The following is a letter from our Executive Director in response to the events that occurred on January 6, 2021 at the U.S. Capitol Building:
As the Colorado Outward Bound School team and I watched the news unfold from our nation’s capital yesterday, we immediately thought of our students. The youth of this country have faced unprecedented challenges in the past year and have had a front-row seat to intense displays of injustice and unrest. Yesterday’s assault on the U.S. Capitol served as a blatant reminder of how much work we have yet to do. This event cast another spotlight on the fragility of our democratic process and the instinct of many in our country to choose anger over compassion, and violence over civil discourse.
As the daughter and sister of two career servicemembers, I was raised in a deeply patriotic household with a firm belief in the strength of American institutions and the power of American democratic values. As a practicing attorney for close to 20 years, I swore my own oath to uphold the laws and Constitution of the United States and dedicated my career to the rule of law. I want to be clear: nationalism is not patriotism. The actions of the insurrectionists who attacked our Capitol yesterday were antithetical to our American values and principles – and our Outward Bound values and principles – and must be condemned.
While yesterday was an incredibly difficult day, I awoke this morning with a renewed sense of confidence that this, too, shall pass. America is resilient. Americans are resilient. And our institutions are resilient—although the past few months should serve as a reminder to all of us that our democracy, while an inspiration to the world, is only as strong as our shared belief in it and collective commitment to it.
At the Colorado Outward Bound School, we are committed to developing America’s youth to become thoughtful, solution-oriented, and compassionate citizens. Our mission has never been more relevant. We are part of the Outward Bound and COBS community because we believe so deeply in the power of growth, self-discovery, and teamwork and the ability of an Outward Bound course to transform the way our students live in and approach their world.
Providing our students and staff with a safe place to experience this growth is our top priority. This extends to both our physical space in the outdoor classroom and the emotional wellbeing of our students. We know our youth are hurting as our kids — like all of us — struggle with both the impacts of the pandemic and a year of social and racial unrest. COBS courses are designed not only to help our students discover their inner strengths, but also to teach them to process, reflect, and heal. We take the emotional and psychological wellbeing of our staff and students just as seriously as their physical safety.
We also cannot, and do not, overlook the obvious truth that many of yesterday’s events at the Capitol were driven by white nationalists. To our students, staff, and communities of color: we stand with you. We are committed to doing our part in dismantling systemic racism and putting an end to the displays of racial injustice that have permeated our communities for far too long.
Our values and goals surrounding diversity, equity, and inclusion are explicitly stated in our forthcoming strategic plan. Among many DEI-focused initiatives, we are proud to embed DEI work into our staff training; offer an Emerging Leaders Fellowship program to support staff from historically marginalized communities; continue to offer full and partial scholarships to enable more students to attend our courses; and work with our local school partners to provide Outward Bound programming to more students in our own community. We are also committed to continuing to increase the diversity of our staff, Board, and the student population we serve, and to eliminating many of the traditional barriers that exist for communities of color in the outdoors.
Our country and our communities are resilient. We know this. We also know that resilience in the face of injustice is exhausting. We will continue our work to be a safe physical and emotional place for our staff and students to experience the outdoors; to train thoughtful, compassionate citizens and leaders; and to help our students recognize that there is no limit to their own potential.
Lauren Schmidt, Colorado Outward Bound School Executive Director