QUINCY -- Spaces are still available for this summer's North Carolina Outward Bound School Expedition, a trip offered by Outward Bound, a nonprofit educational organization that allows students to participate in challenging journeys that focus on character development, leadership and service.
The Tracy Family Foundation is providing scholarships to students ages 14 to 18 in Adams, Brown and Pike counties who want to attend the expedition. Applications can be submitted at local YMCA branches.
"It's an amazing opportunity for the right individual," said Cristy Fuller, Quincy Family YMCA after-school coordinator, "somebody outdoorsy, who is adventurous and isn't afraid of a challenge."
Chase Dowdy was one of those who exited his comfort zone by hiking up the side of a mountain all day, sleeping in a makeshift camp each night, and spending about a week in the wild.
Dowdy participated in the North Carolina Outward Bound School Expedition last summer.
"It opened me up to what I was able to do, what I was capable of," said Dowdy, 14, a Quincy High School freshman. "If you want to push yourself past your limits, I would recommend it."
Dowdy went on the trip with 11 other students. They hauled around rucksacks, purified water from streams for drinking, and hiked whenever the sun was shining. The second half of the trip was spent whitewater canoeing in two-person canoes.
They had no phones -- no electronics of any sort -- and no other contact with home or the outside world. After a day or so, they were like family, Dowdy said.
"It was a mountain, so the hiking was a little intense for some people," he said. "It really does help you, but you have to be able to handle the outdoors."
As difficult as the trip was, the first thing he told his parents upon returning home was that he would go back if given the opportunity.
"It's a different experience for everyone," Dowdy said. "For me, it was eye-opening."
Outward Bound has been offering expeditions for more than 50 years. The program's four pillars -- physical fitness, craftsmanship, self-reliance and compassion -- are incorporated into each trip. Students are challenged to learn new skills and more about themselves through shared challenges, adversity, failure and success. A large part of Outward Bound focuses on group dynamics.
"I would love to see more city kids who have never experienced the outdoors," Fuller said. "Just put down your phone and go. Don't let the opportunity pass you by."