By: Julia Magowan, Outward Bound Alum, OB Student Intern and Graduating Senior at Masterman High School
My journey with Outward Bound began in 2012 when a club I am in at school was given the opportunity, through a scholarship, to participate in an Insight day at the Philadelphia Outward Bound Ropes Course in Roxborough. Walking onto the open field, on a winter-like fall morning surrounded by the Wissahickon, I didn’t think a day playing games and climbing a pole would teach me so much about myself as a leader, a student, and as a teammate. And I certainly did not think that that one day would be the start of a journey that has shaped me into the young adult I am today.
Just one year later, after another one day Insight program, I found myself sleeping under the star filled sky on a night that had a high of 32 degrees. It was my group’s first expedition, a 5-day Peer Leadership Expedition backpacking along the Appalachian Trail in the Delaware Water Gap. I hiked up hills so steep I had to use my hands, I ate bland granola that made my mouth dry, I dug a hold before I went to the bathroom, and I slept under a tarp tied between two trees. You’re probably jealous of my awesome trip, right? Well while those 5 days might not sound so luxurious, they are five days that I would relive any day. I rock climbed, lied at the top of a rock formation and got lost in the unfathomable amount of stars in the sky, I laughed with my friends, and helped keep a fire going from dusk to dawn. Whether I was listening to stories by the fire, climbing a rock with my own two hands, helping to solve a teambuilding activity, or setting up camp, I was growing. Physically growing (I left with much larger muscles than I came with), but emotionally and mentally growing as well. I succeeded at things I would have never even thought of doing, I learned about my strengths and weaknesses, I learned when to be a leader and when to be a team player. I learned about myself in ways I would have never thought possible. And everything I learned on the trail has played apart in every day of my life since.
After my expedition, my last year of high school continued as planned— I went to class, I worked, and I played sports. I may have been back to sleeping in a bed and using a toilet, but my memories and experiences on the trail with Outward Bound were still in the forefront of my mind. Lucky enough, every senior at Masterman must complete a service project for two weeks in order to graduate. So naturally after the service project was introduced to my class I grabbed my phone and called the Philadelphia Outward Bound School (POBS) right away.
And so my Outward Bound journey continued.
I started my internship with POBS in the middle of May. I saw first hand how Kurt Hahn’s original vision for the Outward Bound organization, created over 50 years ago, is still being implemented today through every aspect of the typical Outward Bound day—from reflection at Insight days, to challenges on the trail, to the free flowing but diligent work ethic of the office, the unwavering learning model of the organization has made every part of Outward Bound a success. Erica, Outreach and Internship Coordinator, agreed to be my mentor for the two weeks. And of course she was nothing short of amazing. She gave me the freedom to explore the different parts of the office so that I could receive a well rounded view of how POBS actually functions and she was always willing to stop her own work to help me with what ever I was doing. Erica worked with me so that my schedule for the two weeks enabled me to fulfill my own person goals and expectations for my service project. Not only Erica, but every person I encountered in the home-like office atop Lemon Hill in Fairmount Park made me feel apart of the POBS team. Every person I worked with made my two weeks fun and enriching. The amount of positive energy that fills the office is enough to put a smile on every person’s face in Fairmount Park.
I was given the opportunity to work in an array of departments. I helped set up for leaving and returning groups, I entered data for upcoming expeditions, I helped prep for and attended the very successful Spring Dinner: The Gift of Grit, and I even was able to work with students whose Outward Bound journeys began just like my own at Insite. My short time working in the POBS office taught me just as much about myself as my own leadership expedition. POBS gives students all over Philadelphia, including my self, the chance to explore learning through challenges outside of the classroom. Working with students who, without the POBS scholarships would not have gotten the chance to grow as individuals and as leaders was incredibly inspiring. POBS gives inner city kids, who may never have stepped outside their neighborhood, the opportunity to succeed at things they may never have thought possible. With such a strong foundation and philosophy, the Outward Bound curriculum for all students will be relevant and affective for years to come. Being able to play a part in changing lives and giving back to an organization that has had such a beneficial impact on my own life was really important to me and I am so thankful for the opportunity.
Although I am leaving for college, my Outward Bound journey has not come to an end. I am not sure where my future will take me, but I do know that Outward Bound has become a constant in my life; whither I am volunteering in the future or going on future expeditions I am excited to see how my Outward Bound journey continues.
Thank you to everyone at the Philadelphia Outward bound School for making my time at Outward Bound so incredibly rewarding. It has truly been an unforgettable experience.