actually having a good time.”
That night, Steve began to understand that Outward Bound’s transformational power was not about the difficulties of the course experience but was about learning how to get through challenges by maintaining a great attitude during hardships, staying confident and motivated to move forward. “It was through Outward Bound that I gained the courage, grit, and determination to take the next step to become a full-time experiential educator. I decided to focus my teaching on outdoor and experiential learning, to grow a fledgling alternative program called GOAPE in San Francisco, and to focus on kids who were left behind by the traditional school system. Outward Bound changed my life as an educator, and consequentially the lives of my students.”
Experiential education interventions like ropes courses and extended multi-day backpacking trips worked with his students. Steve recalls how his students’ “faces changed, their bodies changed, the way they interacted with each other changed. They were no longer kids coming out of the Tenderloin or the Mission, but looked and acted rather like average teenagers going on a trip.”
“What the Outward Bound curriculum does better than any other is create the framework for change by putting students into challenging situations and taking them to a point where they think they will fail, but where they really don’t. They may have a set back, but then they get through it, and slowly layer-by-layer you are building this competence and confidence, and maybe even a bit of swagger in your students. Outward Bound instills the values of striving, of serving one’s communities, and of not yielding in the face of adversity. Students come back stronger. They come back more resilient. They come back changed.”
“After an Outward Bound course, you end up with a kid with a strong sense of who they are, a deep sense of resiliency, and the grit to get it done. You can have good grades, smarts, etc., but you might lack those key components that will push you forward when you have that first setback at your job, or face the difficulties of freshman year at college. Outward Bound teaches you how to pull yourself off the floor and tap into something deeper that allows you to push through and go to the next level. This is a critical component of who we are as people.”
You can make an expedition possible for a students to have experiences like Steve’s by participating in or donating to the City Skyline Challenge!