The year two thousand and twelve came and went and (fingers crossed) we’re all still here to look back and remember it. What an exciting year it was for us here at Explore Austin!
We’ve had changes big and small, but all of great importance to the team.
ONE- The Switch
Most notably (and it’s highly unlikely you missed it) our fearless leader Todd Hanna moved on to new opportunities, not leaving us behind, simply “Changing Seats on the Bus” and Mike Braeuer stepped up from CFO to our new CEO & President. Mike has seamlessly adapted to his new position and is full of new and fresh ideas.
TWO- The Bird
The second radical change for Explore was announced at this month’s mentor training session. You would have thought you were at a Lynyrd Skynyrd concert, the way the crowd errupted at the announcement of “Freebirds!”. Burritos for all! Beginning in 2013, every Explorer and mentor will get to peel back the foil and enjoy a warm, delicious Freebird’s burrito lunch on their monthly Saturday Excursions. Yum! Big shout out to mentor, Justin Collett, for connecting us to this fantastic partnership.
THREE- The Pioneers
The Class of 2012 set all kinds of precedents this year. The class pioneered our Expedition Year Program – six of the oldest Explorers continued on to a seventh year, spent as Junior Mentors for the youngest class of Explorers. They attended Saturday Excursions, Tuesday morning mentoring sessions at KIPP twice per month, and helped lead the 2012 Summer Wilderness Trips. This program connects the dots and truly brings the experience full circle. The Explorers become the mentors and have an opportunity to put the leadership skills they have learned into practice.
FOUR- The Graduates
Not only did our first class launch a new program this year, but we are beyond proud to announce that 100% of the Class of 2012 graduated from KIPP Austin Collegiate this year and that ALL of the grads were accepted to a four year university!
FIVE- The Linguist
This Fall we added a new member to our Staff, the wonderful, lovely Lysa Kraft—our new Program Communications Coordinator/Office Manager. She’s rocking it as a point of contact for our Explorer families. For the first time ever, we have someone with whom they can communicate freely and easily, to whom they can express there concerns, and who can answer their questions. Try as we might, the (pre-Lysa) rehearsed and broken Spanish that we provided via various staff members didn’t quite measure up to the fluent understanding that Lysa provides.
SIX- The Lights
Trail of Lights is BACK, and we couldn’t be happier to be a part of it. The RunTex Carrozza Foundation and Forefront Austin Networks have collaborated to bring the Trail of Lights back to life after its two year hiatus. We will participate in the Trail of Lights and benefit from the festivities as one of the non profit partners. Come visit us in the Dell Nonprofit Tent as you stroll along through the lights- we’ll be there Wednesday, December 19th and Sunday, December 23rd.
SEVEN- The Challenge
These past few months, our own Robbie Jane Paup has put herself up to a personal challenge—The Stand-Up Desk. On September 29th, RJ raised her desk up on cinder blocks and commited to standing while working through the end of 2012. Obviously, we, her supportive coworkers, took her personal challenge, and made bets. Some had little faith and some trusted in her determination (read stubborn side) to prove the haters wrong and keep her motivated through to the end.
Sadly, the standing lasted without waiver for 101 days until (do to illness) she took a seat on November 29th. The victors? Mike, RJ, and myself. And despite the momentary lapse- she’s back at it again, standing as I blog (and as I sit, in my oh-so-comfy chair). How long will she last? Check back in 2013 for an update.
EIGHT- The Quest
While we are already amping up for our 4th Annual Quest for the Summit, it is fun to look back to last March at our 3rd Annual Quest for the Summit. The event was a blast — and a success to boot! Held at the nationally aclaimed Contigo Austin, the cocktails, hors d’oeuvres, and of course the company, couldn’t be beat. In the end our supporters came together to raise $150,000 (a 50% increase from the previous years event!).
NINE- The Trip
Summer Wilderness Trips reached new heights this year! Every class took a week-long trip to Colorado—each taking on the new challenges, from mountain biking to canoeing. Our Class of 2017 Girls were the first female class to spend multiple nights in the wilderness on their five-day Backcountry Climbing Trip. All of the girls set new personal bests at McCurdy Tower (and nearly all summited the 300 ft. climb!). The Class of 2013 was the second class to summit Longs Peak—a grueling 15 mile hike that required an alpine start at 2:30am! The boys of the Class of 2014 may have been the only Explorers to experience winter weather in 2012. During their trip they encountered snowy conditions on French Gulch Pass and engaged in an epic snow ball fight. Every class had a once in a lifetime experience this summer, achieved new goals, pushed past new bounderies.
TEN- The Pathfinders
This summer we launched our Pathfinders Club, a program for the long term supporters of Explore Austin. In the first year, we had 12 Pathfinders make this three-year financial commitment that allows Explore Austin to better budget into the future. Through this program we have already secured revenue for 2013 and 2014, ensuring the Explore will continue to change lives in the years to come.
ELEVEN- The Community
In 2012, Explore Austin continued to grow and recognition has spread. In the early years, when those involved with Explore mentioned the program, they were met with blank stares. Lately that has changed—more and more we hear “Oh, Explore Austin, I’ve heard of that!”
We’ve been honored to receive multiple awards and have been recognized amongst many wonderful organizations. In September, Explore Austin received the John Covert Watson Award for Vision at Westcave Preserve and CINCA’s Celebration of Children in Nature Awards. Earlier this year, Todd Hanna, our founding mentor, current board member, and then CEO, was awarded the Austin Under 40- Youth and Education Award. These are only two highlights from the list of recognition and honors we have received over the past year. We look forward to more to come, so stay tuned to our Facebook and blog for announcements!
TWELVE- The Engagement
Last, but most certainly not least our Program Manager, Claire Nelson, and our OWA Summer Wilderness Trip Guide, Paul Taylor, are engaged! We couldn’t be more excited for them. What a perfect fit- two of the goofiest, most adventurous people we know.
What awaits in 2013? Only time will tell, but I’m sure it will be full of adventure, friendship, and new memories!
Author: Lauren Mays is the Marketing and Communications Intern at Explore Austin and is recent graduate of the University of Texas at Austin.