The National Society of Leadership & Success Students Discover Panama with Outward Bound Costa Rica


Photos by: Gianna D’Aloia, NSLS member

Seven students from The National Society of Leadership & Success (NSLS) found an email in their inbox this past spring, describing an opportunity to discover Panama with Outward Bound Costa Rica this summer. The Panama 18+ Expedition course was full of outdoor activities from serving local communities, earning a scuba diving certificate and sea kayaking, to learning about new cultures and languages along the way.

Photo by Elizabeth Osborne

Photo by Elizabeth Osborne

For Rick, he chose this course because, “I was looking for an adventure in an environment I’ve never been in before, and the course description totally blew me away. I immediately decided to sign up.”

As a Marine Biology major, Gianna, “wanted to be scuba certified and get out of my comfort zone.”

These NSLS students came from across the US representing Texas, Oklahoma, New Jersey, Rhode Island, and Colorado. A few days prior to landing in Costa Rica, their feelings teetered on the edge between excitement and anxiety for the adventures that loomed ahead.

DSC_0331Their nerves drifted away as they settled into our rainforest base and began their journey to Panama with their Instructor, Colvin. After crossing the border into Panama, they were treated to the most spectacular tropical views as they clambered into a boat headed for Isla Solarte—their home for the next few days.

They were met the next day by Jim, Executive Director of OBCR and resident Scuba Instructor who began instruction against the backdrop of the beautiful waters of Bocas del Toro. While sitting on a dock with the most picturesque views of the water, this crew began soaking up information that would earn them their scuba certification.

When not diving, students were treated to wakeboarding through the Panamanian islands and volunteering their time with an indigenous school.


At the school, NSLS students were privy to a unique cultural experience: interacting with local students, practicing their Spanish, and exchanging knowledge and customs from the U.S.

“My best memory was meeting the kids in Bocas del Toro and getting my scuba certification.” -Cassidy, age 21 from Houston, Texas

“It was an experience that I will never forget; and I learned new things and met new friends for life.” -Hunter from Tulsa, Oklahoma

By mid-week NSLS students completed scuba training in shallow waters, and were completing full dives, including heading out at sunset for their first night dive surrounded by jaw-dropping bioluminescence!

After enjoying the beautiful waters of the Bocas del Toro archipelago on several wreck dives and free dives, the NSLS students were prepared to sit down for their scuba exam. Each one of them passed with flying colors!

DSC_0366On their last day before transferring back to our Costa Rica base, they ventured out on a full day sea kayaking expedition—paddling from island to island through the turquoise waters.

In times of laughter and challenge, their instructors, Jim and Colvin, were there for them every step of the way.

“Colvin and Jim made my experience the best I believe that it could be.” -Hunter

“Our instructors were so knowledgeable and made sure we learned as much as possible. They were great, inspiring people.” -Dante, age 23 from Lincoln, Rhode IslandDSC_0375

“Both Colvin and Jim really made my whole experience a level better than I thought it would be. Colvin especially felt like an older brother; exceptionally friendly, yet always kept us on task.” -Rick, age 18 from Princeton, New Jersey

“Jim had a huge impact on my experience through the course because he pushed me to test my limits in wake boarding and scuba.” -Greg, age 23 from Durango, Colorado

On their last night on base, each of them shared with us something they took away from their experience:


“Before I started this course, I had become a somewhat materialistic person. After, I’ve change my ways on things and am more appreciative.”- Greg, age 23 from Durango, Colorado

“This experience was very rewarding since it pushed me to the edge and gave me a new perspective on life.” -Elizabeth, age 22 from Glocester, Rhode Island

Dante said that before coming on this trip she felt comfortable but less worldly. After having experienced this course, she described herself as “physically, mentally, and emotionally stronger.” She also described her time at Outward Bound Costa Rica as, “an adventure that tested my limits and allowed me to expand my comfort zone in a way that has made me learn more about myself and my capabilities.” -Dante, age 23 from Lincoln, Rhode Island

Through all of the memories that these NSLS students came away with, perhaps the best and most surprising part of the experience was starting as seven strangers and ending having formed bonds that will extend long after their flight home. This NSLS group became a family.


Photo by Hunter Austin

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