Before finding Outward Bound California, I had worked in the outdoor industry for a few years as an outdoor instructor. I heard about this scholarship program aimed at increasing diversity in the outdoor industry in the Bay Area called Outdoor Educator’s Institute (OEI). The first component was a 13-day expedition in the High Sierras with Outward Bound California. I applied and was accepted. I went on that trip and it blew me away. After that I had my eyes set on working for Outward Bound. After that program I gained more experience and then got accepted finally to be an Assistant Instructor.
I had been back packing a lot for personal trips, and I’d done a little for work—lighter stuff. The 13-day trek was definitely my first longer expedition. The aim of OEI is to get people from underserved communities and prepare them to be outdoor leaders who could go back and serve those communities. There was a group of 10 of us who had never met each other, from a lot of really different backgrounds, and then we were thrown into the Outward Bound experience. I’ve never seen morale like we had—everyone keeping positive and supporting each other. There were a lot of really intense moments. I remember one of us was huffing and puffing after miles of hiking. Another participant encouraged him like a football coach, trying to pick him up. Another girl had to leave and I just remember people throwing out a lot of love for her at evening meetings. I was really impressed with that morale. There wasn’t one “This girl’s a wimp.”
Another cool thing about Outward Bound is that they let you mess up, and that’s part of the experience. So that’s another hard aspect. For instance, the frustration of walking 12 miles and it being night time, when I know that if we’d done better off-trail navigation we could have walked 9 miles and arrived at camp by sundown. There’s definitely the aspect of allowing failure and learning from your mistakes at Outward Bound that I really like.
I view Outward Bound as a school with values and goals for participants. It helps people achieve personal goals and also social goals while teaching ways to benefit society. I think of it as a personal and group development school that uses the wilderness as it’s platform and in my opinion, wilderness is probably the best place to do it.