The Pryor Center for Leadership and Development is one of the leadership programs offered at William Jewell College. Pryor fellows engage in a multitude of learning experiences, one being the Outward Bound Program. For over 50 years, the North Carolina Outward Bound School has provided leadership and skills programs through a 13-day canoe trip in the Florida Everglades. It’s founded on the central idea that quality leadership skills are developed through experiences found outside of the classroom. Jewell believes that this program greatly benefits the Pryor fellows because it offers them the opportunity to grow emotionally and mentally, develop their leadership skills and learn how to communicate in a team dynamic. The 2018 Pryor Leadership Class who recently went on the Outward Bound trip endured a breadth of challenges, from tumultuous weather to rough seas and dangerous wildlife.
The trip began with the Pryor fellows being divided into three crews of nine to 12 students. They began their first day in Flamingo, which is the southern-most point on the Florida peninsula, and had to make various checkpoints throughout the trip in order to make it back to base camp in Everglade City. Each team took a different path due to weather.
One team endured the Nightmare, a two-mile passageway that’s only passable during high tide. Crew Three had to pull their canoes through several miles of mud in order to get out of this stretch and proceed with their route. Crew Two endured 40-50 miles of sawgrass. The overgrown grass is impassable without manually creating a path. They created miles of passageway in order to get back out onto the open seas.
Payton Meeks, junior business administration, communication and Applied Critical Thought and Inquiry major, was a member of Crew Two.
“The hardest part of the course was being physically tired and exhausted. Everyday we had to wake up early in the morning and paddle all day and then wake up the next day and do it again. You did it, though, because your crew really depends on you,” said Meeks.
Crew One had close encounters with alligators and had to paddle through storms and creeks. Large waves and volatile seas put them off course several times, but they battled the elements and finally made it back to base camp on day 13.
All three crews made it through their journey safely. However, the trip does not just involve team dynamics and group skill building. Every Pryor fellow has important personal experiences, as well. By conquering personal challenges, participants discover their true abilities and talents and how they can be utilized in a team situation.
“Every situation has something to appreciate, whether it be large or small. There were some days I didn’t feel like there was anything good that could come out of that day, and then we would do appreciations at dinner with the crew, and I would be reminded immediately that there is always something to be appreciative of in the day. It was absolutely amazing learning that lesson,” Meeks said.
Working towards a common goal with a large group of peers is not always an easy feat, but one of Outward Bound’s core philosophies is that tremendous growth as an individual is actually accomplished through a strong sense of team effort. Many of the Pryor fellows found that the challenges they endured could not have been done alone.
“The most challenging aspect of the trip was definitely getting 12 people in a team on the same schedule and ready to move and execute the day. Without the team, though, we would not have been able to maintain a good morale when conditions were tough or when we were faced with an obstacle we could not figure out ourselves,” said Nick Gavin, junior accounting and economics major.
Talk to many Pryor fellows on campus and they will attest to how much they learned from the Outward Bound trip.
“You eat, sleep, row, laugh and sometimes cry with these people and you share a once in a lifetime experience that only the people in your boat get to experience with you, which is a pretty neat thing,” said Gavin.
Photo courtesy of McKenzie Gross.