Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Leadership Profiles: Past and Present

Spring 2011 Leadership Students - Pre-Course Shot

Planting seeds of leadership, watering them with outdoor activities, and cultivating fully grown student leaders is a crop cycle we've been refining ever since our inception. This is especially true of our Leadership Semester Course. In this post, we'll briefly discuss benefits of the course and why it might be an alternative worth looking into. Don't be fooled, however, you'll be bombarded with information and details. Only not from us, but rather from the very people who know best: the past and present Leadership students. Their shared insights should answer questions for anyone considering the Leadership Course in the future.

Roughly a year after they finished their 65-day adventure here in Costa Rica, we thought it would be interesting to catch up with some of last year's students and see what they've been up to.

Sam Duquette's story prior to visiting Costa Rica Outward Bound is analogous to many students'. As a college dropout, he was unsure of what direction to take in life and with little expectations of how the Leadership Semester Course might remedy that, his future compass now points him down a much more defined path. As a teacher's assistant in Washington, D.C., he spends his summers off working in Portland patching up Boy Scouts - his position as the head medic at the national summer camp requires him to use the skills he learned through our Wilderness First Responder training (WFR).
"...getting the job as a medic would not have been possible without the WFR certification. Besides that, when employers look at my resume and see all the certifications I have now, it does seem to sway them in a positive way. I now know that I want to have some type of career in the outdoor field and [the Leadership Course] has made finding that type of job much easier."
Having found the Wilderness Leadership and Experiential Learning (WLEE) program at Brevard College, he plans on working in the outdoors as well as utilizing his Technical Ropes: Rescue Operation Level (TRRO) certification for day trips to the climbing rock.

Choosing to pursue more recreational adventures, Lisa Purul has spent the last year doing some incredible things. After working with us as an intern for awhile, she left for New Zealand to ride in the 400-mile Enduro Cycle Challenge bike ride and hiked throughout the South Island for a month. Most recently, she's been preparing for a trip to Nepal - just your average trek up to the Everest base camp! According to her, the Leadership Course played a significant role in shaping her decisions about what she wants to do in the future and with training in a variety of fields, she most certainly feels comfortable taking care of herself in the outdoors.

Now officially part of our team, Josh and Shelly took the course in the Fall and have since returned to work as selected interns. The newest additions to the organization, they are excited to spend some time on course again, only this time as instructors. Check out what they have to say about their own experience.

After listening to Obama's recent speech about the America's Great Outdoors initiative and posting about its implications, it will be interesting to see how our students emerge, now with more potential job opportunities related to what they learn here in Costa Rica. Hopefully their preparation will give them an advantage not only in their personal lives, but in finding work as well.

With the current Leadership Course under way, we've been posting videos, photos, and updates on our Facebook page. So if you're interested in learning about what they're up to as it's happening, be sure to check it out.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Top 5 sites for discounted outdoor gear

Every so often we get phone calls or emails from students and parents looking for suggestions about where to buy outdoor gear before arriving in Costa Rica. As an organization that lives and works in the outdoors, we too like to find good deals on new equipment, which is why we often direct people to the same places we're looking at for fair prices.

We figured it's about time to compile a list of websites and resources that just might help you save a little bit of money. As always, feel free to share your own thoughts about those nuggets of gold buried deep inside the Internet that you've dug up yourself. The comments section awaits you...

That being said, here's our list of the Top 5 sites for discounted outdoor gear:

1) Steep and Cheap - A very popular One Deal at a Time site, Steep and Cheap offers some pretty awesome deals on a lot of the same gear you might need in Costa Rica. Once the item sells out, they move onto a new one.

2) REI Outlet - REI Outlet sells a ton of gear for much cheaper than the regular site. What's great is that you can search for specific items, too. Need some sweat-wicking articles of clothing or hiking pants for backpacking during the land phase of a course? Then take advantage of the almighty REI Outlet deals.

3) Sierra Trading Post - Many of our students have told us that they saved a considerable amount of money (especially on hiking shoes, which you'll definitely want for just about any of our courses) thanks to this great discount outlet store.

4) Camping Gear TV - This entertaining duo of outdoor enthusiasts will straight up GIVE you cool new gear, provided you simply comment on their web episodes via any one of their social media platforms. Regular gear giveaways make this a worthwhile stop for sure.

5) Whiskey Militia - A sibling of Steep and Cheap, primarily offers deals on snowboarding and skateboarding stuff. However, keep your eyes peeled because you'll likely find an awesome deal on new board shorts and other surf-related gear for your surf course.

Whether you're just getting ready to head outside as the weather gets warmer, or you're considering one of our Summer Courses, hopefully this list will help get you ready with new, cheap gear. 

Thursday, February 17, 2011

The outdoors takes the national stage

In case you missed it, yesterday President Obama gave some inspiring, albeit slightly short-winded remarks about the America's Great Outdoors initiative that he began 10 months ago. As an organization that supports environmental preservation, outdoor pursuits, and experiential learning in wilderness settings, we were excited to tune in for his comments about these subjects. Besides, it was the president discussing the outdoors as part of the national agenda; needless to say, we were listening. We love this kind of stuff.

Although we would have liked to hear more news about the initiative itself and its implications, we were still excited to hear that, despite current budgetary constrictions, the program will be receiving substantial funding. These dollars will be allocated towards things like National Park maintenance and will hopefully encourage people to explore the outdoors more. Two thumbs up, says Costa Rica Outward Bound!

The movement comes at a time when more and more people are beginning to question the merits of America’s education system (especially in the wake of recent eye-opening documentaries like "Waiting for Superman"). Many innovative approaches to learning have been emerging as a result. Some might even be able to help answer one of the questions President Obama posed:
"What can we do to break free from the routine and reconnect with the world around us? What can we do to get our kids off the couch and out the door?"
As creative outdoor education programs gain traction, perhaps they will offer a solution. Apparently, part of Obama’s request for the initiative included a listening tour, which revealed that younger people are looking for more outdoor job opportunities. Maybe if there exists some kind of incentive to “get kids off the couch and out the door” there would be a better response.

Students learning how to perform Swift Water Rescue

Many of our students take our courses because they provide opportunities to get certifications that can be used to improve their chances of getting outdoor jobs. Our Leadership Course, for example, offers up to 7 different outdoor certifications. Our other Semester Courses allow students to experience the outdoors while earning school credit. In fact, many of our alums have reported working in the outdoors, while others have simply gained appreciation for a new outdoor hobby.

If America’s Great Outdoors initiative represents “a promise to future generations” we’re looking forward to playing a role, even if it means doing so from across borders.