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NYC Outward Bound Schools celebrates 35th anniversary as school year comes to a close

For the past three and a half decades, NYC Outward Bound Schools has pivoted to meet the changing needs of our schools, students and educators — and this year was no different.

The 2021-22 school year saw the return to in-person learning after two years of hybrid and remote school. For educators in New York City, this historic transition back to the classroom presented an opportunity to reimagine existing structures to ensure all students were engaged and supported, and to make important steps toward educational equity. For us at NYC Outward Bound Schools, this meant helping our school partners re-engage and rebuild strong school communities centered around belonging.

July 1 marks our 35th anniversary as an organization. As we celebrate, we honor the past — the strong foundation of expertise that has led us this far — and look toward the future, ready to continue this critical work with new, innovative ideas.



Vanessa Rodriguez Joins NYC Outward Bound Schools as CEO

In January 2022, we welcomed Vanessa Rodriguez as our new Chief Executive Officer. Bringing more than 25 years of experience to the role, Vanessa came to us from her role leading Citizens of the World Charter Schools, a network of schools that shares NYC Outward Bound’s focus on marrying academic rigor and social-emotional learning.

Vanessa succeeded founding CEO Richard Stopol, who led NYC Outward Bound for over 34 years, and continues to act as an advisor to the organization. The process of recruiting NYC Outward Bound’s next leader was driven by equity and inclusivity, and led by executive search and talent strategy firm Axis Talent Partners.

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NYC Outward Bound Schools Welcomes Vanessa Rodriguez as New CEO.

Watch a Video

Meet Vanessa and hear more about what drives her passion for education.

Read an OpEd

Read Vanessa’s OpEd on student wellness published in The 74 — How Outward Bound Schools Support Student Wellness — & Learning.


Building Belonging

Crew Initiative Launches in Partnership with the Department of Education

Thanks to a $1.575 million grant from the City, NYC Outward Bound Schools kicked off its very first Crew Initiative cohort in October 2021, representing the largest expansion of Crew programming to date. With tailored one-on-one support from our staff, 49 schools worked on building the capacity to implement, refresh or revision Crew — NYC Outward Bound’s signature advisory and community building program — in their school communities this year. Crew Initiative also created camaraderie and a shared sense of purpose among educators from across the city who participated.

The Initiative centered around building belonging in schools that demonstrated a need to reengage their communities post-pandemic. Why belonging? Research shows that students who feel they have a voice in school are seven times more likely to be academically motivated than those who feel they do not.

We look forward to continuing this work in the coming year with the support of a renewed $1.6 million grant from the City and funding from private partners including Bloomingdale’s, Tiger Foundation and New York Community Trust.

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City Awards NYC Outward Bound Schools $1.575M to Bring Crew to More Schools.

Watch a Video

Hear from our Crew Coaches and Crew Guides about the process of working together during year one of Crew Initiative.

By the Numbers

Nearly 10,000 students across the city were impacted by Crew Initiative this year.

Celebrating the Return of In-Person Field Programming

September marked the return of in-person field programming, and this year, NYC Outward Bound Schools staff tailored sessions specifically for students returning to their school communities after two years of hybrid and remote learning.

The “Crew Connect” and “Community Connect” programs were born out of a need to keep students socially distanced while providing authentic opportunities for them to get to know their peers, their schools, and the larger community.

The spring ushered in the grand reopening of our climbing wall, as well! In total, our instructors facilitated an incredible 85 programs this year. 

Learn More

Learn more about our Adventure & Team Building field programs.

By the Numbers

6,117 students and educators were served through field programs this year.



Designing A School Without Walls

Over the past year, NYC Outward Bound Schools collaborated with a design team and group of student interns to build the foundations of A School Without Walls, NYC’s first hybrid school program. The design team was supported by our School Designer/Coach Tanai Hall and Crew Coach Michelle Alers, and led by Veronica Coleman, formerly the principal of Kurt Hahn, an NYC Outward Bound School in East Flatbush. Veronica worked closely with Evan O’Connell, a founding teacher at MELS, an NYC Outward Bound School in Forest Hills, and Sharine Rowe, a science teacher, internship coordinator and chair of the internship department at City-As High School.

