Personal Discovery Program

Discovery Philosophy

The Personal Discovery Program believes that all people and all life are interconnected. What happens to one happens in some way to all other aspects of life. The more we learn to understand, appreciate, and respect each other and all life and to understand the interconnectedness of life, the easier it will be to become a unit of oneness. Each has been given special talents that gives each a uniqueness. The real growth and strength comes when all are open to each other and learn to share and use each other's gifts for the betterment of the whole. As we, the world, learn to cherish and respect all life, we will raise to a higher state of living and being. This journey must be based on respect, truth, trust, openness, caring, accepting responsibility, valuing, and the giving and accepting of support.

Our mission as Discovery staff is to help build bridges that make it possible for people to travel inward as well as outward. The outward bridges are meant to help individuals connect to individuals as well as to groups and to communities. People can learn to travel within to find answers and understanding and travel outward to find the truths from each other and from nature and to build bridges of respect and understanding between groups and between people and nature.

We hope to accomplish this mission in some small way with each person we meet and each life form we learn to understand. We can accomplish this mission through challenge experiences, initiatives, problem solving, controlled risk taking; being with and learning about nature and learning from nature the lessons she has to share with us. Sometimes we only plant seeds, sometimes we have great impact. Most of the time we will never know. Therefore, for each of us to keep going, we must really believe that what we are doing is good and makes a difference and we must get our energy and strength from within from our personal beliefs and commitments, from each other, and from the universe. Each life touched is the beginning of a new ripple in the pond of life.

Personal Discovery Program

The Personal Discovery Program is about learning. Through the use of stories, quotes, sharing personal experiences, solving physical and mental problems, facing physical challenges, and creating new events and new solutions learning takes place. Participants learn about themselves, about each other, about the importance of respect and valuing, about sharing ideas and listening, about experimenting and compromising, about trusting and giving support, about leading and following, about appreciating and cherishing. The program takes place within a physically and emotionally safe environment which is created by the staff and students together. Having fun and recognizing the contributions each person brings to the group enhances the learning process and the bonding that occurs within each group. The participating staff not only lead, mediate, and provide safety, but they also participate and learn. An environment where everyone is respected and all are learning is the ideal environment in which growth and the development of self-sufficiency can take place.

E. E. Cumming once wrote, "We do not believe in ourselves until someone reveals that deep inside us something is valuable, worth listening to, worthy of our touch, sacred to our touch. Once we believe in ourselves we can risk curiosity, wonder, spontaneous delight, or any experience that reveals the human spirit." The Personal Discovery Program tries to create an environment where each person can feel free to be him/herself, where positive feedback can be given and accepted, where the wonder of life can be appreciated and expressed, and where spontaneous delight can be shared and appreciated.

Personal Discovery


The Personal Discovery Program is one that uses activities, problem solving, individual and group challenges, readings, stories, personal stories, and community service projects to build personal self-esteem, feelings of self worth, leadership, respect for self and others, valuing of all life, and a philosophy of non-judgment. The Discovery Program believes that one must first accept oneself and find peace within oneself before peace in the world can be achieved. As people learn to work together and grow in respect and genuine care for one another, the individual feelings of self-esteem, self worth, and being valued grow and the group becomes empowered. As one group grows together and experiences the empowerment that results, the individual members of that group in turn can reach out to other groups and help other groups grow in respect, acceptance, and valuing. The vision is of interlocking circles that can eventually encircle the world. Each circle is meant to bring inner peace and acceptance of one's self as well as of each member of the group. As each member of that group turns around and starts new groups, an outer sense of acceptance of others will occur. Eventually, groups, somehow connected to one another, will encircle the globe and all cultures, nations, and societies will have been touched. When enough circles of the world have occurred, all touching each other in some way, there will occur universal peace. As peace is achieved, it is hoped that humans will then begin to care not only for one another, but also for the earth and the universe. Instead of draining and destroying the earth, it is the hope of the Discovery Program, that humans will become the caretakers of the earth and eventually the universe.

Common Bonds

The Personal Discovery Program believes that there are universal needs and universal interests that can bring all of us together. To begin, we must first meet our personal needs. However, to do that, we must also learn to help others meet their personal needs around the world. By working together, sharing, and helping one another, a genuine respect, acceptance, and caring evolves. With continued contact and working together and learning not to judge individuals, cultures, or societies; a genuine love for one another begins. All greed and selfishness must be abandoned if we are to help each other become all that we can each be.

A quote that the Discovery staff often refers to is as follows:

"Coming together is a beginning
Staying together is progress
Working together is success." author unknown

This quote models what is being said above.

All people need to be accepted by others, respected, valued and loved. These needs are basic to all cultures and societies. All people and cultures love their children. All people and cultures need the products of the earth and the balance that exists of our earth within our universe as this universe is in balance with all others. Through learning to care for and helping all children of the world grow and become all that they can be, we will be able to build many bridges of understanding. As we strive to feed, clothe, and house all the children of the world, we will have to learn to care for the earth. We will have to learn the best ways to farm without disrupting the balance that exists in the environment. We will have to learn to selectively harvest, so there will always be trees and plants and so there will be less erosion of the mountains, beaches, stream, and river beds. We will have to learn to use less, to recycle, to stop polluting, and to simplify our life styles. We must learn to give back to the earth what we have taken and be appreciative for everything that we are given. As we learn to do that, we will be able to survive as will our children's children. Through sharing what each culture and society has with the other cultures and societies, we can all learn to live in a more balanced and joyous way.

