An Illumination: Seniors Find Joy Through a Storm

“Nothing—not even a lightning storm in the mountains—is going to sidetrack them in this journey.”

Between hitch knots and hiking in 90-degree heat, leaders on their Outward Bound Senior Leadership Expedition in August experienced at least one illuminating moment.

“The flash of lightning sent us scurrying from the exposed mountain ridge into the cover of thicker forest. The students scattered—25 feet apart, they were told—and put themselves into lightning drill position: seated, feet flat, knees tucked, raingear on,” said Matt Norcini, head of Upper School and a chaperone on the expedition. “After a few minutes of students shuffling into place, seemingly out of nowhere, it began: singing.”

What ensued was a performance by one student and a very appreciative audience of her peers.

The group was gathered at the Delaware Water Gap as part of the fourth annual outdoor leadership course for interested seniors who were preparing to lead 9th graders on their Outward Bound trip during the week of September 6. The seniors were thrilled to be on the leadership trip together after the pandemic upended expeditions like this one over the past couple of years. 

“I feel much more confident in my abilities to help the 9th graders do things like tie knots, cook dinner, organize their pack, or just encourage them to keep going,” said senior Emily Eisenman after the expedition finished in early August.

Although the storm proved to be an unexpected challenge for the seniors on their fourth day, it was just the kind of experience that Outward Bound expects will have a “lasting impact” on students.

“On Outward Bound, life will be really tough if you don't accept help from others. You learn to rely on and trust your group in ways you didn't think you could and you end up becoming great friends,” said Emily.

Outward Bounders learn to “trust other people in a way that is not common in most communities,” agreed senior Kobrin Goloveyko, and once the seniors learned to rely on one another, they were more prepared to have the 9th graders lean on them.

Senior Jack Gaghan said he hoped to help first-year students alleviate any stress they might feel as they enter high school and “build connections that will hopefully last into the school year.”

While the seniors gained wilderness skills, talked about leadership, and reflected on personal strengths and goals, the storm taught them how to see light through the darkness.

“Through our challenges, our group continued to see light at the end of the tunnel,” said senior Samantha Simon, “and we worked together to make the most out of our last day.”

Mr. Norcini was impressed with the seniors’ resilience and optimism. 

Their reaction to the storm “captured for me what I had been feeling, seeing, and hearing from them all week: These students are operating from a place of joy, playfulness, and optimism,” he said. “Nothing—not even a lightning storm in the mountains—is going to sidetrack them in this journey.”

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