The hybrid program will enroll up to 100 9th graders this year, and incorporate student-led passion projects, internships, and NYC Outward Bound structures like Crew. The aim is to grow it into a four-year high school.

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NYC Outward Bound Plays Key Role in Designing City’s First Hybrid School Program.

Read a Press Release

See the official announcement of A School Without Walls programming from the Department of Education.

Visit the Website

Learn more about how to apply to A School Without Walls.

Working Toward Equitable Outcomes

Over the past year, NYC Outward Bound Schools has strengthened its organizational muscle around being more outcomes-based and adaptive in our work with schools, with a particular focus on equity gaps for Black, Latino, and low-income students. Specifically, we have worked to sharpen our focus on indicators which have proven to be predictors of post secondary success — GPA and attendance. We are utilizing a continuous improvement approach as the tool to ensure our work focused on belonging, agency and engagement leads to these equitable outcomes.

This year, we also created and supported two improvement networks — the “Moving Toward Equity Cohort,” a subset of our network schools, and our Crew Initiative network. Both groups are actively participating in continuous improvement practices by implementing small “change ideas” and examining outcomes in impact.


View an Infographic

See a visual representation of NYC Outward Bound Schools’ working Theory of Impact.

Learn More

Learn more about continuous improvement by reading “Analysis: A Case Study of How Laying a Foundation of Continuous Improvement Allows for Rapid Response to Student Learning” in The 74.


Post Secondary Success

The 11th Annual College March

More than 2,200 seniors from across the NYC Outward Bound Schools network and beyond marched the final pieces of their college applications to post offices and mailboxes on December 10, as the College March returned to an in-person format for the first time since 2019.

The event was an emotional experience for this year’s seniors who were just sophomores when the pandemic started. Two network schools — the Institute for Health Professions at Cambria Heights and West End Secondary School — celebrated their very first College Marches!

This year, graduates from our schools will be heading to colleges including Columbia, Cornell, Hofstra, Howard, Ithaca, NYU, Pace, St. John’s, Vassar, and Wesleyan, as well as the full range of CUNYs and SUNYs.

Browse Photos

See a photo gallery and video recap of the 2021 College March.

By the Numbers

2,250 seniors from 25 schools in 10 cities around the country participated in the 2021 College March.

Students Explore Career Pathways

This spring, NYC Outward Bound Schools hosted or facilitated several events that introduced career opportunities for students considering various post secondary pathways.

In February, to celebrate Black History Month, Launch co-hosted a Black Futures Career Panel for 8th graders, holding space for an engaging conversation with six Black and Latino professionals in careers ranging from law to photography. Several of the professionals are also part of or connected to the NYC Outward Bound New Leaders junior board.

In April, the Post Secondary Success team hosted a virtual Career & Technical Program fair, connecting students from across the network with automotive, technology, and medical training programs, among others.

Read More

Launch Hosts Black Futures Career Panel.

Thank You To...

Several of our long-standing corporate partners who volunteered with us this year:

  • Salesforce
  • O’Melveny & Myers
  • AIG
  • Capital One

Peer Leaders Program Expands

This spring, the Peer Leaders program expanded to include six alumni who work with five network schools. Through this program, our Post Secondary Success staff trains a team of our alumni who are currently enrolled in college to act as mentors and provide peer support to younger mentees during their senior year of high school and first year of college.

This year, the Peer Leaders conducted in-person workshops to support smoother matriculation to college this fall. A pair of Peer Leaders worked together to reach out to directors of Higher Education Opportunity Programs (HEOP) to better understand the academic range of their programs and help our students with their “best fit” college lists. And in June at our annual Senior Meet-Up, Peer Leaders helped support and connect students to others across the network who are taking similar post secondary pathways.

Many thanks to our Peer Leaders Maleka Stewart (Channel View), Katelyn Riley O’Connor (Channel View), Stiven Vasquez Nunez (Brooklyn Collaborative), Andrew Wong (MELS), Mamona Sajid (Leaders), and Jah-ni Fleary (Kurt Hahn).

Thank You To...

