Outward Bound Intercept is a transformative experience. What makes Intercept transformative? Who is being transformed—is it the child or is it the parent? The answer is the whole family!
When I think back to my adolescence, I am immediately reminded of specific memories and moments in time that stuck like glue. There was that one time when the “cool kids” paid attention to me and thought I was cool too. That time when I got to spend a month with my grandparents on a road trip through the southwestern desert. Or that other time when I got in trouble because I failed to meet expectations set by my parents – get good grades and come home at curfew. Furthermore, I remember when my high school English teacher told me that I have a gift for writing and that I should join the newspaper team. I didn’t believe her, and I never asked how to be a part of the publication, because it felt scary to have someone believe in me. These moments shaped who I became, and continue to become. They were transformative; not because they were monumental, but because at the time they felt monumental in my world.
What I’m getting at here is that a teenager’s world feels this big all the time. Sometimes this can be overwhelming to navigate on their own. Outward Bound expeditions emphasize learning and understanding, where every moment is a new experience, a new obstacle to overcome, a new challenge to meet, a new social dynamic to navigate, or even as simple as a new food to try. That’s 28 days of potentially (many) transformative experiences!
The Intercept program guides students to actualize their best selves through purposeful hard work, extend the utmost compassion towards themselves and others, as well as set and achieve goals. Most importantly, they learn that they need each other – not just on an expedition, but at home too. On an Intercept course students engage in three important types of relationships: Positive Peer Relationships, Adult Mentorship, and Familial. Even though you are not with your child physically during the course until the Family Conference, you are certainly together in experience and context throughout. These types of relationships provide unique and necessary types of social interactions for teenagers.
Generally speaking, the majority of teenagers spend time (or want to spend time) with other teenagers. The same holds true for an Outward Bound expedition. Throughout the first week of a course, Instructors (i.e. Adult Mentors) teach students foundational skills while setting clear expectations and establishing structure. While students begin to master skills and create their own group culture, a yearning for independence and freedom overcomes them. Instructors gracefully extend independence and freedom for the equal barter of responsibility and meeting clear expectations on their behalf.
As students concentrically grow through the phases of expedition, they are bound to encounter an obstacle here and there. They may lose their locale on the map, forget the day-pack stocked with the supply of food at the last campsite, or encounter some good-old-fashioned interpersonal conflict. All of this stuff happens when you spend 28 days living and working as a tight-knit group—and that’s okay. Instructors offer mentorship by guiding students through conflict, offering new suggestions and perspectives, supporting others to cultivate empathy, and establishing a mediated plan to move forward.
All Intercept courses conclude with a Family Conference, an important turning point on Day 27 when parents and children reunite to participate in a mediated conversation. The expedition was challenging, absolutely, but the most challenging part of an Outward Bound Intercept course is never the wilderness expedition—it’s the Family Conference. The entirety of what Instructors have taught the children in the field directly mirrors what is to unfold in the Family Conference. By Day 27, it’s the children who are the experts! They have an opportunity to teach their parents transformational ways of communication and problem solving.
When I pause for a moment to think about all of the Intercept courses I have instructed and been a part of, the Family Conference is the very transformative moment where it all clicks together, where all of the magic takes place. But, what does transformative actually mean? It’s best understood when broken down into its three distinct roots:
Trans: through to the other side
Form: bring together parts or combine to create
Ative: serving to
Essentially, Outward Bound’s Intercept program brings together disparate parts to create a momentum through to the other side. This is what happens in a Family Conference.
On Day 27, kids sit at a table with their parents and communicate three important messages that seemed impossible to say before the Intercept program: “I love you. Things aren’t quite right in our relationship,” and “I want – and I’m willing – to do something about it.” That is monumental! That is transformation.
Transformation occurs when parties with differing and conflictual pasts come together, sit at the same table, engage in meaningful dialogue and co-create a plan to meet one another’s needs. It’s beautiful! It’s amazing! It’s a shimmering glimpse into what we’re truly capable of. Nothing speaks greater of transformation than setting aside differences to come together for a common cause. This common cause may look different to each family, yet it comes from a similar source. All families want to function happily and healthily. A family is an ecosystem of emotions and ecosystems desire equilibrium.
Through positive peer relationships, adult mentorship, and a mediated opportunity to see eye-to-eye as a family, the Intercept program embodies the definition of transformative – serving to bring families through to the other side.
About the Author
Auguie Henry has served the Voyageur Outward Bound School since 2012 in a number of different capacities from Intern to Instructor, as well as Course Advisor. For the last several years Auguie has worked predominantly with Intercept families leading youth on 28-Day Expeditions and facilitating Family Workshops in Duluth, Minnesota. The Intercept program is what initially drew Auguie to work for Outward Bound. Seeing students and families learn that they are capable of much more than they think is what keeps him around.
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