New Perspectives -
Apr, 2000 Issue #68
Voyageur Outward Bound School
Director of Admissions
Voyageur Outward Bound, a Minnesota-based school within the Outward Bound
System, is dedicated to helping people of all ages pursue challenging wilderness experiences in order to gain a greater understanding
and acceptance of themselves and others. Their challenging, high adventure backpacking, rock-climbing, kayaking, canoeing, hiking,
desert trekking, camping, cross- country skiing and dogsledding expeditions are offered to the public and take place in Northern Minnesota,
Montana, Texas and Manitoba, Canada. They are also the only Outward Bound organization that still offers the Ascent Program, an Outward
Bound alternative wilderness program for troubled teens.
The goals of the Ascent program are to “provide young people with an opportunity
to examine the choices they are making in their lives.” They do this by helping adolescents recognize: they have control over many
of the difficulties they are having as a result of choices they have made, they have “power to choose what kind of adults they will
become, despite their current circumstances,” and that their “families can help them in making choices and understanding the results
of their decisions.”
Ascent is a 28-day wilderness experience designed to help struggling teens
discover their inner-strength, intrinsic value, and personal abilities. The program is designed for 14 – 17year old boys and girls
who are struggling with low self-esteem, refusual to take responsibility, poor decision-making, susceptibility to negative peer pressure,
low motivation, lack of confidence, working far below capabilities, alienation and lack of respect for authority. They require a parent
or guardian to agree to meet with the group on the last day of expedition in order for the child to be accepted into the Ascent program,
and the teen must be willing to attend. Academic credit can be granted, depending on the school system. Behaviors that would prevent
acceptance in program, include: a pattern of violent behavior, a suicide attempt within the last six months, recent hospitalization
for psychological reasons and/or substance abuse treatment causing them not to have been in a family setting for 60-90 days, or, persistent
and severe learning disabilities. If seeing a counselor or on psychotropic drugs, a screening form must completed by the teen’s counselor,
to determine suitability for the program.
Parent involvement is considered essential to help students maintain positive
behavior changes when they return home. Parents are required to attend a seminar at the end of the course that describes how Ascent
has worked with the students, gives information on course events, suggests how to maintain positive change at home, and acknowledges
the teen’s outstanding accomplishment.
The Ascent course teaches fundamentals such as how to pack a backpack, load
a canoe and how to transform seemingly bland food into tasty meals. As the course progresses, new and more sophisticated skills are
taught, such as “no trace” camping, shelter construction, meal preparation, map and compass reading, and first aid. Depending on the
course selected, outdoor activity options include canoeing, rock climbing, ropes course, hiking, mountaineering and community service.
Students are taught that adventurous and challenging undertakings require care and prudence to ensure success.
Founded on the philosophy of Kurt Hahn, the program “is guided by the values
of self-reliance, craftsmanship, physical fitness, and, above all, compassion “Without self-discovery, a person may still have self-confidence,
but it is a self-confidence built on ignorance that melts in the face of heavy burdens. Self-discovery is the end product of a great
challenge mastered when the mind commands the body to do the seemingly impossible, when strength and courage are summoned to extraordinary
limits for the sake of something outside the self-a principle, an onerous task, another human life.”
Copyright © 2000, Woodbury Reports, Inc. (This article may be reproduced without
prior approval if the copyright notice and proper publication and author attribution accompanies the copy.)