9th and 10th graders experience adventure/service-learning experiences
Mary Virginia Swain '77C

Saint Mary's 9th and 10th graders experienced exciting grade-level adventure, service, and learning opportunities during the first week of April. Ninth-graders traveled to North Carolina's Blue Ridge Mountains to participate in an Outward Bound Course, April 3-6. Tenth-graders ventured beyond the gates here in Raleigh for an enriching service-learning immersion experience with Raleigh Youth Mission, April 5-7.

Outward Bound

Outward Bound offers an exciting opportunity for you to learn new skills and create memories that will last a lifetime. Their mission? To change lives through challenge and discovery!

Saint Mary's 2019 outing for the Class of 2022 took place in the Blue Ridge Mountains within the Appalachian Mountain Range. Because the Appalachians were once one of the largest mountain ranges in the world, they have many different geologic land forms, climates and soils. This long evolutionary history and temperate climate create an area which is teeming with life. Participants will share the wilderness with over 700 different kinds of trees, more than 50 types of mammals, 150 different types of birds and about 40 species of amphibians.

The course area is situated within a million acres of national forests, federally-protected wilderness areas, and other public lands. Its diverse landscapes have been featured in many motion pictures, including The Hunger Games and The Last of the Mohicans.

During the course, students spent the majority of your time backpacking. During this component, they learned safety precautions for back country foot travel, how to find campsites, how to navigate terrain as well as how to use a map and compass. Equally important was time spent learning conflict resolution, communication styles, leadership and team building. After practicing these skills, instructors stepped back and let students and their crew work together to collectively navigate through the wilderness.

Weather permitting, students spent a day rock climbing or rappelling or on the high ropes course. With a focus on the practice of safety, lessons started with the basics, such as working with ropes and learning to tie knots.

Solo occurred more than halfway through the course. Solo is a time for rest, recharge and reflection. Instructors assign each participant an individual campsite within a designated area. The instructors taught students procedures to follow during solo and monitor each student during this experience.

Service was a continuous theme throughout the course. The ethic of service is practiced through "Leave No Trace" camping techniques, reaching out with compassion to fellow crew mates and working together as a team to overcome the challenges of Outward Bound.

At the end of the course, students participated in a final challenge event, offering an opportunity to see how much their skills improved since the beginning of the course.

"What excites me most about Outward Bound is that it gives our girls a unique perspective into what their own self-perceived 'limits' are, and the girls are always surprised when they burst through them during the course of this trip," says Meredith Primm, residential and student life coordinator. "This trip provides years' worth of memories, mostly silly, that they often share over and over again. I feel that sending our girls to Outward Bound is one of the most robust experiences we can give to our students."

Raleigh Youth Mission

For the past five years, Saint Mary's School has partnered with Raleigh Youth Mission (RYM) to provide an enriching, locally-based, service-learning immersion experience for 10th-graders. The goals are to provide a noteworthy, technology-free, service-learning experience by engaging in different types of service combined with time devoted to reflection, discussion, and bonding with classmates. The experience takes place in the city where the students live and learn in partnership with agencies such as Catholic Parish Outreach, Food Bank of Central and Eastern North Carolina, Habitat for Humanity, Shepherd's Table, and more.

Located in the capital city of North Carolina, Raleigh Youth Mission gives young people an opportunity to explore the hidden needs and struggles of those who are living on the margins within and around the City of Oaks. Groups volunteered at a variety of agencies, many which are located among the halls of power of the North Carolina state government, serving alongside our neighbors who are homeless, in poverty, or food insecure.

RYM's Mission Immersion programs are opportunities for groups of young people to dive into the challenges and needs of our neighbors who live on the margins of Raleigh. Mission immersion experiences include lodging, food, service at a variety of local agencies, and debriefing that uses Bible study, group discussion, and art projects lead by RYM staff.

"Our partnership with Raleigh Youth Mission allows us to continue to build on the notion that the city of Raleigh is an extension of our campus," says Saint Mary's Chaplain, the Rev. Ann Bonner-Stewart. "This is also a wonderful time for the sophomores to bond, working shoulder to shoulder as they experience and reflect on problems facing the more vulnerable members of the Raleigh community."