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Reaching New Heights: the Beginning of a Journey


by Devanie Helman

Recently, the Fellows embarked on an Outward Bound excursion designed to hone personal leadership skills and cultivate stronger relationships within the fellowship.

Outward Bound’s symbol is a compass, representing the undertaking of a journey.  A journey can be broadly defined: it can refer to traveling from one place to another, or imply progress and growth from one stage to another. Outward Bound was a journey in both the literal and figurative sense: we physically ventured through the mountains, and in the process matured mentally and emotionally.

The metaphorical part of the journey has only just begun. Both first and second-year fellows are in the midst of a wildly exciting and somewhat daunting journey, personally and professionally.  For first-year fellows, the transition from the classroom to the office can be difficult.  We left behind the comfort of old friends, professors, and universities, and stepped into a world of unfamiliarity. Second-year fellows are stepping into positions of leadership and responsibility as they begin to look at life beyond El Pomar.  Among all of this newness, we must support one another to accomplish our individual and collective goals.

Outward Bound marked the beginning of our journey together as a fellowship.  It was a safe laboratory for us to explore our fears, joys, and commonalities.  We were able to learn about others, ourselves, and how we all fit together.

Prior to embarking on this journey, some of us struggled to understand how a wilderness adventure could be applicable to our professional lives at El Pomar.  As time wore on, it became abundantly clear how our actions in the wilderness were directly connected with the “real world.”   The values an individual or group lives by are the same regardless of the environment.  In the fellowship, we strive to live by the RITE values: respect, integrity, teamwork, and excellence.  On Outward Bound, we learned first hand the important role the RITE values will play over the next two years.

The time spent in the San Juan Mountains presented an opportunity to be present and intentional with our actions.  It was a chance to see one another shine and also struggle.  Outside of the work environment, fellows were able to forge bonds through times of fear, challenge, and pure silliness. Through the physical challenge of summiting a technical fourteener, the mental challenge of sleeping outside and not bathing daily, and the emotional challenge of opening up about fears, weaknesses, and dreams, we were able to emerge as stronger leaders, better people, and better friends. It was surprising how much I learned about myself as I listened to my peers.

During one particularly inspiring activity, we stood atop Mt. Wetterhorn, a 14,015-foot peak that quite literally feels like the top of the world.  We were asked to throw a rock off the peak, symbolizing the act of letting go of something that prohibits us from reaching our full potential.

As I watched others throw the rock, I was struck with the realization that each of us holds within us something that stands between us and our goals. The more enlightening component came later when we discussed our “rocks.” During that conversation tears were shed and hearts were opened.  It was startling to realize that despite our differences, we shared similar reservations. It was inspiring and motivating to see every member of the team reach out, help, and accept help when needed.  There was a sense of caring and concern for one another that will undoubtedly be carried over into our professional lives.

The impact that Outward Bound had on each of us was profound, and in some small sense, each of us was altered forever.  Our experiences on Outward Bound helped us bridge gaps, bringing our stories together to create something far bigger than each of us. With the support of seventeen other people comes the courage to take risks and venture confidently into the unknown, assured that our peers will act as a compass, helping us go forth with purpose in directions we never thought possible.