Open Sky’s monthly reConnect Call is a resource offered exclusively to Open Sky alumni students. The call takes place on the third Thursday of each month. The next call is Thursday, April 16. In this Q&A, our Alumni Relations team answers questions about the impact and value of this alumni service. For call-in details, email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Tanya Dalebout, Alumni & Family Liaison: The first part of the call is a mindfulness practice, led by Family Wellness Counselor Norman Elizondo. This typically includes guided meditation and breathing exercises, bringing awareness to our thoughts, emotions, and physical sensations. Following the mindful practice, those on the call have an opportunity to check-in. Alumni typically provide their first name, where they’re from, when they were at Open Sky, their team name, and one word that describes how they are feeling in that moment. Alumni also have the opportunity to return to their Open Sky roots with a 4-line feelings check. During the second half of the call, we pose a discussion topic that encourages dialogue and sharing. The level of engagement by the alumni on the call is supportive and thoughtful.
Rochelle Bochner, Alumni Relations Director: The call is open to any alumni student. On any given call, we have had 10-40 alumni, with graduation dates as far back as 2010 to as recent as just that week. Having a variety of alumni on the call provides unique perspectives and insight. Students who are currently in aftercare programs have been able to join too, often with others at their program who also graduated from Open Sky.
Tanya: Our most recent call—which took place near the beginning of the push for social distancing and the wave of stay-at-home orders—was our largest one yet. I think our alumni community (and our world in general) is craving connection at this time. Everyone was so supportive and helpful to each other throughout the call. They discover commonalities between each other, which enriches their conversations, advice, and encouragement.
The participants are grateful to hear Norman’s calming voice. With all of the stress and change surrounding us right now, this is their time to focus on grounding, and speaking or listening from a heart-centered place. Norman reminds them and guides them through just how simple this can be!
Rochelle: One of Open Sky’s core values is community. there is great value in staying connected with others who have shared experiences and language. On these calls, the students really listen to one another, relate to each other, and connect over their common thread of wilderness. “Oh, you were in Team Bodhi? So was I!” Or, “I felt the same way when I busted my first coal!” Or even, “I remember summiting that same peak!” It brings back the sense of peace, accomplishment, and camaraderie that was built in the wilderness and that they can still draw from today. I believe that from shared experiences comes healing.
More than anything, what stands out to me the most is this fine woven tapestry of shared language and experience that Open Sky has created for these students. No matter where alumni are in their walk of life, this call provides a space to gain support, comfort, and connection with others.
Tanya: I have found when conducting my 6-month alumni check-in calls with families, many express that they miss the connection with Open Sky. The reConnect Call is a way to keep open communication and connection with our alumni community. This gives alumni students comfort and forward momentum in their relationships and self-care—something needed even more during an unusual and uncertain time such as this. It’s also important to note that healthy community doesn’t mean we only express that everything is going great. On the call, students have acknowledged how they may be struggling, and this opened conversation about what they learned at Open Sky and those skills necessary to help work through those struggles.
Tanya: My favorite part of the reConnect Call is the introductions. Some students are a bit more hesitant to share, while others are giddy and excited. We’re all just different people with distinct personalities trying to connect…and it works! It’s fun to hear them warm up and discover similarities: “Oh, you’re from California? I’m from California!” Or, “You were in the field during summer 2018? So was I!” Whether they come onto the call feeling anxious, curious, overwhelmed, or relaxed, they find these commonalities, reminisce, and support each other.
Rochelle: I get on the calls pretty early and I listen to the students talk and reminisce amongst themselves before the call officially starts. Their energy is really infectious. I’m happy that Open Sky can provide this safe opportunity for our alumni students to connect.
Tanya: I love the fact that I can call families out of the blue for the six-month post-graduation check-in and say, “how’s it going?” and they truly share what’s going on for them and their child and family. They are so appreciative that Open Sky is thinking of them after graduating. I appreciate their openness and feedback and am honored by the opportunity to connect with alumni in this way.
Rochelle: We’re allowing the flame of Open Sky to stay lit by maintaining connection. I know from experience that this connection is a lifeline for many families. The gratitude that is expressed by our alumni and their parents is incredibly rewarding and gratifying.
Our next Alumni reConnect Call will take place on Thursday, April 16 at 7:00 p.m. Mountain Time. Email email@example.com for call-in details!