It is such a pleasure to experience Outward Bound courses through the perspective of a wide variety of folks; curious teenagers, confident veterans, and sometimes even the parent of an alum!
Last week I had the honor of having lunch with John Sarter, a parent who chose Outward Bound as an opportunity to help his son through tough teenage years. We had the chance to chat about raising his two sons in the North Bay, his love of skiing and surfing, and his work in net zero energy construction. John was kind enough to answer a few questions afterwards:
Outward Bound California: What were you like as a teenager?
John Sarter: I was a bit rebellious and wild, but did very well in school academically…a lot like Sean actually! Sean’s personality and traits are SO similar to mine in fact, that I often knew what to expect next. This scared me because I grew up in a much more tolerant time and environment than today’s highly scrutinized society and world. That insight into him, through my own past, really helped my decision that Outward Bound was very likely to have the positive impacts that we desired.
OBCA: Where did you grow up?
JS: All over, as my Father was in the Air Force. I was born in Ottowa, Canada, and then lived in Colorado 3 separate times, Washington State once, and California. My Father retired to Novato in 1971, where he and my mother had purchased home on his original assignment at Hamilton AFB in 1952. Growing up in varied places made me very socially and environmentally adaptable.
OBCA: What was the pre-course enrollment process like for you as a parent? How did your son react?
JS: My son was enrolled in the process, and was excited though nervous about going. I raised him in, and to respect, the outdoors so it was an adventure he was interested in. The interview documents were quite extensive for a busy working parent as I was, but I managed through the process quite well as a team with my son.
OBCA: How long/where was the course area?
JS: The course was in the Boundary Wilderness of Minnesota, through Voyager Outward Bound School, and was a 30 day course I believe. He was there in late Fall and as such got to see the Fall foliage and even experience the first snowfall of the year. It was absolutely beautiful from the photos I saw!
OBCA: Did you have any updates from your son while he was on course? (Letters, phone calls, etc.)
JS: Yes, surprisingly! The course director and my son called asking to come home. He wasn’t too happy about the non-options I gave him at the time, but after the course and to this day he is exceptionally glad he stayed and toughed it out! He wrote a letter to himself while on course… it was very telling as to his state of mind, and very touching as well… I still have it as a keep sake. 🙂
OBCA: What were you hoping the outcomes of Outward Bound course would be?
JS: I hoped it would give him a sense of pride and accomplishment, help him with leadership skills, and help him learn to make better choices in friends and groups to hang out with. I feel it really did help achieve all those goals.
OBCA: What was it like when your son came home? Can you describe the first day he returned home?
JS: He was VERY glad to be back, thanked us for helping him get through, and he definitely expressed greater appreciation for the things in life that he previously tended to take for granted…like a warm bed and home to live in, good friends, and a loving family!
OBCA: Did you see/experience/hear about any changes after some time passed after his course?
JS: Yes, definitely! We were fortunate enough to be able offer to him to go live in a mountain cabin we own on Donner Summit, and he did for 3 seasons. He did choose better friends and enjoyed the level of independence that he had up there. He used his resources and time responsibly, and I feel his experience out Outward Bound definitely helped him with that. Since then the leadership and teamwork skills he developed at OB have served him well, and he is working his way up the ladder for a prominent solar and energy company now. We are all extremely proud of Sean and his accomplishments!
OBCA: (Fill in the blank) I think Outward Bound is an amazing and transformative experience for teens because it helps them learn important teamwork and leadership skills, and really understand the consequences of decisions in real time, and from past experiences.
OBCA: Anything else you’d like to share about Outward Bound, where you or your son are now, or what you hope to see from Outward Bound California in the future?
JS: Sean has become a very responsible adult with great decision making skills, leadership qualities, and a true belief in his own personal power and abilities. I’d really like to see more OB courses in California, in the mountains, on the wilderness Coast, and in Desert areas.
If you too would like to know more about our course areas in California and what the plans are for Outward Bound California course offerings in the future, please go to our website or like us on Facebook.
Thanks to John for answering our questions and for offering his perspective on the direct and indirect results of his son’s course! We look forward to meeting Sean in person and hearing what that course was like for him!