Grantee profile: Outward Bound California

April 10, 2017

I met Vanessa Baker yesterday, a representative from Outward Bound California. This organization puts together trips for young people to go backpacking, rock-climbing, kayaking, and other activities where they learn skills to enjoy the outdoors. She told me some of the history of Outward Bound. The organization was founded in 1941 in Great Britain by British shipping magnate Sir Lawrence Holt and German educator Kurt Hahn with the idea of preparing young sailors for the rigors of life at sea. The name Outward Bound refers to the nautical term to describe the moment a ship leaves harbor. I read a little about Kurt Hahn. He was an Oxford educated educator in Germany who openly criticized Hilter in 1933, after a young communist was killed by storm troopers. He was forced to leave Germany and settled in Britain. Kurt’s educational philosophy includes respect for adolescents and providing them with opportunities for self-discovery through adventure, in particular, outdoor adventure.

The OB website summarizes their mission as “that every person should be given the opportunity to experience adventure and challenge, develop character and compassion, and learn social and environmental responsibility, regardless of financial ability.” Vanessa told me about the approached used during the wildness experience that practices wilderness survival skills, encourages teamwork and self-confidence, and progressively gives students the responsibility for running the show.

While Noah never participated in the Outward Bound program, he did go on two wilderness trips organized by Adventure Treks, a LA based wilderness experience organization for teens that has much the same philosophy as OB. Noah did the California and Northwest wilderness trips when he was 12 and 13. In Noah style, he was critical of many of the kids who couldn’t leave home behind and felt he learned a lot from the experienced outdoor guides. I believe that during the Adventure Trek trips, he found out that he was physically capable and enjoyed the challenge of rising early and climbing to the top of Mt Saint Helens. He also did learn a variety of outdoor skills including backpacking, kayaking, and rock climbing.

The Outward Bound Pinnacle Scholarship Program provides free tuition for youth from families that can’t afford the cost to participate in a 14 to 20 day Wilderness Course in the Sierras. In 2016, we funded two of these that will be awarded this year.

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