Open Sky Founder & CEO Aaron Fernandes was honored to present at the 2019 Economic Summit of the La Plata County Development Alliance on October 23. The Economic Summit engages our region’s top leaders and decision-makers from the business, government, and academic communities with strategic dialogue related to the current economic impacts and future growth of our community.
Aaron Fernandes delivered the summit’s closing keynote presentation, wrapping up the event’s theme of “Forward Together”. This theme, Aaron pointed out, closely aligns with the spirit of the work at Open Sky, to help families and individuals “find the way forward”. By facing the intrinsic challenges of living in the wilderness, students develop confidence which leads to self-efficacy, allowing them to move forward in their own lives and communities. This experience is a rite of passage, marking the transition for individuals into a new chapter of life.
While Open Sky is a rite of passage for its students, Aaron encouraged everyone at the summit to seek out, recognize, and welcome the rites of passage in their own lives and work experience. “Whether it is overcoming a unique challenge, taking a job beyond your skillset, or beginning a business, all of these are rites of passage if we embrace them to be so and see them through the right lens.”
The “Forward Together” theme was woven through Aaron’s story of starting Open Sky, building upon his vision for a wilderness therapy rite of passage for young people. In order to do this, Aaron needed capital, a team, and engagement with the local community. Throughout the process of starting Open Sky, Aaron did not steer away from the foundational components of his vision: whole, organic, healthy food as medicine; conducting research; family involvement; and meditation and yoga. He built momentum by forming a dedicated team and seeking support from local advocates, experts, and investors.
The result is a locally owned and operated company that grew from 25 full-time employees at its inception in 2006 to 165 full-time employees today. Over the last 13.5 years, Open Sky has treated more than 2,700 adolescents, young adults and their families from across the U.S. and the world, moving forward together in healing, recovery, and growth.
Aaron celebrated and thanked the Durango community, encouraging its leaders at the Economic Summit to “continue to support those with big ideas, moving forward in the right way.”
With deep gratitude for the local support and connections, Aaron and Open Sky as a whole are committed to its positive economic and environmental impact on the local region.