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NYC Outward Bound Schools celebrated 35 years as an organization on July 1, 2022! Enjoy this look back through our history — beginning with our founding in 1987 and following our growth and partnership with NYC’s public schools through three and a half decades. 


Outward Bound USA approves the charter for NYC Outward Bound Schools, making it the first independent Outward Bound center in the country.

We begin paired youth-adult and develop our first school-based program at South Shore High in response to racial tensions in the school.


Several NYC high schools — George Washington, South Bronx,  Eastern District — start incorporating our programs and practices.


We build the 50-foot Alpine Climbing Tower in Gateway National Recreation Area, Brooklyn.


We conduct our first programs for public school teachers and professional development for corporate groups.


We open our first “whole school,” The School for the Physical City, incorporating the Expeditionary Learning model.

Our students start Rebels with a Cause, a youth-run program for children ages 8-13 in the South Bronx.


By our 10th anniversary, more than 10,000 students have experienced our programs. We open three new schools as part of our growing network.


Our Board of Directors completes a $7.5 million Millennium Campaign for a headquarters and program center. We purchase and renovate our five-story building in Long Island City, Queens, which becomes our permanent headquarters.


We join Mayor Bloomberg’s initiative to create 200 small public schools.

We launch our citywide UNITY program for high school students in response to 9/11.


The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation gives $4.8 million for NYC Outward Bound Schools to create six new small schools in NYC.


We introduce a five-day backpacking trip for incoming freshmen at our initiative schools.


We open a five-story rock climbing wall — the largest outdoor climbing wall in NYC — on the back of our Long Island City office building.

The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation grants NYC Outward Bound Schools $3.12 million to open four additional small schools.

By our 20th anniversary, we’ve reached 40,000 students from more than 250 schools.


After opening our 10th school — the Metropolitan Expeditionary Learning School in Queens — we become the first NYC Department of Education partner to have started schools in all five boroughs.


WHEELS’ Assistant Principal Jenny Rodriguez creates the College March and launches the first march at WHEELS, a NYC Outward Bound School in Washington Heights, in partnership with Capital One Bank and the United States Postal Service (USPS).


We launch our To & Through College program, which aims to help high school students — many of whom will be the first in their family to attend college — navigate their way through the college search, application and enrollment process, as well as to provide support for alumni during their college years.


President Obama mentions WHEELS’ College March in his 2014 State of the Union address. With our support, 19 high schools in nine cities across the country host their own College Marches.


We launch “Select Strategies” to bring our most effective and high-impact work to scale through professional development and coaching in Crew, Project-Based Learning and Student-Engaged Assessment.


As the COVID-19 pandemic hits NYC, schools close their doors and learning transitions online. We meet the moment by adapting our school coaching and field programming, among other work, to a virtual environment. Virtual Crew serves as a social-emotional lifeline during the pandemic for many students who are isolated at home or grieving the loss of loved ones.


City Council approves a $1.6 million grant to have us bring Crew programming to 50 new partner schools across the city. Crew Initiative comes at the ideal time — both for students who have been disengaged for over a year, and for teachers who are seeking camaraderie and support in their advisory work.


Vanessa Rodriguez succeeds founding CEO Richard Stopol as our new leader, bringing decades of experience in improving public school education to the role.

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