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.

I was born in Baltimore City and my family moved to Baltimore County when I was around three years old, so I mostly grew up in the county. My parents are from a country in South America, called Guyana and they came to America in the 90s. My dad studied engineering there and my mom studied Spanish and when they came over to the United States, they got jobs in Baltimore.

I have two younger sisters and they both emulate me in a lot of ways, which I think is funny and sweet. If I join a club here in college and I text my family group chat about it, my sister who is in high school joins the high school version of it immediately after.

My dad is the biggest influence in my life. He’s an engineer and I’m studying computer engineering at the University of Maryland. I go to him a lot for advice, and I’ve always been interested in his field of work.

I feel like I copy him in a lot of ways, like my sisters copy me. I set my goals in life, how I want to go about my life, and spend my free time by his example. I love spending time outdoors like my dad too.

I learned about Outward Bound through a teacher at my middle school. My mom was a Spanish teacher at the middle school I attended, and she knew my mom. We had a conversation one day and she told me I should apply for Outward Bound’s Get Out and Lead program.

My mom encouraged me to sign up, so I ended up applying and that’s how I got started with Outward Bound.

I did my first expedition in 2018, when I was transitioning from eighth grade to ninth grade. We were in the Appalachian Mountains and hiked from Pennsylvania down to Maryland.

It was very challenging, and I felt like as a middle schooler, I was not mentally prepared for the journey. I remember I spent a lot of the time just feeling miserable. I went in with expectations about how fun it would be. I didn’t expect it to rain. I didn’t expect my backpack to be so heavy.

I felt like I was blindsided by the reality of backpacking and camping, but I came out having learned a lot.

Steven on his GOAL Expedition, Photo: Dalton Johnson

That experience resulted in a big jump in my maturity. It helped me understand that there are certain things that need to be done, and you need to get them done when they need to be done. I learned that you can’t waste time because you’re just making it harder on yourself.

I remember there was a time where we wasted time in camp instead of setting up our tents, and then the rain got bad, and everything got wet. That was a lesson to not procrastinate and to handle your job when you’re supposed to.

My next expedition was in 2019 when I was a ninth grader about to go into my sophomore year of high school. I went in having my expectations set at the correct level. Having done an expedition before, I was a lot more prepared, and I was in good spirits.

The whole team had a very good bond, and we were all very supportive of each other. Morale was extremely high on this team. I can’t think of a single challenge because I was a part of an amazing team that always had my back, and I always had their backs.

The greatest takeaway I got from that expedition was the value of positivity in a team. It keeps morale high and makes the team better.

During that trip, we had a personal challenge group event. We were set on this island in the middle of the river, and they told us to make a raft that would float down the river successfully.

We had to find a bunch of sticks and build a raft together, and the whole time, everyone’s singing, talking, and getting the job done. No one’s slacking because we all saw it as a fun activity. We made the raft, and the objective of the whole activity was to have one person float down the river on the raft.

We made the raft so well that we were able to have the whole team get onto the raft, and we all floated down.

We beat that challenge and it was an amazing moment that showed how strong our bond was, and how that bond helped us succeed.

Photo: Dalton Johnson

The third expedition I took in the summer of 2022 was more challenging than the second. The second was a competitive scholarship event, so if you were there, it’s because you wanted to be there.

But, on this last expedition, people had other reasons to be there, or it wasn’t their choice, so some members of the team came in with different expectations and attitudes. So, the real challenge with this trip was holding it all together and trying to make sure that everything ran smoothly.

Part of overcoming this challenge was not being afraid to set boundaries. On the first night, I had to bring up an issue about being inclusive because there was a conversation during the car ride to camp that made other people uncomfortable.  

I could visibly see how it made people uncomfortable and I’m glad I brought it up because the people who felt uncomfortable came up to me later and said, thank you for addressing that.

It was difficult for me to bring it up because it’s not something that I’ve ever done before, but I came in knowing the value of having a cohesive team, and I didn’t want to see things fall apart.

I had to make an effort to be inclusive, and to also encourage other people to be inclusive, and to try and get along as well as possible.

That lesson and many others come to mind anytime something is challenging for me. I think back to my Outward Bound courses and I use the quote book our instructors gave us on that third trip to inspire me.

The quotes help keep me motivated, and the book is also a reminder of the bonds that were created, the challenges I faced and overcame on that last trip, and if I could do that, then I can fight through whatever challenge I come across.

Outward Bound strengthened my resolve. Through Outward Bound, I’ve tested myself and I’ve pushed myself to take on challenges. Before Outward Bound, I’d never gone hiking, kayaking, or canoeing.  After those experiences, I throw myself into things, and I make sure that I float.