Featured Team Members: Tanya Dalebout, BA
After a year of staying at home and social distancing, many people realize the importance of developing and maintaining relationships more than ever before. Tanya Dalebout, Open Sky’s alumni relations manager, has noticed that as she conducts her six-month check-ins with alumni students and family, many express that they miss their connection with Open Sky. Fortunately, Open Sky offers alumni a reliable resource for staying connected to one another and the Open Sky community: the monthly Alumni reConnect Call.
“The reConnect Call is a way to keep open communication and connection with our alumni community,” said Tanya. “It gives alumni students comfort and forward momentum in their relationships and self-care, something needed even more during such an unusual and uncertain time as this.”
The monthly reConnect Call takes place on the third Thursday of each month. During the reConnect Call, alumni students reinvigorate the centering and mindfulness skills they learned at Open Sky and have time to share with and hear from other students on the call. It is an opportunity to reconnect with the Open Sky community while building skills, honoring values, and strengthening relationships.
The first part of the call is a mindfulness practice led by a family wellness counselor or primary therapist. This typically includes guided meditation and breathing exercises that bring awareness to thoughts, emotions, and physical sensations. Following the mindfulness 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. For Tanya, this is her favorite part of the call.
“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,” she said. “It’s fun to hear them warm up and discover similarities like, ‘You’re from California? I’m from California!’ or, ‘You were in the field during summer 2018? So was I!’ Whether they join the call feeling anxious, curious, overwhelmed, or relaxed, they find these commonalities, reminisce, and support each other.”
During the second half of the call, the facilitator poses a discussion topic that encourages dialogue and sharing. The level of engagement by the alumni on the call is supportive and thoughtful. Participants reconnect with the senses of accomplishment and camaraderie they built in the wilderness and discover the similarities they share, which enriches their conversations, advice, and encouragement of one another. No matter where alumni are in their lives, this call provides a space to access support, comfort, and connection with each other and experience healing through shared experience.
“This call is a great way to remind me of all I learned at the program and to reconnect myself to the amazing memories I made in the Utah high desert,” said Open Sky alumni student D.H. “This program has done so much for me and I am grateful that Open Sky offers the calls for no charge. They truly want everyone to keep the skills they learned in the wilderness with them for the rest of their lives.”
The reConnect Call is open to any alumni student, whether they graduated ten years ago or that very week. Having a variety of alumni on the call provides unique perspectives and insight. Students who are currently in aftercare programs are also able to join, often with others at their program who also graduated from Open Sky. The number of people who join the call can range from 10 to 40, and Tanya notes that since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, the reConnect Calls have been particularly well-attended.
“I think our alumni community, and our world in general, is craving connection at this time,” said Tanya. “With all the stress and change surrounding us right now, the reConnect Call is a time to focus on grounding and speaking and listening from a heart-centered place.”
Our next Alumni reConnect Call will take place on Thursday, April 15 at 7:00 p.m. Mountain Time.