<b>Founder's Prize Awardee, Aldin Medunjanin '12, Shares His Outward Bound Adventure</b>

Jonathan Lopez
First off, I just really want to thank Mrs.McWilliams for everything she’s done for me regarding this trip. She literally did all the planning, from the paperwork to the flight information and so much more. I know she’s not here right now, but a special thanks to her.
So as many of you know, last year I was fortunate enough to win the Founders prize. Along with the founders prize, comes a trip through the Outward bound program which at the time, I had never heard of. Louise, a senior last year that won the prize her junior year told me all about her trip. As soon as she said “I was in the woods for two weeks without showering”, I said to myself “no way, I’m not going”. I immediately assumed this trip wasn’t for me, and I spent the next two weeks after getting the award, trying to post pone my trip as much as possible. I didn’t want to give up one of my precious weeks in the summer to be in the middle of no where. Eventually, probably the last week of school, I planned my trip. Water rafting in Colorado it was. This actually caught my eye and luckily for me, I got to choose the trip I wanted. 

Now onto my trip. I flew out of New York City on August 19th early in the morning, with only a book bag. I had mixed feelings about going on this trip, at times I was excited, and other times I wanted to turn around and go back home. I kept telling myself to embrace the uneasy feelings about it and that I would probably never get another opportunity like this. I had no troubles with my flight on my way to Colorado. First I stopped in Dallas, Texas, then headed straight to Grand Junction, Colorado.

While in Dallas, I was texting my fellow roommate Billy Munck, and he suggested I forget about the trip, and come spend a week at his house instead of going on my trip. I actually gave it a thought for a second, and told him I wanted to, but I couldn’t. So I finally land in Colorado, and as I’m sitting in the plane waiting to get off, I take a picture of the canyons that surrounded the entire airport.

I sent this picture to Mr.McKinley, and he gave me a few words of motivation. He replied “I don’t envy you right now”. Wonderful, I thought to myself. I got off the plane and met the other kids that were on the trip with me. It was 14 of us, and it was kind of awkward right from the start. I didn’t know what to talk about with these kids, so I was kind of quiet. As we all got onto the bus to drive to where we were actually starting our trip, I knew there would be three kids I would hangout with the majority of the time. Three kids named Tyler, Ato, and Elliot. Tyler is from Wisconsin, Ato is originally from Ghana but now lives in Virginia, and Elliot is from Seattle. We spoke on the bus for two hours about everything, and I felt as if I knew them for weeks already. As the service got worse on my phone and eventually completely went off, I felt like I was driving back to Millbrook. We got off the bus, in the middle of no where, surrounded by beautiful canyons I only saw on TV. I felt like I was in a movie and couldn’t believe I was actually here seeing this. The first thing we did was throw on our life jackets, and jump in the water. I had basketball sneakers on, basketball shorts and a white shirt on, so I wasn’t really prepared to be swimming and getting dirty.  After we packed our bags, we finally got on our rafts, which was the start to an amazing week. We had 3 rafts, one was the support boat that carried everything from the food, to equipment. While the other two were the rafts we would be using for going down the rapids. The first night was basically getting to know everybody which wasn’t bad, except everybody wanted to see the rapids. We ended up sleeping on the raft for the first night, which was definitely weird. My feet were coming off the end of the raft and were almost in the water.

So after waking up on the raft, day two officially began. I woke up, brushed my teeth, and I was ready for the day. There were no mirrors to look in, no showers, nothing. It felt weird but I embraced it knowing I would be living this way for the next week. Day two was also a pretty slow day. They told us we would reach the rapids on day 4, and we were all looking forward to that. We stopped rafting for a bit and went on a hike that surprised me. I never liked hikes and didn’t really see the purpose of them, but this one changed my mind completely. We walked up hills and through canyons in 100 degree weather, and saw some of the most beautiful views I’ll probably ever see. On some of the rocks there were handprints and other drawings that were supposedly there for hundreds or even thousands of years. These were well done and carefully drawn. There was one drawing that specifically caught my attention. At first, I had no idea what it was, but one of the instructors told us that it was equivalent to what an x-ray would be today. It was a pregnant woman’s stomach and we all assumed she was going to give birth and they drew this on the rock to see how this was actually going to work out. Another thing I learned about civilization that lived here a long time ago, is how smart they were. They set up their living space in certain ways, and chose where they would stay very specifically. For example, people would stay in caves and set up a way to see down the hill so that if there were any intruders, they would know they’re coming and they could possibly get away. After about an hour hike, we were back on the rafts, that much closer to getting to the rapids. At about 6 o clock, we stopped at a small beach area to set up camp. Setting up camp takes about an hour, and wasn’t that easy.

