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In Memory of Heather Hess Haynes (1976-2020)

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A true nature lover and adventure seeker, Heather Haynes spent the entirety of her professional career in outdoor experiential education serving students of all ages. 

Before arriving at NYC Outward Bound Schools, Heather worked for Genesee Valley Learning Center, the Princeton Blairstown Center and Brown University. She spent 10 years with the Princeton-Blairstown Center (PBC), serving as co-director of programs and mentoring and managing a large team of staff. Early in her career there, she designed curriculum for programs ranging from one-day ropes courses to multi-week long canoeing, backpacking and bicycle expeditions. 

These activities weren’t just work for Heather, but rather, passions. She was an experienced swimmer, skier and hiker, practiced meditation, and loved taking time away from the city to enjoy the outdoors.

During her tenure with PBC as a co-director, she played a crucial role in establishing partnerships with NYC Outward Bound Schools, allowing the Adventure and Team Building programs to use PBC Facilities for multiple years. This partnership was how Heather eventually landed at NYC Outward Bound Schools as a lead instructor and course director, and most recently, staffing manager. 

“I’m so glad she ended up where she did,” said Barbara Haynes, Heather’s mother. “She so often told me, ‘Mom, this is always the place I wanted to be.’”

As a course director, Heather specialized in delivering overnight adventure retreats and backpacking expeditions, and was a favorite among repeat clients. She also mentored several course directors in training and standardized many systems that are still in place today.

As staffing manager, Heather expertly recruited, hired and directed NYC Outward Bound Schools’ team of seasonal field instructors, providing them with more than just training — often, a compassionate and empathetic shoulder to lean on, as well. 

“The moment that she greeted us field instructors as the staffing manager, I felt warm and safe,” said colleague Leah Dembinski. “She opened up a discussion about her expectations of us and our expectations of her in such a way that was so transparent, so authentic and so genuine to what she was doing and her desire to serve us as best she could.”

Even while battling her own illness, Heather was concerned with the well-being of others, always putting her staff first and making sure that they were well-equipped to do their jobs and serve students. Her colleagues on the Program Support Team agree that she was purposeful with her communication and planning, ensuring that tasks were done the right way, not just the easy way. 

Heather passed away on February 29, 2020, surrounded by her loving mother Barbara, brother Bill, family and friends. 

The following week, donned in unicorn paraphernalia to show their love and support of the adrenal cancer network, the NYC Outward Bound Schools community gathered to share their favorite memories and stories of Heather. 

“We feel privileged to have had Heather as a vital member of our community for over five years, said Richard Stopol, President and CEO of NYC Outward Bound Schools. “Her admirable dedication to our staff and organization as well as unique spirit will continue to inspire us and give even greater meaning to the work that we do.”

Read a tribute to Heather in the Garden City News.

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