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Raya’s New Direction: From Open Sky Student to Nonprofit Founder

Open Sky Alumni Student

Prior to arriving at Open Sky in 2017, alumni student Raya struggled with severe depression, anxiety, and a multitude of insecurities and life struggles. Here, she shares how attending Open Sky helped her reconnect to nature, strengthen her sense of self, and find a new direction in life.

How did your therapist and field guides impact your experience?

At Open Sky, my therapist was an amazing influence on my process and consistently assisted me to do my therapy work on my own. She helped me to get comfortable with the uncomfortable.

Each field guide also had an impact on me. Each guide provided me with a deeper sense of understanding for relationships. One of the most influential for me was Zoe. She was there for me through some of my toughest times at Open Sky, as an assertive and gentle guide.


What influence did your team have on your experience?

I was a part of Firefly! Firefly made my experience drastic and beautiful because of the connections I made with the other girls. I ended up going to my therapeutic boarding school with four other girls from my group, one of which was my student mentor.

How have your family dynamics changed?

My family work started at Open Sky. Both my parents were able to recognize that we all, collectively as a family, have our own personal growth. My family and I have never been closer, working to better our relationships every day. I am very grateful that I experienced Family Quest at Open Sky as well because it provided me the opportunity to connect with my family in a powerful natural setting.

What did you value most about your time at Open Sky?

I most valued the time spent in nature. I grew up in Colorado, spending my summers backpacking and my winters skiing. As I grew older, I started to push my sense of self away, the sense of self that included my love for nature. Attending Open Sky gave me the opportunity to connect with nature again in a unique and different perspective. I remember the first night I led a solo hike with nothing but the stars and a head lamp to light the way. Connecting to nature and being one with the earth allowed me to achieve my goal and make it back to camp.

What has your life been like since graduating?

I am currently a senior at my home public high school, working hard to make my dreams come true. In March of 2020, I started my own nonprofit mentorship program, Girls in Real Life (GIRL). Working with other students and peers in my community has allowed me to grow as a person. I have experienced what it is like to own my own business and continue to be a student at the same time. I am currently graduating in May and will be attending either Vanderbilt University or Florida State University. I want to major in public policy to help influence change within the education system. I am proud to say my story began at Open Sky and continues because of the work I put in there.


What would you say to a new Open Sky student?

Have an open mind. No matter what, new experiences can be tumultuous and scary. As long as you are open to a new perspective, everything offers new opportunities and gifts.

March 2nd, 2021

Open Sky Alumni Student