A Reflection on One Year as CBOBS Executive Director

A common saying on an Outward Bound expedition states, “The journey is long, yet, each day is a flash”.  It is a nod to all the challenges and miles a crew may have ahead, balanced with the feelings of togetherness and accomplishment when a crew thrives together. We celebrate our own crew milestone here at Chesapeake Bay Outward Bound School, with Executive Director, Kristen Komlosy finishing her first year at the helm. She officially stepped into the position in January of 2023, and over the past year, has worked steadfastly to guide our work and advance our impact on students across the Baltimore and Washington, DC regions.

It’s been a journey of aligning around strategy, connecting with the community, and looking ahead to what’s next. Sitting down with Kristen to reflect, she shares her early objectives, what she enjoys about the community and the work, and a glimpse of the strategic initiatives on the horizon.

It’s been a year! What have been some of the moments that brought you joy?

So many. One that came to mind first was, early on, getting up on an aerial teams course (ATC). First, it was at the Philadelphia Outward Bound School with the OBUSA Leadership from across the country. I remember looking up and thinking, I can do that, and then actually being up there, shouting to someone, “Why are the lines quivering?” It was because I was shaking so much. But I did it! And I did it again, two weeks after that on our own ATC in Leakin Park. It was exciting for me to accomplish that as a new leader to CBOBS and as an individual trying it for the first time. 

Kristen, along with the OBUSA Board and Executive Directors at Philadelphia Outward Bound School’s Discovery Center. Photo: POBS

Shortly after that, in the spring, it was seeing our expeditions in action. I heard so much about some of the larger expedition rounds, so it was amazing to be a part of that. It was time for Gilman School students to return for their graduation and clean up at base. With all hands on deck, there was a call for all CBOBS crew to lend a hand. The vans rolled in, students got to work, and suddenly I was there with a fellow board member taking canoes off the trailers and dunking tents with some of our administrative team.  It was students, instructors, our board members and administrative staff rolling up our sleeves together. There was such joy in that. 

Two great memories involve our Baltimore and Washington, DC community members. Early on I felt it important to entrench in our communities. We have this amazing park here and it’s such an important part of the Baltimore community. Partnering with Councilmember Burnett to host a community leaders day hike was a perfect opportunity to connect with the Councilmember about things important to him and hear from his constituents about what’s important to them. We want the community to know us and see how we engage with youth here at our base and ropes course. It was great to be with folks who really care about this community that we’re in here in Baltimore City.  

It felt similarly impactful to create an opportunity like this with DC community leaders at our Josephine Butler Park location. The day centered around bringing folks from the government, private sector, educational sector, and community-based organizations together to take a breath, learn from each other, and build camaraderie through a one-day Outward Bound program. Reflecting on the day, we all acknowledged that we need to find more opportunities like this. This is what makes us so excited about coming in and supporting the Washington DC community. 

Kristen Komlosy, Councilmember Burnett, and local Baltimore community leaders on a hike in Leakin Park.
Working mid-initiative at the DC Community Leaders Invitational.

When you started in your role last January, you had a 100-day plan to guide your strategy at CBOBS. What were some highlights for you?

Honestly, one of the highlights was simply having the opportunity to talk to everyone. I was coming in and wanted to learn. It’s not for me to come in and presume I know everything. I had conversations with over 100 internal and external stakeholders to listen and hear what was top of mind for folks. The process was about listening.

From there, I could process everything I heard and set some priorities around the incredible strategic plan we already have in place. We have a team of tremendous talent here, so how do we set priorities to help this organization continue to soar and our talent to thrive.

It has been important to trust in the process. Looking across the second half of the year, we really put a lot of work in, from our outreach to our community engagement to helping our talent build off their strengths in untapped ways. It was a great first year and an exciting first 100 days.

What is something you are looking forward to in the next year?

It’s an exciting time here at CBOBS as we look ahead. We have a bold vision over the next three years to broaden our impact in the Baltimore community and throughout Washington, DC by providing more access to students. And what does that mean? Over the next three years, we aim to provide programming to 10,000 students, doubling our impact from where we are today. We want to make a significant difference in the lives of these young people. They deserve it. To support this work, we are steadfast in building a physical campus in Washington, DC, and partnering with our corporate community to come alongside us to help double our impact. We’re doing the work behind that right now. And stay tuned because we’ll have some exciting news come spring. 

Now for a classic Outward Bound go-around-question (GAQ). What do you think your minor superpower is? You know, won’t save the world, but can make a big difference in the day-to-day.

I think it’s no surprise to the crew here. One of my minor superpowers is that I really can help break things down and guide others to put together a plan with clear tasks and timelines. We have so many projects, so many initiatives, so many priorities, and it can be daunting, right? So, for me to support our crew and tap into this superpower, I can help build the timeline and path to drive forward. Then, taking a step back to figure out how to break down our goals into actionable steps… I’m your gal.

Early on I heard loud and clear from our talent that they want to be more efficient. They’re so committed and want to do more, yet they want to make sure they’re doing so efficiently and continue to produce strong quality projects and initiatives. So that’s my minor superpower.

What was a student moment that stuck out to you this year?

There is something to be said about an Outward Bound graduation, watching the students come back with their instructors, and seeing them celebrate together. There’s this energy and vibe that percolates across base. At the heart of it, it’s students celebrating that they accomplished something they did not think they could. They walk away feeling, “Wow, I learned something about myself. I saw myself build confidence. I saw myself get along with people differently like I’ve never done before.”  

The other magical thing is watching them be wrapped around by their support network. You see their teachers, family, and friends celebrating and cheering them on. It’s a special moment of transference for these young people, and to be a part of that is both moving and motivating. 

Archbishop Carroll Students posing with their crew flags at their graduation.

What would you say to someone who loves Outward Bound, but is unsure how to engage?

I would say, call me! We have many ways for you to get involved. You don’t have to go on the high ropes course, although there’s always an opportunity. I’d love to chat about how you can get involved.

Become a Board of Trustee member. We are led and guided by an amazing group of volunteers, our Board of Trustees. They help set the strategic direction of this organization and are deeply committed. It’s important to continue growing our board as we move into the next iteration of CBOBS.

Be a connector. It doesn’t need to be a formal commitment, but connecting CBOBS with schools, decision makers, colleagues, and the corporate community is so important. I think so many people undervalue or think that it doesn’t matter. It does. If you’re part of a company, and you want your employees want to learn more about us, host a Lunch and Learn. We’ll will come to you. We want to get to know people, and we want people to know us.

Our mission remains strong, and there’s always a lot to do, yet, we only have so much bandwidth and capacity. If you are a company that looking to make a community impact and can offer pro bono support as it relates to skills-based projects, we always encourage conversations around that.

What is something you love about this community?

I knew from the day I started exploring this opportunity at CBOBS, that this community was something special. I knew that the culture was something unique. One year in and I still believe that. The individuals here are committed and immensely talented. They’re super passionate and committed to our mission.

Kristen and some of the crew at the end of year holiday brunch.

It makes me continually strive for excellence. CBOBS is known for its excellence, and I find that tremendously satisfying. Collaborating with this team of individuals, I know, we can accomplish great things. They’ve already done it… And now we’re going to do it even more as we look ahead!