It is believed that each of us has talents that fit within a large puzzle as does each culture. When we share our gifts and talents with one another, we all grow. When each culture shares with all other cultures, we all grow in wisdom, appreciation and understanding. When this happens, all of life raises to another level of existence. At this time, the first dimension of life's puzzle will have been completed. As we reach this plateau of knowledge and understanding, new truths will be understood and new beliefs will evolve into a further awakening and there will be universal growth.


These chain reactions begin with one group at a time involved in workshops, seminars, and/or classes. These programs can be adjusted to meet the needs of each group. Through group and individual experiences, through personal reflections, and through group sharing, each person will begin to feel as if he/she is part of the group and will understand himself/herself better. As the group comes together and begins to form, the group will begin to create a safe environment in which each member will feel safe to experiment with different behaviors and skills. This can only happen when there is enough respect and genuine care felt by the individual so the individual will want to experiment, will feel comfortable to ask the group for its support, and ask for positive feedback. When conflict occurs, which will happen in all close groups where people are able to express themselves openly, it is the resolving of these disagreements and conflicts that actually empowers the group and raises the group to another level of functioning. The more time together, the more that can be accomplished. This time together can be achieved in a solid block of time or occur intermittently over a longer period of time. The shorter the time period together, the more restrictive and specific should be the goals.

Personal Discovery Programs

All of the Discovery programs are built on respect and valuing, of giving to the community, and having a deep appreciation for nature and our environment. Learning to respect oneself, members of the group, one's community, and all society.

It is part of the Discovery task. Learning to value one's own identity and the special gifts one has been given, both one's strengths and one's weaknesses, as well as those gifts that have been given to each of the people around us is a Discovery goal. Learning to share whatever we's ideas, physical strength, balance, ability to give emotional support, one's sensitivity, one's awareness of the big picture, leadership skills, organizational skills, willingness to take risks, and so on are all part of the Discovery mission. Learning to think of and become aware of the needs of those around us and helping individuals and groups within one's community meet their respective needs is an important part of the Discovery goals. Learning to appreciate and feel connected to nature and one's environment is the most fundamental goal of the Discovery program. The above is the foundation upon which all Discovery classes and programs are founded.

The fundamental skills and the goals of each class or program are achieved through total emersion. Planned, progressive activities are selected to meet the needs and goals of each class, workshop, and program. These are physical initiatives and problem solving activities and individual challenges which become metaphors for individual growth and development and for problems we face throughout life. Because these activities are carefully selected and experienced in a progressive manner, the individual and group experience a series of successes that build in a spiral pattern one upon the other. Time out is always taken to have fun and to reflect on the joy of the experience. These activities can be anything from allowing others to tie one's shoes (giving up control and being willing to accept help), to catching a person (accepting the responsibility for another person), to stepping off a platform into space as you fly down a cable on the zip wire. Personal space, appropriate touching, giving physical support, the importance of honesty and being trust worthy are all topics of discussion and reflections.

Quotes, stories, and performances are also used to help understand activities, develop personal values, build self esteem and self worth, develop respect, learn to value others,and to understand oneself as well as one's group and one's community.

The Discovery programs attempt to stimulate all of the senses and to build on the intensity of the experiences. The more senses that are stimulated and the stronger the emotions experienced during an activity, the longer that activity will be remembered. The more one reflects on one's experience, the better one remembers and is able to apply the lessons learned to other aspects of one's life. The Discovery programs are truly miniature journeys in life that can become metaphors for one's daily life.

No activity is ever forced on an individual. All Discovery programs are based on a Challenge by Choice concept. A person will try when he/she is ready. The experience must be the individual's not the group's or the facilitator's. By respecting where each person is physically, mentally, socially, and spiritually, the group grows and becomes empowered. By truly caring about each individual in the group and making every effort to meet the needs of the individual and the group, the facilitator/teacher also grows. The Discovery programs are an adventure in growing, trusting, living, learning, and appreciating life.

Further information about the program please contact:

Sarah B. Doleac  'Sb'
Director of Personal Discovery Program & Rock Gym

Personal Discovery staff application will be posted shortly.

Interested in becoming a Personal Discovery staff member? You will work during summer programs scheduled for 2020 and assist the director on requested team building programs for on campus groups or outside organizations. Assist with Outdoor Experiential Learning, Personal Discovery, Advanced Discovery, and possibly Rock Climbing classes for field trips during the school semesters.
Interested to apply for the Discovery staff position.   Please contact me at                                          
Gallaudet University
800 Florida Ave., NE   Washington, D.C.  20002
Field House office # G-01
Sorenson VP:         202-250-2123
Department Voice:  202-651-5591