In a time when the average salaried employee works for their employer for just a little over four years, the Breckenridge Outdoor Education Center (BOEC) greatly defies the norm. Wilderness Program Director Jaime Overmyer is now in her 17th year as part of the BOEC organization and is one such employee that shatters the curve. Jaime is the epitome of what the BOEC is all about. As we like to say, it’s the people who make BOEC so special. This is Jaime’s story in a nutshell.
Jaime’s journey starts out much the same way as many other young adults moving to Breckenridge in the early 2000s. She had just graduated from Michigan State University with a Recreation Degree and was living the dream as a ski bum working ski town jobs during the winters and traveling the world in the summers. But, one day in 2003 her life took a sharp turn when she found out about the BOEC. It was a chance “ski-in for an interview” and a subsequent internship offer that started her path to where she is today.
“My internship was the single most educationally beneficial thing I have ever participated in,” she says. “At that time, I would’ve traded in my whole 4-year degree for that internship. I learned more about the world and myself than I ever could’ve imagined. The students that I met and the smiles they greeted me with every day became addictive immediately.”
Though she remains a die-hard Spartan fan and does actually value her degree, the hands-on experience of serving those with disabilities and special needs became a sort of secondary education for the Michigan native. The following summer she hopped on board as a course director and the rest is history.
“I couldn’t believe that I was getting paid to play with the coolest people on the planet!” she exclaims when reminiscing about her newfound career. She was course directing in the summer and ski patrolling in the winter and while she loved it, the nature of seasonal work was wearing on her.
When a year-round position in BOEC operations opened, she jumped at the chance to become even more ingrained in the organization. “I made it my mission to make courses even more effective and powerful by preparing the field staff through training and making sure they had all the right equipment at the right time. I loved every minute of it!” After dedicating a decade’s worth of passion and integrity to the organization, it was clear that Jaime could make even more of an impact when the Wilderness Program Director position became available.
“I’ve been in this (director’s) position for 5 years now and I am happy to report that it is everything I had hoped it would be and more,” she says. “BOEC has been my life’s work and I cannot imagine being anywhere else.”
And she hasn’t been anywhere else for 17 years! In fact, she often jokes about how BOEC is her first marriage.
“The BOEC is as much a part of me as I am of it. My entire life became shaped and enhanced by the staff and students at the BOEC,” says the happily married Overmyer. “I cannot imagine life any other way. I never expected to be here this long but I am so glad that I have been able to see us grow and change over the years.”
Yes, the BOEC has grown and changed but grown for the better in Jaime’s mind. She has seen some amazing changes in the numbers of participants BOEC is able to serve, the quality of equipment offered and the number of scholarships provided to those in need of financial assistance. In fact, she remembers the BOEC only being able to offer three courses a month when she started versus the six or seven happening now on any given day during the summer months. And the extra workload doesn’t even phase her as she loves her job just as much, if not more, today than the first day she worked as an intern.
“I think the favorite part of my job, besides rafting, is each summer when staff arrive for training and then when the new interns arrive how exciting and energetic everyone is,” she says. “I just love sharing with the new kids why the BOEC is such a special place and seeing them get super pumped to be a part of it.
Jaime’s book title for BOEC is aptly labeled “MTV’s Real World Meets Survivor,” and the contents of this novel include her favorite BOEC memory to date. While she could literally write a book about her experiences (move over Simon & Schuster, I own the rights), Overmyer pulls a classic out of her memory bank when recounting a river trip experience with a group of adults living with brain injuries. It was during a 100-year flood, it rained all day and every day, and the water level was rising at an alarming rate. She recounts her story.
“At one point I slept in a trash bag because my sleeping bag was soaked. However, when I think back the most memorable part of that trip was that while conditions were not ideal, the staff and students were very positive and we ended up still having a blast,” she reminisces. “I am proudest of the fact that myself and the other two staff members did an amazing job keeping the students safe and happy. We were the only group to not need rescue on the river that week and to this day I still speak with a few of the students that were on that trip and they still say it was the best trip of their lives. I am proud that BOEC prepared me to handle adverse situations and I take that to heart when training the future BOEC staff. Hopefully, they are ready to adapt and overcome and handle any situation that comes their way with poise and expert risk management.”
Adapt and overcome now takes on new meaning, however, with the coronavirus wreaking havoc on our daily lives. BOEC’s winter programming shut down in mid-March and summer programming is at a standstill until safe to reopen. But life at the BOEC continues to march forward, and the BOEC Wilderenss Program Director is no different. Rest assured that this seasoned professional is ready to tackle this challenge much in the same way that she overcame the challenges of the Great Recession of 2008-09 when BOEC lost over a third of its programs and a very real Swine Flu scare in 2009 forcing her to be ready to make the proper closures and changes needed to keep staff and students safe. COVID-19 meet Jaime Overmyer!
During this unprecedented time, she spends her days trying to piece together a plan for how to re-open at a moment’s notice when allowed to do so safely. She’s looking at the calendar and making plans for how she can put the summer back together. She’s making sure all manuals, policies and procedures are lined up and ready to go. She’s making sure that her staff knows what’s happening and that they are ready to work when the time comes to welcome back the students. And she is ultimately taking this time to take a breath and really look at what BOEC needs/wants to do to offer even better programming in the future.
As you can see, there’s not a selfish bone in her body. Jaime is all about creating a successful environment so that her staff and participants can be at their very best to reap the rewards of another spectacular BOEC course. She views them as the reason the BOEC is so special.
“The big thing that makes our students so very special is the students themselves,” she exclaims. “They are excited to be here, excited to learn new things, and just excited to be a part of the BOEC magic. You don’t see that every day in average/neuro-typical settings. The students are dedicated, appreciative, funny, caring, loving, charismatic, infectious, and generally, the most fun people to be around.”
Yes, Jaime, your students do indeed make the BOEC special but please take a moment to realize that you too are one of the people who make the BOEC so special. Here’s to another 17 years!