HISTORY & BUILDING BLOCKS
Open Roads began at Harvard University when Trevor Hall and Vicki Kennedy were Co-head Teaching Fellows for the renowned child psychiatrist Dr. Robert Coles’ course, A Literature of Social Reflection. This course was rooted in the documentary arts and was often referred to as class that would “change your life.” Most of the students were seniors at the college and used this class to reflect on their values and inform what life outcomes they would pursue. While teaching in this course, Trevor was also working with DoubleTake Magazine, a photographic and literary journal devoted to showcasing the extraordinary stories of everyday life, with the intent to reveal threads of our common human experience and an aim to generate more compassion and curiosity for the stories and people that surround us. In 2001 first Open Roads adventure was launched in partnership with DoubleTake, and our journey began!
After years of leading outdoor travel programs for young adults for a variety of companies, we saw the natural connection between travel in the outdoors and the documentary arts. -- both requiring us to step out of our comfort zone, ask life's big questions, learn to listen to the stories around us, and then to reflect on the lessons we gather to inform our own life path. We also recognized that too many young adults from low-income backgrounds simply did not positive experiences in the outdoors, nor did they have many role models or access to make it part of their lives. We felt strongly that this needed to change. With all of that as our foundation, we launched Open Roads and have since run more than 20 extended summer travel programs and providing in excess of 200 full scholarships to young adults from low-income backgrounds.
In 2010, we were thrilled to create a partnership with the Creative Visions Foundation, uniting two communities that believed fully in the power of the arts and adventure to inspire us all. That partnership continues to thrive today as we draw adventure guides, filmmakers, students, and inspiration from the incredible global tribe Creative Visions has nurtured through the magnetic leadership of Kathy, Amy, and of course, Dan.
One of the outcomes that we are most proud of is that while we serve kids from all backgrounds, we have been very fortunate to provide full scholarships to hundreds of students who otherwise would not be able to experience a summer travel program in the outdoors. Of those students, more than 98% have graduated high school and gone on to college (compared to a rate of between 50-70% among their socio-economic peers during that same period). All of them are now leading full and happy lives, effectively breaking the cycle of generational poverty.
At the heart of our success has been an unwavering commitment to providing a brand of learning that is focused on helping young adults use the lessons of nature, the self-discovery offered through learning to listen to the stories of others, and the creative agency that comes from exploring the documentary arts, to instill an unshakable belief (often called “self-efficacy”) in their ability to achieve positive Life Outcomes.
Open Roads has extended the impact of its work through invitations for our graduates to speak at venues including the Russell Senate Office Building, Deepak Chopra’s Alliance for a New Humanity, TEDx events, and many others. Our student films have been showcased on Disney’s Freeform channel, at the Seattle Art Museum, at Harvard’s Graduate School of Education, the Chicago Cultural Center, and more.
To further extend our reach, we have produced dozens of short films highlighting Open Roads and other good work around the world, which included selling a -6-part short film series about Open Roads to Disney's Freeform Channel, producing an hour-long film about the importance of early childhood education with the Sal Zaentz Foundation that was featured at SXSW EDU, and helping to produce a documentary feature film, SOUFRA, that profiled the launch of the groundbreaking all-women led food truck business inside a Lebanese refugee camp, which was sold to Hulu and numerous international territories.
VISION FOR THE FUTURE
As we look to the future we will continue running travel adventures that inspire us all, and producing stories of our travels to reach as broad an audience as possible. At the same time, we have set an audacious goal to open a fully-endowed camp and creative retreat center to increase the number of young adults we can welcome to the outdoors, and also provide a place for change-makers (all of us) to gather, refill our wells of inspiration, and continue doing all we can as a community to make the world a better place.