The five days Jim McVay spent in the woods with nine of his friends were, by his description, the "toughest" days of his life.
"There were a lot of challenges I had to face," said the 17-year-old senior at Broadneck High School. "But I would do it again in a heartbeat."
Jim and his friends, together with a faculty adviser, spent those chilly October days in Greenridge State Forest in Cumberland County as part of an Outward Bound program that teaches leadership and builds trust. Broadneck is one of two Anne Arundel County schools participating in the program, said Rene Domengauer, program coordinator at Broadneck. The school's students have been participating in Outward Bound for four years.
"The program is designed to be very challenging both physically and emotionally," she said. "There are no luxuries. No blow dryers, no televisions, no VCRs."
Outward Bound, a national organization, provides wilderness adventure programs for the general public and public high school students. Broadneck's students participated in the Peer Leadership program that helps kids learn how to solve problems in groups, conquer emotional and physical challenges and learn by experience.
During their five-day trek through the woods, the students engaged in rock climbing, used ropes to climb trees, and worked on other physical and mental challenges. Guides and Outward Bound instructors accompanied the group on the expeditions.
Those physical and mental challenges taught them skills they hope will serve them throughout their lives.
"It's hard to explain, but when you are with a group, after a while, you bond," said Molly Hall, an 18-year-old senior. "I learned a lot about group dynamics and how people interact with each other in stressful situations."
Part of Outward Bound requires students to participate in a community service project. This year, the students received a $500 grant from the Chesapeake Bay Foundation to build oyster gardens on private piers along Meredith Creek, just south of the Bay Bridge. The group started working the Chesapeake Bay Foundation last year.
"They planted marsh grasses to help slow erosion along the creek," Ms. Domengauer said.