Title: Community Program Coordinator for NCOBS in Atlanta
Years with NCOBS: 13
Q: What might a week look like as a Community Program Coordinator in Atlanta?
JR: In Atlanta, I facilitate the ongoing relationship between our leadership development programs and our partner organizations’ students and families. Through the course of any given week, my responsibilities can include leading high ropes courses, day hikes, hosting parent meetings, and meeting with school faculty to schedule programs.
Q: What would you say was the most rewarding part of your job?
JR: Currently, taking day hikes with students brings me the most joy. I love watching students embrace challenge, encounter bits of the natural world that they might not have noticed previously, and engage in deep, compassionate, peer-to-peer discussions. We always return from these experiences closer to ourselves and more connected to those around us.
Q: What makes Atlanta programs different than other “traditional” Outward Bound programs?
JR: Atlanta programs happen within the participants’ greater living area. Without the isolation and focus one might find during a wilderness course, our urban-based program demands that students find and maintain focus despite distractions within their community. Students having to define new ways of success, while surrounded by old disruptions, is arguably a more enlightening experience. In this situation, students begin to understand that personal growth can occur anywhere.
Q: What skill do you see students gaining most from these programs?
JR: I think the most important thing they are learning is quality communication. Quality communication is a superpower skill. It facilitates greater understanding in less time, and it empowers students to advocate for themselves. Our programs allow students to work this muscle and see the impact it can have on their experiences with friends and community.
Q: When was your first course?
JR: My first Outward Bound experience was in 1995. It was a week-long sailing course in Boston. I was an eighth grader and had never camped anywhere other than my front porch in the summertime and I had not been on a boat for more than a few hours. The prospect of sleeping on a boat for a few days was mind-blowing. From the at-sea duffle shuffle to launching from the dock—initially, everything felt surreal.
Q: What are the lessons you learned on course that are relevant in your life today?
JR: One of the most enduring lessons I learned from the course was understanding that I can become competent if provided the focused time to practice a skill.
I learned about solidarity as a crew and about being accountable to each other. If we failed at that responsibility, then we all suffered.
I learned about the ecology of the ocean and how seasons and tides directly impact life and times while on the water.
Q: What was a unique challenge for you? How did you work through it?
JR: Being an undiagnosed introvert at the time, sharing such small quarters all day every day was my greatest challenge. I had to learn to shift my attention from the deck of the boat, to the expansiveness of my surroundings to help alleviate those feelings of confinement. It is easy to lose sight of the grander picture when you choose to only focus on your discomfort.
Q: Did you feel like you grew from this experience? How have you evolved?
JR: I grew immensely. I was able to thrive with the support of my crew in an absolutely foreign context. I became more aware of how positively being and living in such close relation to natural environments impacts me.
Q: What advice do you have for new alumni on keeping the flame alive?
New alumni need only shift their gaze to the natural places around them to reconnect to the memories galvanized by their Outward Bound experience.
One of the most valuable aspects of the students’ Outward Bound program is exposure. The experience is curated in a way that offers multiple opportunities to see your world anew. There are perspective shifts. Subtle, like recognizing the smell of rain in the distance or grand, like conquering personal fears. These exposures provide contrast and ultimately increase personal awareness. Awareness often emerges as compassion. Exposure creates compassion. You cannot value what does not exist. By facilitating this exchange, Outward Bound supports the growth of a personal value system that is informed by earth elements and guided by compassion.