What if traditional classroom learning could be as challenging and engaging as an Outward Bound wilderness course? This question is at the core of NYC Outward Bound Schools—an urban embodiment of Outward Bound that joins together demanding and engaging learning with an emphasis on community and character.
NYC Outward Bound Schools operates a network of public schools that brings this approach to life as students learn together in Crews, which are teams of students that focus on building essential character and academic skills through a combination of team building, student-centered academic support, conflict resolution and adventure. They explore the world through academically rigorous Learning Expeditions and are challenged to be leaders of their own learning. Through these practices, and others, NYC Outward Bound strives for students to graduate from high school not only with a diploma in hand but also having experienced the kind of personal transformation that happens on all Outward Bound courses. In fact, 99% of 2017 graduates were accepted to college.
Beyond the diploma, NYC Outward Bound Schools nurture a community of students who often take what they’ve learned and use it in service of their communities. “The whole point of Outward Bound is to activate people to service; the newfound strength one discovers through an Outward Bound experience should be used to help others,” says NYC Outward Bound Schools’ President Richard Stopol.
Naome, an NYC Outward Bound Schools’ alumna, exemplifies this credo. Naome graduated two years ago from Leaders High School, an NYC Outward Bound School in Brooklyn, New York. Since her graduation she has remained deeply connected to and engaged with the Leaders school community, despite a full college load at NYC College of Technology where she is currently attending.
Throughout the past year and over the summer, she is serving as a college coach twice a week to current Leaders students. Employing the lessons of persistence and creativity that she learned through her own Outward Bound experience as a student at Leaders and college coaching training she received from our program partner CARA (College Access: Research & Action), Naome helps students navigate the challenge of applying to and enrolling in college. She helps identify colleges that might be a good fit for students’ interests, keeps track of application and registration deadlines and guides them through the financial aid process.
But beyond the nuts and bolts of the application and matriculation process, a huge part of Naome’s role is being a friendly, familiar face for students as they undergo this challenging process. Students see her as someone they can be honest and vulnerable with, especially because many of them will be the first in their family to go to college, and some have lots of questions and fears. She says that being an alumna of Leaders and close in age to the students she’s working with really helps with this. “They are comfortable with me and don’t see me as a higher authority so they don’t need to be shy.”
Naome’s motivation stems from having gone through the process, with all the concerns and confusion of finding your next steps beyond high school. She hopes to help others with guidance as an alumna who can relate to them. “The college process can be difficult, students can miss steps, and I’m just happy to have the resources to help them catch up,” she reflects. Using her Leaders experience as a foundation, Naome has become a valuable and supportive resource for students who are exploring the possibilities of college.
The journey that Naome is helping guide other students through is both informational and emotional, and the emotional support goes both ways. Naome quickly realized that giving back to her school and serving fellow students gives her a sense of purpose and joy. She openly admits: “Some mornings I wake up and I’m like ‘I don’t want to go to class,’ but then remember I have coaching after… and that helps me get out of bed.”
In this way, Naome is realizing the real power of service is helping to positively transform not only the lives of others but also her own.
More than 5,500 students are learning in NYC Outward Bound Schools’ classrooms every year. Think of the impact if each of them finds a way to give back as Naome does. President Richard Stopol can’t stop smiling at the possibilities.
For more information about the NYC Outward Bound Schools’ “To and Through College” model to help students prepare for higher education, click here.
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NYC Outward Bound Schools transforms schools and changes lives by bringing the Outward Bound educational approach to NYC’s young people and their public schools, with a focus on students from educationally underserved communities.
Our uniquely powerful approach joins together demanding and engaging learning with an emphasis on community and character. We prepare students for success in college, careers, and citizenship, while simultaneously working to redefine what educational excellence looks like in New York City’s public schools.
Every day, we are proving that all students, regardless of background or circumstance, are capable of achieving at high levels and that transformation and innovation can happen within the public school system.
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