This past summer, 13-year old Blaine Elementary School student Jayden B. embarked on a 10-day Outward Bound expedition as part of the GOAL (Get Out and Lead) program. GOAL is a merit scholarship course that is specifically designed for rising 8th grade students and includes backpacking, canoeing, and rock climbing in the Delaware Water Gap.
This expedition is awarded to Philadelphia area youth who are excited to challenge themselves and discover their leadership potential. On course, students eat, sleep, and work together to have a successful expedition and an unforgettable experience.
Participants take on leadership roles and work in teams to complete the necessary tasks while out on course. They learn to cook, communicate effectively, and support each other while navigating unique challenges.
“I came out to experience nature,” said Jayden during the course. “And to realize that there is more to the world than Philly and cell phones, there is actually a whole outdoor world that we never see.”
A 10-day expedition in the wilderness can seem daunting for students, many of whom have not experienced anything like that before, and this year’s course presented additional challenges in the form of powerful rainstorms and an increased tick population in the area.
"It's really challenging," said Jayden. "The backpacking was kinda hard, but you get used to the weight on your shoulders. It's really cool though - the view is the best highlight."
Jayden’s lead instructor, Jennifer Raymond, said that “initially, Jayden struggled with homesickness,” and added that homesickness is typical for students on course, especially middle school-aged students who may be away from home without their families for the first time. However, with the support of his peers and instructors, Jayden was able to feel comfortable away from home and enjoy the activities while learning new skills.
"It really taught me how to speak up, and how to lead a whole team," he said.
Despite not being able to swim, Jayden took a liking to canoeing (one of the three main activities of the course which also included backpacking and rock climbing). He and his crew practiced flipping their boat and performing water rescues.
When the course was coming to an end, Jayden was conflicted; he was ready to come home, but he also did not want the course to be over.
Since returning, Jayden’s father has shared that “he is like a different kid.” He added that Jayden's habits from his expedition have had a lasting impact -- he has been waking up early in the morning and been proactive about his responsibilities. His time on his GOAL course has had a profound impact on his self-reliance, and he has not stopped sharing stories from his time on course.
Since the course, Jayden has immersed himself in numerous Outward Bound activities, including participating in an Insight day as well as another POBS expedition with his school. Jayden is also considering joining the Duke of Edinburgh program when he turns 14.
He acknowledged his homesickness and other challenges faced on course, but said "you have to push through. Don’t give up, because if you give up you’ll never know what’s on the other side.”
Gaining Courage to Face Challenges
Jayden isn't alone in feeling that POBS has given him the tools to persevere. In a recent multi-year survey, 82% of students agreed their POBS experience helped them gained courage to face challenges.