For the fall edition of Trail Tales we are highlighting the great work of our longtime Atlanta staff member, Jemar Raheem. Jemar started his career with Outward Bound in 1995 at Thompson Island Outward Bound Education Center in Boston, MA. After having a life-changing experience as a student, Jemar went back and progressed as an employee until he was invited to instruct his first wilderness program in 2000.
In 2006, one of his friends informed him of an Outward Bound program being built in Atlanta by NCOBS. “It was too great of an opportunity to pass on,” Jemar said.
What kind of programs are available in Atlanta?
In Atlanta we do it all! We have a wide range of leadership development and team building programs for groups of elementary, middle and high school students. These programs offer a progression of challenging experiences that typically focus on personal leadership in the context of a social or professional community like school or work. We offer several one-day school-based programs that resemble clubs. These programs are often based around group initiatives, discussions and workshops.
Then we have our Odyssey Program, which takes place on our high ropes course. Students are able to transfer the team building skills they learned on the ground to higher stress situations on the climbing structure. Students may also have the opportunity to attend the annual five-day wilderness program run out of the Cedar Rock Base Camp in NC.
What does your job entail?
Presently, I am a Community Program Coordinator. I represent half of the Atlanta program team. It is our job to meet with school administrators and faculty to get approval and buy-in for the program, schedule the program dates, make sure we get the appropriate paperwork back and screened, pick up students from their campus, deliver the program, offer time for evaluation, and return students back to their campuses. Then we do it all over again.
What is your favorite part of your job?
Student engagement is my favorite job function. The opportunity to watch a student arrive to a new understanding of themselves as a result of our programs is a gift and privilege that most will not have. I also really enjoy the wilderness Q & A sessions with students and families. There is always a look of astonishment at what is possible in the wilderness.
What do you think some of the benefits are of bringing wilderness programs and ropes course initiatives to urban youth in Atlanta?
I feel our greatest benefit to the communities we serve is one of exposure: exposure to outdoor education; exposure to new concepts and a context for leadership; exposure to the wilderness and to conservation; and lastly, exposure to professionals and an institution that legitimizes their participation in the aforementioned spaces.
You also work with Outward Bound Professionals, what are some common takeaways from a day with Outward Bound for our clients?
Working with OBP is its own distinct privilege. What I see most with Outward Bound Professional clients is an acknowledgement that if an organization or institution wants to improve itself, it starts with the people they invest in and how their employees are enabled to express their value.