Rebounding from the pandemic has proven to be a greater challenge than anticipated, and we’re still climbing out two years later. Thanks to generous support from our crew, COBS made steady progress toward these rebuilding efforts in 2022, and will be stronger for the path ahead. Some of the highlights from the year include:
Students on an Alpine Backpacking for Girls course celebrate at the summit.
Colorado Rockies Pathfinder student pushes towards the top of a climb.
An ASCEND Scholarship Alpine Backpacking crew during a day of hiking.
Students gain confidence while learning invaluable teamwork and leadership skills through shared group experiences. Outward Bound’s Domains of Thriving (DoT) framework helps us teach and measure the cognitive, social, and emotional progress that each individual achieves through our courses. The DoT allows us to create the conditions youth need to increase their resilience and empowers them to contribute positively to their communities.
According to The Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning (CASEL), “Social and Emotional Learning (SEL) is an integral part of education and human development. SEL is the process through which all young people and adults acquire and apply the knowledge, skills, and attitudes to develop healthy identities, manage emotions and achieve personal and collective goals, feel and show empathy for others, establish and maintain supportive relationships, and make responsible and caring decisions.”
The more educators and leaders understand how students learn, the more they are looking for the kinds of skills that our expeditionary programs teach.
It is true that Outward Bound's internationally renowned expeditions have always taught participants so-called “technical or hard skills” like navigating with or without a map, how to manage and mitigate risk in the wilderness, and tying the most secure rock climbing knots. We have also always excelled in the far more difficult task of teaching “inter/intra-personal or soft skills” like resilience, compassion, and leadership, referred to today as social-emotional skills. We find ourselves at the center of, and leading, a much-needed shift within the U.S. educational paradigm. Schools and teachers, as well as parents and students, are realizing that academic outcomes are fundamentally dependent on these social and emotional skills, which have always been at the center of Outward Bound courses.
In 2017, with the support of a generous investment from the S.D. Bechtel Jr. Foundation, Outward Bound launched the Outward Bound Professional Learning Lab to continuously improve our student experience, enhance training and professional development for staff and add rigor to our evaluation techniques. At the center of the Lab’s work is defining and measuring the social and emotional skills that students develop on an Outward Bound course and the practices staff use to support this growth. In 2019, Outward Bound saw statistically significant changes in all 12 social-emotional outcomes measured by the Outward Bound Outcomes Survey, including perseverance, self-awareness, and teamwork. The Lab continues to lead the Outward Bound system to implement effective SEL practices and use data to evaluate and improve our impact on SEL outcomes for students.
The Outward Bound Outcomes Survey (OBOS), designed and validated by the Partnerships for Education and Resilience (PEAR), measures student change in 12 areas. Students take the survey at the end of their course, and report on each area. In 2022, all COBS students aged 12 - 23 were asked to complete the OBOS.
While our outcomes are strong in learning interest, assertiveness, self-regulation, and perseverance for the majority of our students, they are even stronger among female students. We are helping prepare young women as they make some of their most important decisions about school, careers, and the lives they wish to lead.
Riya Chandra’s two-week expedition with COBS in 2021 inspired her to hike Mount Kilimanjaro and start a non-profit serving girls of color – all before graduating high school!
Backpacking through the Rockies sparked Riya’s passion for the outdoors. This motivated her to start the non-profit, HYPE Girls, to build community for girls of color who want to get outside.
Her COBS experience also inspired Riya to accomplish the incredible feat of summiting Mount Kilimanjaro. She proudly claimed to be one of the youngest hikers on the mountain. Learn more.
From left to right: HYPE girls enjoying a picnic, Riya atop Mount Kilimanjaro, HYPE girls on a hike.
People of color and individuals with other marginalized identities have been systematically excluded from the outdoors. Discrimination in the outdoor industry and barriers to accessing natural spaces persist today. We believe that everyone deserves equitable access to nature. That’s why we are committed to leveraging the power of our community and programs to increase access to the outdoors for everyone.
The journey to equitable access takes time. Although we are working hard to advance diversity, equity, inclusion and justice strategic initiatives at all levels of the organization, a majority of our open enrollment students in 2022 identified as white and male. These demographics indicate that we need to continue investing in programmatic and cultural changes to meet the needs of a larger diversity of individuals.
We are committed to making our programs and school more equitable. To achieve this, we are working to:
592 students surveyed, ages 12-23
In 2022, COBS and Mile High 360 kicked off the first year of a long-term partnership. Mile High 360 students are first-generation college-bound students from the Denver Metro area. Through this partnership, COBS provides courses for Mile High 360 6th, 9th, and eventually 12th grade students. These courses are designed to become incrementally more challenging for the students as they progress through their time with Mile High 360. The 6th grade students experience course at our Leadville Mountain Center base camp and have the comforts of staying in the dorms. When students come back to COBS in 9th grade, they again are at our base camp, but camp outdoors. In a few years when we welcome their 12th grade students, they will embark on an expeditionary course. This progressive approach allows students to deepen their social-emotional skills over time and build upon each Domain of Thriving with each course.
Mile High 360 students reaching new heights at the Leadville Mountain Center.
In 2022, the COBS team made progress on objectives outlined in our three-year strategic plan:
Southwest Leadership Semester students taking in canyon views.
Pathfnder Canyoneering and Canoeing student enjoying a sunny day of canyon backpacking.
CO Rockies to SW Rivers Leadership Semester student navigating the river.
During COBS’s inaugural Contribute To Your Crew campaign our incredible donors, students and families, staff, and many others showed up in a big way. Together, the COBS crew raised more than $100,000 to support our scholarship program and ensure that students from diverse backgrounds and socio-economic status can experience a COBS course. We want to share a special shout out to our Support Crew that rallied together to contribute a collective $60,000 matching fund in honor of our 60th anniversary. Thank you, COBS crew!
Save the date for the 2023 online campaign, April 17-30th, that will include a peer-to-peer campaign, auction, and matching fund.
After over a decade of celebrating our mission and students through the Black Tie and Tennis Shoes gala, in 2022 we took a new trail by celebrating 60 years of COBS. Over the course of a multi-week online campaign culminating in an in-person event, the COBS community celebrated and reflected on our 60-year history.
During our 60th Anniversary Celebration and online campaign, together we raised an impressive total of $345,021 to continue cultivating compassionate and resilient leaders for many more years to come.
The sentiment we hear most often from students is that participating in a COBS course changed their lives. It’s an honor to be a pivotal part of so many people’s journeys. Thanks to your overwhelming and generous support of our 60th anniversary, we can continue to change student lives for years to come. For a glimpse into the meaningful impact you will make on our students, check out this reflection on our 60-year journey featuring a hearty thank you from members of our community:
Marie Logsden and Buckstein
Bryan and Cynthia Mix
Peter O'Neil and Kim Reynolds
Bob and Joan O'Rourke*
Tarn Udall and Alex DeGolia
Jennifer & Mark Bales*
Louis and Erica Bissette
El Pomar Foundation
The Farley Family
Ben Fickett and Jess d'Arbonne
GFM | CenterTable
Ross Aviation / Atlantic Aviation
Lauren Schmidt and Eric Olson
Rebecca Grant Zarret & Scott Zarret
*Denotes digital campaign sponsors
From all of us at COBS, we want to thank all our 2022 donors. You make changing lives through challenge and discovery possible. Add your name to this list by making a donation to COBS today.