For the first few days, I was on the kitchen team, which was obviously setting up the kitchen. We had propane gas that fueled the small portable stoves, and we actually had good food. At first, I thought we wouldn’t be eating good food, but I was completely wrong. We would make things like tacos, pasta, spaghetti and many more things I thought would be impossible to make in the middle of no where. The students were all in charge of making dinner, but the instructors would help us out a bit. Learning how to deal with people and working together on dinner definitely helped my leadership skills because we all had to work toward the same goal of making dinner for everybody. I learned that different people need motivation in different ways, and not everybody is the same in terms of what works for them. Some people need to be pushed more to actually do work, while others do their job after being asked only one time. This interested me a lot actually, seeing how people interacted with each other, especially people that live in completely different communities. 

Day’s 4 and 5 were definitely the best days, all due to the rapids we went down. We actually got to swim a rapid, which I was kind of scared of at first. This was my first time seeing a rapid and I didn’t know what to expect. My partner for swimming the rapid was a little crazy, but not in a bad way, so we went first. We spent about 15 minutes just learning how to swim this rapid, because we had to swim a certain way, and get to a certain position so that the rapid would take us down the water safely. That’s another thing I learned, that a lot of thought and preparation goes into going down the rapids. They can be dangerous and if the route you take is wrong, you can get seriously injured. After putting on our helmets and life jackets, we were ready to go. We jumped in the water and had to swim upstream, against the current to get to the right spot in the water, then from there we could let the water take us. For most of the time, I was either under water, or swallowing the nastiest water I’ve ever tasted, but it was amazing. The water threw my body around so easily, and to think that this is a low level rapid, amazed and scared me at the same time. Imagine what a higher level rapid would be like? This was the highlight of my day and I wrote in the journal they gave me on the trip. (READ JOURNAL day 5).

Day’s 5 and 6 were the last of the rapids, and they were incredible. It’s hard to explain if you have never done it, but being on a small raft going down the Colorado river is by far one of the best experiences I’ve ever had. To end the trip, we went on a final hike which surprised me a bit. The instructors didn’t tell us what exactly we were doing, but we knew there was something different about this hike. After walking for about 45 minutes, we stopped at this point on the canyon that looked the same as everything we had just passed. The view was beautiful, and the skies were completely clear. The instructors pointed out an opening in one of the rocks, and somehow convinced us all that we’d be going into this cave. At first I thought there was no way I would fit in there because I was about 5 inches taller then the next tallest person. Some people decided not to go in the cave, but I actually wanted to go in it and see what was in there. I was one of the last people to go up, and fortunately for me it wasn’t that hard because I didn’t have to climb as high to reach the platform. I got into the the cave and it was pitch black. You couldn’t see anything, not even the rocks in front of you or on the sides of you. And to make things worse, we didn’t have flashlights because everybody started walking ahead of us earlier. So we started walking very slowly into this narrow cave and my friend Elliot was pretty scared and so was I, but I tried not to show it. I told him I'd walk in front of him and guide him through the cave to make it easier. He told me that It made him comfortable that I didn't show that I was scared. He told me by me staying calm it gave him the confidence to continue in the cave and not freak out. This meant a lot to me because I love helping people in anyway I can, and helping him in way I didn't realize surprised me. It showed me that simple things that are done unconsciously can go so far and make people more comfortable in tough times. 

Overall, the outward bound trip was amazing and I didn't think I would enjoy it that much. It opened my eyes tremendously about not only the environment, but also about forming relationships with people, stepping out of your comfort zone and most importantly taking risks. There were times I was scared but I tried not to show any fear. Many people looked up to me and if I showed fear then so would they. I’m very thankful for having an opportunity like this and this was an experience I’ll never forget. Thank you.
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