When Leadership Camp was first established several decades ago, Out-of-Door did not have an Upper School and this capstone experience was part of students' final year at ODA.
The original intent of the program was for eighth grade students to go away together at the end of summer break before the official start of school to build leadership skills, group cohesiveness, and promote responsibility in the group who would be “leading” the school as its oldest students. Now, more than 30 years later, the trip is shorter and the activities look a bit different, but the original intent hasn’t changed a bit.
As the group stepped off the buses on Thursday, they immediately broke into groups and headed off to try out the low ropes course. Whether they were climbing, working as the belay (safety anchor), or cheering on their classmates, everyone was involved and active from the moment they arrived. As the day progressed, the ropes courses become more challenging. Students encouraged each other as they attempted the different challenges, working on their team-building skills as well as trying to meet personal goals. Students then moved to the high ropes course, with many choosing to push themselves to try the “Leap of Faith,” the obstacle that was most frequently mentioned as the favorite part of the trip. This entailed standing on a tiny platform on the top of a 30-foot high post, then leaping forward to catch a trapeze hanging a dozen feet away. The students, along with PE Instructor Mrs. Cici Fougere, took on the challenge head-on and succeeded, much to the excitement of the cheering onlookers. “I will always remember climbing up the Leap of Faith, not wanting to stand up because my knees were trembling so hard, finally standing up, and finding the courage to jump for the trapeze,” says Maria Shaw ‘23.
In the late afternoon, students had time to swim, play basketball and soccer, or relax before they met with their advisors and spent time getting to know one another. After dinner, six students from the senior class came up to camp to spend time with the students. The eighth graders broke into small groups and talked with the seniors about what it is like attending the Upper School. The upperclassmen took time answering all of the questions the eighth graders had, and what to expect when they moved up next year. The seniors stayed to have fun with the group during the trivia challenge, a highlight of the evening for many.
Eighth Grade Advisor Mrs. Kathy Dozier has attended Leadership Camp for more than 20 years. She loves to see the students’ camaraderie build as the obstacles become more challenging, and to watch them become more confident and self-assured as they tackle more difficult tasks. Mrs. Dozier uses the student’s accomplishments at Leadership Camp throughout the year to remind them of what they can do when they put their mind to it. “Getting kids to have enough confidence to go just a bit beyond their comfort level can be a great motivator inside as well as outside the classroom,” she says.