This story is a part of our “Outward Bound Stories” Series. Photography by Saskia Kahn and interviewing by Dareise Jones. Find the rest of the series here.

My name is Jalin, I live in Baltimore City, and I go to Mervo where I study carpentry. I’ve always looked at myself as a leader and there are two important men in my life who have helped shape me into the young man I am today.

My brother and my father have had the biggest influence on me. I admire my father because his life wasn’t easy when he was growing up, but he still had to take care of business. He’s a strong, well-spoken man and I always wanted to carry myself like that.

I look up to my older brother because I’ve watched him go through some challenges and overcome them to be successful in his field. He didn’t know what he wanted to do with his life, so he picked a trade and now he’s doing really well.

He’s an electrician and his company recently honored him in a magazine for his great work. He loves what he’s doing and I’m proud of him. He inspires me to be the best in my trade.

Before I started high school, like my brother, I didn’t know what I wanted to do, but I knew I was skilled with my hands. During this time, I was playing football and talking about high school options with my parents.

I was at Mervo’s football field for a football event, and Mervo recruited me. I didn’t know anything about Mervo, so I decided to check them out. I looked into the different trades and programs they offer, and I remember being excited to tell my dad they had carpentry because I love building things with my hands.

I decided to go to Mervo for carpentry and I stopped playing football. I’m currently in my senior year building my carpentry skills in school and by doing side jobs.

My favorite side job was rebuilding our back porch. It was hard because I had to break everything down and rebuild it from scratch, but it looks amazing.

When I was in elementary school, I’d get some Styrofoam and toothpaste to build things with. I’d make houses and castles and other small things like that. Looking back, I think that was the spark to doing carpentry.

I love what I do and after I graduate, I want to get a carpentry internship. This will help me achieve my goal to create a business with my brother.

My carpentry teacher told me about Outward Bound. He gave me some information about the program, and I wasn’t sure if I wanted to do it. Then I thought about it, and I like trying new things. I can never say I don’t like it until I’ve tried it, so I signed up.

I did my first program during the pandemic, so it was virtual. It was me and a few other kids that did the virtual program.

Our instructors, Mary and Paris did an outstanding job. I saw how active and engaged they were and that made me do the same. For example, one time we had to work in teams to find stuff in our house from a list they gave us. It was kind of hard because we weren’t together.

We had to find the stuff or hold ourselves accountable. I learned about the importance of accountability from that activity. I also learned how to be more comfortable speaking in front of people.

Before I participated in Outward Bound, I would get nervous when I had to speak in public. Outward Bound provided different exercises that taught me how to stay calm when speaking to people. We also did other exercises that helped us remember people’s names. Small things like that helped sharpen our minds, and it’s the small things that count the most.

I participated in my first in-person expedition in 2021, and it kicked my butt, but I loved every bit of that experience because I learned a lot about myself.

We spent a week camping in Maryland. Our instructors taught us how to set up camp, and we all had individual jobs every day. For instance, on Monday it was my job to cook and someone else would set up camp and other students would do other jobs.

Photo: Course camera from Jalin’s expedition

Each night we would all get together and talk about the good and bad of our day. I did not enjoy the first night at all. It was cold and uncomfortable, but by the second night I started to get used to it because I felt like we’d found our rhythm.

On Wednesday, I learned the importance of never giving up and staying focused on a goal. That was a challenging day for me because we had to do a lot of walking with our heavy bags, and I wanted to give up many times.

We started the day by walking to a rock climbing area. On the way, we took a thirty-minute break to rest and eat snacks. We got up and started walking again and the path we took was full of rocks. My feet started hurting, but I kept going and we finally made it to the rock-climbing area.

I had an amazing time there. It was so beautiful. I climbed to the top and had so much fun. When it was time to go, we were all so tired, but we still had to walk to set up camp.

While we were walking, I heard someone crying behind me. I turned around to see one of the female campers crying, so I asked her what was wrong, and she told me she was tired and missed her family.

I encouraged her and told her we could get through this. She said her bag was too heavy for her, so I doubled up and carried her bag and mine.

We kept walking and the weight of bags was getting to me. I wanted to give up so bad and it was so hard, but I kept telling myself, ‘you gotta stay focused, you gotta push through.’

Then I realized I couldn’t handle it on my own, so I asked for help, and the team shared the load with me. I learned another valuable lesson: never be scared to ask for help.

The lessons I learned during my two expeditions with Outward Bound help me in my life all the time. I recently traveled to Ohio with my dad to do an MMA test. I had to fight against a fighter and two instructors, and I wasn’t nervous. I was doing good but started to get tired.

I had four more tests and I told myself the same thing I told myself during my Outward Bound expedition last year: keep going, keep sparring.

I made it to my last sparring test, which was an ambush game. There were three fighters against me, but I got away, and I got away safely.

They said I passed with flying colors, and I was happy, and it was worth it. All that hard work I put in, training every day, and telling people that I couldn’t hang out because I had to train, was worth it.

Outward Bound helped me pass that test because it taught me to never give up on your dreams and to keep going no matter how hard it is.

If you are a high school student and you are thinking about joining an Outward Bound expedition, do it.

Outward Bound is not easy, they really push you to the limit but they do it so you can grow. I know this because that is what they did for me and I am so glad I said yes to this experience.