Student leaders hone skills through Outward Bound

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OB_SG_group 2015By Janell Smith

Every year, the University’s student government brings together leaders from across campus to participate in an abbreviated wilderness experience through the North Carolina Outward Bound School. Supported through the Carolina Center for Public Service and offered through the Buckley Public Service Scholars program, seven UNC students spent four days in the Blue Ridge Mountains this past summer where they had the opportunity to connect with other campus leaders and to grow in their roles as leaders within their organizations.

Buckley Public Service Scholar participants and APPLES Service-Learning leaders Daniel Irvin ‘16 and Lindsey Holbrook ‘16 joined some of the University’s top student leaders for the experience: Houston Summers ‘16, UNC student body president; Vishal Reddy ‘16, Campus Y co-president; Cecilia Polanco ‘16 Student Government Executive Branch senior adviser; Jeremy McKellar ‘16, Black Student Movement president; and Treasure Williams ‘18 of the Carolina Global Initiative.

“It was a chance outside of the typical campus environment to meet other student leaders who are doing different but similar things,” Irvin said.

During the Outward Bound experience, each of these participants endured extreme physical challenges — from scaling a sheer rock face to solo excursions in the wilderness.

OB_SG_Irvin“I really appreciated the (opportunity),” Irvin said, “because I had to push myself to my physical limits to successfully climb the hardest routes.

“I think everyone in our group had similar experiences, whether with the rock climbing or on one of the other days where we participated in other intense physical activities. I think this gave us a new form of self-confidence, as we learned to push beyond our tiredness and accomplish our goals.”

But the Outward Bound experience did something else.

The group worked together during the day to get through physical activities, and at night and other appointed times, they talked about their different organizations and how to be better leaders for the University as a whole. Every night the group of seven had round table discussions and reflections about the day’s activities.

“I cherished the opportunity to get to know students that are involved with — and lead — other organizations. It’s not often that leaders at this University have the chance to do that,” Irvin said.

It was important for APPLES to be at this Outward Bound experience because of the variety of programs it offers and because of its role as a student-led, staff-supported program, Irvin added.
“One cool thing about APPLES is that we are connected to the University’s administration because we work so closely with the Carolina Center for Public Service,” Irvin said. “APPLES has a lot of resources and opportunities for students because we are part of a more formal institution.

Reflecting on his Outward Bound experience, Irvin said, “I hope to use what I learned from (the student leaders) in my work with APPLES this year. This experience was particularly valuable because we now know each oOB_SG_SummersMcKellarIrvinther and are friends with each other. Furthermore, we have the ability to use these connections to collaborate on events, talk to each other about programs and reach more students in new ways throughout the year. Even if we do not plan to hold any events together, the simple fact that we are now connected means that our existing programs and work can be stronger.”

With a new academic year underway, this goal of connecting and working with other leaders has already been accomplished. Irvin needed help from the Campus Y, and McKellarhad several leaders come to BSM’s annual inaugural meeting.

“The fact that we went through such an intense but rewarding week together means that we have a connection now that will bring us together throughout the year,” Irvin said.

The Carolina Center for Public Service also offers 13 scholarships to the North Carolina Outward Bound School 28-day course. Current participants in the Buckley Public Service Scholars program, Carolina Leadership Development or students in the School of Education at UNC-Chapel Hill are eligible for these scholarships.