Voyageur Outward Bound School blog

A Commitment to STRIVE

Categories: Our Blog

In the winter of 2013, I was an instructor on what we call an Insight Day here at VOBS, Twin Cities Center. On this particular day, we were supposed to snowshoe.

The students met us as at the site and we gave them extra layers to keep warm then showed them how to wear snowshoes. This snowshoe “program” quickly turned into a slog. Our crew spent at least half the time laying in the snow. We broke up fights and got lost. At our halfway point, we stopped to make hot cocoa in a shelter. We took off our snowshoes and, while we sipped, the snow on our boots refroze, turning them into ice skates and making it impossible to get the snowshoes back on. This was hands-down, the most chaotic, ineffectual program I’ve ever led.

The students that very tough day were part of a brand new intervention program we had just created with the expeditionary learning school, Open World Learning Community.

The STRIVE program was designed to target young men on the cusp of greatness, guys who were unaware of their own potential.

In theory, launch of the new program would be easy: bring the group of guys together, tell them how amazing they are, go snowshoeing, change lives, succeed.

But that isn’t quite how transformation works, and that isn’t quite how life works either. Rarely are we able to set out and quickly achieve our goals. Instead we travel quite a distance. It’s a journey of peaks and valleys, with one (sometimes) seemingly endless plateau– we can’t look back and see where we started and our destination is still out of sight. This is when the pursuit of the goal, be it physical or mental, is no longer about checking items off a list. Pursuit becomes a mental slog. There are difficult tests of patience, small successes, encounters with the dark corners of oneself and opportunities to remember why we began the journey in the first place.

As we embarked on our journey with the OWL students, it became clear that STRIVE would be a real adventure, full of highs, lows and many challenges.

As our first year came to a close, only four of the twelve students who started the program remained. All we could do was hope that those four who had persevered would return.

They did! And every year after, those stubborn, resilient, courageous guys returned for challenge, and ultimately triumph.

And now here we are:  2017. These young men stand tall as the founding members of a successful program, serving as role models and mentors for twenty young men who follow in their STRIVE footsteps.

Over the years, our program has become much more refined, as have our routines and rituals. One of those rituals is our Commitment Letter. The reading of the Letter and the student Commitment is a rite of passage.

New students are asked to stand silently in a circle as their Outward Bound Instructor reads the Letter. When they are ready, and feel they can uphold what it means to be a part of this program, each student steps forward and commits to STRIVE.

Here is the STRIVE Commitment Letter:

Dear Members of Strive, Old and New,

You were chosen.

Read that sentence again.

Read it one more time.

You, yes, YOU! were chosen out of everyone else in this school to join us.

You were chosen because the people in this school community see something in you. They see you as someone who can change this school, someone who can change their community. Someone who can go on to change the lives of countless other people they meet. You were chosen because of your potential, and the power that you have deep inside to be that change maker.

Change is not, and never has been, easy. Change happens when people truly, deep down in their bones, believe in change. And in the pursuit of that change, those people fail. Many times. Many, many, times. Yet, they continue to stand up and attempt to move forward. One step at a time, one act of kindness at a time, one tear and one act of patience at a time. They move forward. They persevere.

In STRIVE, we are a crew. This crew promises to push you forward. To pick you up each time you fail, because you will. To encourage you, to work with you, to support you and to challenge you to keep moving forward. It is our responsibility, as a crew, to take care of everyone around us because this world, and everyone who lives in it, needs you more than ever. We need your kindness, determination, courage, leadership, strength, vulnerability and mentorship.

Will you join us in the pursuit of growth, leadership and adventure?

Laura Greenlee-Karp is the dedicated and adventurous Program Coordinator for STRIVE and other groundbreaking programs at Voyageur Outward Bound School, Twin Cities Center.

“Join us in the pursuit of growth, leadership and adventure!”

To learn more about how VOBS can serve your school or youth organization, contact

Author: Laura Greenlee

Laura is the Program Coordinator for the Twin Cities Center. Her job allows her to help create, oversee, and instruct various programs in the metro area. Laura prides herself on being a lifelong learner, focusing on knowing more about the population she serves by putting just as much effort towards others’ learning as she does her own. In the words of Kurt Hahn (the founder of Outward Bound) “There is more in us than we know. If we can be made to see it, perhaps for the rest of our lives we will be unwilling to settle for less.” Laura’s most ardent hope is that the work she does, or is a part of, can help today’s youth to see their value and what they are capable of achieving.