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Out of Town, In Touch: A First-Year Fellow Recounts His Outward Bound Experience


Jeff Hopfenbeck

As I began my work as a first-year fellow for El Pomar Foundation, I knew I had a lot to learn. From office know-how to the art of professionalism (including how to properly tie a tie), the “real world” brought many new lessons and challenges. And although I did understand there would be a learning curve, I was unaware of the challenges associated with forming a cohesive team from a diverse group of 20 fellows.

 Luckily, after three action-packed weeks of orientation, fellows take off on an adventure in teambuilding and personal development. Outward Bound provides an opportunity for first- and second-year fellows to come together and create the relationships that will be essential to their success at the foundation. This year, our group was faced with a rafting adventure on the Green River in Dinosaur National Monument.

 Over the course of the trip, we worked together as boat crews to tackle the Green's challenging rapids. Through Disaster Falls, Triplet Falls, and Hell's Half Mile, fellows learned to work and paddle as a team. Each of our boat crews were also tasked with different responsibilities such as cooking, cleaning, and setting up camp. In the process, we learned to come together and build the trust required for excellence in the workplace.

Our experienced Outward Bound leaders also worked hard to ensure that the trip was challenging on a personal level. Although I had already spent a considerable amount of time in the outdoors, the trip provided even the most seasoned river veterans challenges at various points during the trip. Whether the test was overcoming a personal fear, becoming vulnerable to teammates, or just spending a night outdoors for the first time, all of us were pushed out of our comfort zones under Outward Bound’s motto: “Challenge by choice.”  

 When asked about what he feels Outward Bound adds to the fellowship experience,Fellowship Director Gary Butterworth told me this:

Outward Bound is at the same time both a very individual experience, as well as an intense team experience. With a core focus on leadership, Outward Bound provides a venue for fellows to learn more about themselves and their peers, and how to rely on one another in accomplishing individual or team goals.

 Part of what makes the relationship between Outward Bound and the El Pomar Fellowship so special is the correlation between the two organizations’ values. The fellowship’s core “RITE” values—respect, integrity, teamwork, and excellence—align closely with Outward Bound’s values of compassion, integrity, excellence, and inclusion and diversity. 

  Through the careful work of our instructors, all of us were challenged to live up to the high standards set by both El Pomar and Outward Bound, and in the process, strong team dynamics and great friendships were formed.  Even after returning from the wilderness, our experiences there continue to propel our team forward.

“Whether on the river or in the mountains, it takes every fellow working together to make it through an Outward Bound course,” says Gary Butterworth, “Just as it takes every member of the team at El Pomar to most effectively serve the state of Colorado.”

First-year fellow Aubrey McCoy learning how to paddle

Want to learn more about the fellows’ experience on Outward Bound? Check out our
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