By Todd Cohen
CHARLOTTE, N.C. — In January, roughly 70 employees of accounting firm Dixon Hughes Goodman will spend a day at Reedy Creek Park in Charlotte, teaming with one another in crews to solve problems in a course offered by the Asheville-based North Carolina Outward Bound School.
The School’s Charlotte office, which is celebrating its 15th anniversary this year, provides courses that serve about 500 people a year, including students, professionals and military personnel or returning war veterans.
And with support from groups like the Duke Energy Foundation and John Belk Education Foundation, the office last year provided scholarships for its courses to 48 high school students, 24 local educators and school administrators, and 60 returning veterans.
The focus of the courses is discovery, says Josh Thomas, who joined the office in February as regional advancement coordinator after working for 17 years as a partner in communications firm Topics Education.
“Part of it is discovering the natural world around you,” says Thomas, who enrolled in an Outward Bound course five years ago. “And a big part is discovering your own potential.”
Celebrating its 45th anniversary this year, the Asheville-based North Carolina Outward Bound School is one of seven Outward Bound schools.
Outward Bound was co-founded in 1941 in Wales by Kurt Hahn, a German Jew who had escaped from the Nazis.
“Outward bound” is a nautical term that refers to a ship leaving a harbor, and the first school was designed to equip young seamen with the confidence and interpersonal skills they needed to survive.
With an annual budget of $5 million, the North Carolina Outward Bound School operates base camps in Linville Gorge and Pisgah National Forest in the North Carolina Mountains, on the North Carolina Outer Banks, in the Everglades in Florida, and in Patagonia, Argentina.
Students range from age 14 to people in their 70s, and the cost of classes varies but averages roughly $200 a day.
The North Carolina Outward Bound School sends roughly 6,500 participants on courses each year, including roughy 30 percent who participate with the support of scholarship dollars.
The local office partners with Myers Park, Vance, Butler and Phillip O. Berry high schools in Charlotte, and Cannon School in Concord, and works with groups like Communities in Schools of Charlotte-Mecklenburg and Right Moves for Youth to identify potential participants.
Each summer, it sends 12 to 24 teachers from the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools to courses through fully-paid scholarships.
It teams with companies like Dixon Hughes Goodman and Charlotte Pipe & Foundry to offer courses for employees and rising leaders.
In recent years it has offered roughly a dozen courses a year for military personnel or returning veterans to help them reintegrate into civilian life, Thomas says.
This year, the office is ahead of schedule to meet its goal of providing scholarships for 300 returning vets.
To meet its goal of raising $200,000 to $250,000 a year, the office for the past three years has sponsored a trail race series that this year attracted 1,800 participants and was sponsored by Merrily Lynch and Coca Cola Bottling Co. Consolidated.
The Charlotte office also plans to double — to 10 — the number of its local school partners.
“It’s our intent to grow our presence in Charlotte,” Thomas says, “and to help more teens and adults discover their true potential.”