Outdoors Bound

Outdoors Bound is an experience like none other for highly motivated and hard-working high school Juniors and Seniors. Selected students engage in a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity learning to work as a ranch hand at Brush Creek Ranch in Saratoga, Wyoming.

Big Shoulders Fund works with Brush Creek Ranch to set summer sessions, and Bounder groups are assigned to their session upon selection. Each session consists of 7-9 Bounders and the Outdoors Bound Chaperones.




Outdoors Bound exposes small groups of young adults to new and exciting experiences, highlights a world outside of Chicago, and offers them a chance to earn and save money for college.

Bounders spend four days a week working with a ranch staff supervisor to complete various tasks around the grounds:

  • Landscaping
  • Fence-mending
  • Grounds-keeping
  • General labor and maintenance
  • Working with some of the ranch animals

Bounders spend three days a week enjoying various ranch-based activities and go off campus for outdoors experiences:

  • Hiking, camping, and canoing
  • Archery, horseback riding, high ropes course, and mountain-biking
  • River float tours, rodeos, and other local sights
  • Campus visit to University of Wyoming, possibly including a tour with an admissions staffer


Outdoors Bound is an opportunity like none other. Not only do selected students — Bounders — get to experience amazing work that stands out on a resume, they also gain and develop many necessary life skills.

Bounders learn to live independently from their family in dormitory-style accommodations. They build necessary life-skills being responsible for preparing their own meals and regularly cleaning their living space.

Bounders are encouraged to save for college, both financially and experientially. Bounders receive a weekly $600 stipend for all completed work that can be saved for a rainy-day fund or pocket-money once in college. Bounders can also collect great anecdotes and stories for college application essays.

The small and intense nature of the program pushes Bounders to create strong bonds with each other over the course of their time on the ranch, making brand new friends for life. Bounders become a family as they support each other through bouts of home-sickness or exhaustion. Bounders push each other beyond limitations they previously set for themselves, trying new things and reaching new heights.




Outdoors Bound is a multi-month program starting with pre-summer activities that take place throughout the second half of the school year culminating in a three-week stay working at Brush Creek Ranch in Saratoga, Wyoming.

Before the Trip

Bounders are expected to participate in a series of pre-summer activities that aim to inform and prepare students for the experience ahead. Bounders must attend all activities to be eligible to travel to Brush Creek in the summer.

Physical Training Session

Saturday, March 23 (1:00 pm – 4:00 pm) – South loop Strength & Conditioning (645 South Clark Street, 60605)

Grocery & Cooking Challenge

Saturday, April 13 (1:00 pm – 4:00 pm) – Location TBD

Team-building & Rock climbing

Saturday, May 11 (1:00 pm – 4:00 pm) – Brooklyn Boulders (100 South Morgan Street, 60607)

Family Meeting

Tuesday, June 4 (5:30 pm – 7:00 pm) – Big Shoulders Fund (212 W. Van Buren, 60607)

Who is there?

Each year, Big Shoulders selects 14-18 Bounders to be split across different summer sessions. All Bounders participate in pre-summer activities together, but are separated by sex for their three-week sessions at the ranch.

Big Shoulders Fund has identified Outdoors Bound Chaperones to oversee Bounders throughout the duration of the program. Brush Creek Ranch provides a supervisor who oversees all the work elements on the ranch.

Where are we going?

Bounders live in a two-floor home home, what was specifically designed for the program, and is located within the Brush Creek Ranch boundaries, but adjacent to the main campus.  Accommodations include a fully furnished kitchen, common living space, and dormitory-style bathroom and bedroom. Outdoors Bound Chaperones live on site in a separate bedroom with its own bathroom.

How do we get there?

Bounders travel to and from Brush Creek along with the Staddle Camp trip weeks that align with their session start and ends. Bounders will depart from O’Hare International Airport, fly into Denver International Airport, and then ride in a reserved coach bus from Denver to Saratoga, Wyoming.

Once there, Outdoors Bound Chaperones will be provided with a vehicle to transport Bounders to and from their lodging and work each day. Bounders are responsible for arriving at O’Hare at their assigned time.



Application Process


Applications are open to all high school Juniors and Seniors who meet the following criteria:

  • You must be a current high school Junior or Senior.
  • You must be able to commit to one 3-4 week session during the summer.
  • You must have strong work ethic, be proactive, and work well with others.

Preferred, but not required:

  • You should be able to lift and carry heavy loads (~50lbs).
  • You should have a current driver’s license.

Who Qualifies

Although applications are open to any high school Juniors and Seniors, Big Shoulders will preference students who have a more direct connection with the organization or Brush Creek, such as the following:

  • Attending a Big Shoulders Fund high school
  • Receiving or received a Big Shoulders Fund scholarship
  • Attended Staddle Camp while in middle school


NOTE: These preferences should not deter you from applying.

Big Shoulders is committed to selecting the most exceptional applicants regardless of their background and connections.

Process and Timeline

Juniors and Seniors who are interested in participating in Outdoors Bound must complete the entire application process.

  1. Complete the Outdoors Bound Application online.
    *The application requires candidate to upload a head-shot photo.
  2. Schedule and complete an interview with Big Shoulders Fund staff and/or one Outdoors Bound Chaperone.
  3. Provide at least one letter of recommendation from a current teacher and/or guidance counselor.

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