Our Post Secondary Success funders:

  • Reisenbach Foundation
  • Capital One
  • The Carroll and Milton Petrie Foundation
  • Heavenly Rest Church


Student Activism

Sixth Annual Gun Violence Walkout Follows Tragedies in Buffalo & Uvalde

Each year at Launch, an NYC Outward Bound middle school in Weeksville, Brooklyn, 7th graders participate in a 6-8 week interdisciplinary case study on disrupting gun violence in their community. This learning expedition requires students to analyze the topic through various lenses within their reading, writing, social studies, art, science and math classes. To culminate the expedition, Launch students work with community partner Save Our Streets Brooklyn (S.O.S.) to organize and stage a gun violence walkout that engages the local community. The march felt particularly relevant this year, coming shortly after the tragedies in Buffalo and Uvalde. 

Browse Photos

See photos from Launch’s gun violence walkout on June 3 in Brooklyn.

The Period Project Takes Off

Four 8th graders at MS 839, an NYC Outward Bound middle school in Windsor Terrace, Brooklyn, kick-started a school-wide campaign to provide feminine hygiene products in all of the bathrooms and help erase the stigma of shame over menstruation. Over the course of two years, the project has expanded well beyond MS 839 through viral social media posts and a GoFundMe campaign, and the students have helped other schools start their own Period Projects. Anika, Sadie, Mimi and Barra, the students behind the operation, applied for and received District Council Participatory Funding. In the fall, they will work with council members in their district to plan and deliver workshops about The Period Project to students around the city.

Visit the Website

Visit The Period Project’s website to learn more, support the effort and get involved.

Student Advisory Council Advocates for Network Needs

For the second year in a row, NYC Outward Bound Schools facilitated a Student Advisory Council comprised of several students from across our network. This group gathered throughout the year to advocate on behalf of their peers and offer different perspectives on student needs to help improve the network as a whole. This year in particular, the Student Advisory Council was instrumental in providing feedback on our Theory of Impact, discussing what belonging means, and identifying what is most important about Crew.

Many thanks to our 2021-22 Student Advisory Council members Angel Caceres (WHEELS), Djeneba Aicha Sanogo (West End Secondary School), Ife Toussaint (Leaders), Lookman Mustapha (IHPCH), Marcus Hopper (West End Secondary School), Miriam Muntasser (Leaders), Nora Kovacevic (MAELS), Tailan Hamilton (Launch),  Saniyah Barrett (Launch), and Summer Johnson (MAELS).

Read More

Meet our Student Advisory Council members.


Award-Winning Educators

Leaders’ Dana Nelson Wins Gaynor McCown Excellence in Teaching Award

This year’s R. Gaynor McCown Excellence in Teaching Award was presented to Dana Nelson, a 12th grade humanities teacher at Leaders High School in Bensonhurst, Brooklyn. Dana was chosen from a talented group of educators from across the network for her dedication to her students — namely, for helping to ensure that her diverse class of students always feel represented and seen in the curriculum. She has helped foster an environment where students are comfortable and prepared to engage in college-level discussions with their peers.

Dana has also been instrumental in helping to shape Leaders’ Performance-Based Assessments (PBATs) and implement a restorative justice program at the school.

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Leaders’ Dana Nelson Wins 2022 R. Gaynor McCown Excellence in Teaching Award.

Watch a Video

See a Socratic Seminar in action in Dana Nelson’s 12th grade humanities classroom.

Erick Espin Wins EL Education’s Klingenstein Award

Erick Espin, a history teacher at WHEELS, was recognized with this year’s prestigious Klingenstein Award, presented annually by EL Education, to a teacher who builds exemplary character, drives outstanding academic achievement, and instills in students an ethic of “citizen scholarship.”

A Washington Heights native like many of his own students, Erick has a special connection to the community he serves. In the classroom, he is intentional in spending time studying and celebrating non-white ancient civilizations like the Olmecs, Mayans and Chin Dynasty, instead of just the Greek and Roman Empires. He encourages students to make connections to issues they’re experiencing in their own communities with historical events, and to always question who is being represented in the story, and who is not.

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WHEELS’ Erick Espin Wins National Teaching Award. 

Read More

Making Modern History: An Impact Report Story.

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