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Grand Opening!

NORTHWEST PASSAGE GROWS CAPACITY FOR HOPE IN WISCONSIN

Northwest Passage is celebrating its increased capacity for serving children and families at its Frederic location this week with an Open House. The Prairieview and Assessment programs have gained a new Wellness Center, complete with a gym and both an outdoor and indoor classroom, and Prairieview added a new unit. The event will be held Thursday, August 24 from 3:30 – 5:30 pm at the new Wellness Center at 201 United Way in Frederic.

Situated at the south edge of town, Northwest Passage operates two mental health residential treatment programs serving youth struggling with mental illness ages 6-17. Ellen Race says of the programs, “treatment deals with everything from their physical and mental health, academics, and fun. Adding a facility like the Wellness Center provides greater quality of care, rain or shine.” As a part of the Wellness Center expansion, Northwest Passage has committed to providing an immersive, environmentally themed, project-based educational curriculum.

The students will work with a number of pollinator friendly projects throughout the year. They will work to assist Northwest Passage in the restoration of a portion of its land to native prairie grasses through multiple projects such as the St. Croix Master Watershed Stewards rain garden initiative and the National Park Service’s Pollinator Pledge. They will work directly with pollinators through service at Horst M. Rechelbacher Foundation’s pollinator lab, by tending to their own beehive. They will also grow pollinator dependent fruits and vegetables in their own gardens thanks to St. Croix Valley Foundations support and make pollinator friendly art projects – all of which will be on display at Thursday’s open house.

Tours will also be given of the newest unit at Prairieview. “We’re excited to be showing off our new unit in our Prairieview program,” says executive director Mark Elliott.  “There is a dramatic shortage of residential mental health services in the state and all over the country. This expansion does a small part in reaching that need. It allows us to pursue our mission with even more kids.”

Northwest Passage would like to thank the St. Croix Valley Foundation as a number of these projects received funding from the SCVF and the Wisconsin Arts Board with funds from the State of Wisconsin.

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See Suicide Behaviors In a New Light

PASSAGE REFLECTS ON CARE AND TREATMENT OF SUICIDE AND SELF-HARM

We here at Passage are all too familiar with the pain and fear associated with suicide and self-harm, as many of our residents have experiences with suicidal thoughts and/or attempts. We wanted to take a moment to honor the spirit behind Suicide Awareness Month by talking about just what these behaviors are and how we can look at this phenomenon “In a New Light.” Join Riverside’s Clinical Director, Angela Frederickson, as she discusses this salient topic.

Suicide and self-harm behaviors can be some of the scariest expressions of mental illness that youth and families experience. They can hold family systems hostage in such a compelling way that everyone feels trapped in a cycle of misery and fear. Those who engage in suicidal behaviors and/or self injury feel equally trapped and miserable. Often the overwhelming emotional load of this topic can prevent parents and helping professionals from effectively intervening in a sustainable way. Helpers can find themselves desperately working to eliminate the problems of suicidal behavior and self-harm behavior by taking away the means to engage in such behaviors, reducing the risks leading up to such behaviors, or addressing the fallout after suicide attempts or self-harm.

Simply stated, the only resolution to the problem of suicide behaviors and self-harm behaviors is to stop engaging them. However, looking at suicide and self-harm behaviors as a solution to a problem versus the problem itself opens clients, families, and helping professionals up to a whole range of possible and effective interventions. To open our minds to consider suicide and self-harm in this way, we must try to understand and ultimately accept that to the person contemplating suicide or engaging in self-harm, these solutions are completely valid and sensible options to unbearable situations. In order to find the empathy required to help, we must acknowledge that suicide/self-harm might be a reasonable response to deep psychological pain, a reasonable effort to express that which cannot be expressed, or a reasonable punishment for an individual with tremendous self-loathing.

When we find that place of understanding and have the courage to sit with that uncomfortable acceptance of another human’s unbearable pain, we are ready to begin searching for the actual problem. If suicidal and self-harm behaviors aren’t the actual problem…then what is the problem? Perhaps the problem is a lack of skills to effectively communicate emotional intensity or needs. Often youth who have a deficit of skills in effective communication will use suicide words or self-injurious behaviors as an attempt to share with others the desperation they feel. Perhaps the problem is feelings of guilt and a desire to relieve the burden a young person feels they have placed on those around them. Suicide might seem to present a viable resolution for this situation or the use of self-harm might feel like the only adequate punishment. Perhaps the problem is the experience of crushing depressive symptoms or the torment of hallucinations, nightmares, or flashbacks. Suicide or self-harm may be the only way to alleviate the psychological pain.

While the only solution for the problem of suicidal and self-harm behaviors is to stop those behaviors, there are a myriad of sustainable solutions for a deficit of skills, a desire to discontinue feelings of guilt/self-loathing, or a need to alleviate psychological pain. The team at Northwest Passage has gathered a multitude of evidenced-based interventions to help address these problems including Dialectical Behavioral Skills group, Wellness Recovery Action Planning, and therapeutic lifestyle choices.

These interventions for youth and families from leaders in the field – Marsha Linehan, Mary Ellen Copeland, and David A. Jobes – adhere to a unifying theme that there is nothing inherently wrong or mysteriously broken about a person who presents with suicide or self-harm behaviors. Such a person is simply a human being with intense pain who also possesses the capacity to heal, change, and grow. Informed by this belief, the focus of the work is to help youth and families harness the inherent strengths of those involved in the client system to systematically work toward building mental health and more sustainable problem solving.

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Caring for Flour Babies at Riverside

CARING FOR BAGS OF FLOUR CREATES DEEPER MEANING FOR YOUNG MEN AT RIVERSIDE

Meet the “Flour Babies” at Riverside and their proud “parents.”

Northwest Passage’s Riverside boys took on a new experience as they cared for ‘flour babies’ for two days. In health class, the boys had been talking about reproductive systems, pregnancy and childcare. Many classroom discussions were held, power point presentations presented, videos watched, group activities completed, internet research conducted and the final project concluded with each resident caring for their own flour baby.

The boys helped create and dressed their own flour baby, named their flour baby and decided where the baby would sit and sleep for the next two days. The boys had to take their flour baby with him to all areas of programming; school, creative arts, recreation, groups, therapy, etc. While they were in programming, a designated location was decided for daycare.

When this experience was done staff reflected with the boys about the past two days. Many boys enjoyed caring for something else other than themselves and they felt like they were needed by someone. A resident mentioned, “I woke up in the morning and I would check on my baby right away”. The boys learned a lot about themselves through this project, like how caring and compassionate they are but also that many of them are not ready for the responsibility of a baby.

CONSIDER SUPPORTING OUR EXPERIENTIAL LEARNING

Northwest Passage is dedicated to the experiential education of our kids. Through activities like this, kids are able to bring topics from the classroom to whole new level. Thanks to the dedication of our teachers and staff and support from donors like you, we’re able to offer exceptional opportunities like this that truly teach our kids to enjoy school again.

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Thinking outside of the box, with boxes… and MORE!

CLASSROOM FUN SPARKS LOVE FOR LEARNING AT PASSAGE

As you know, our experiential education programming has allowed InaNewLight to soar to great heights and allows learners of all types to reclaim a love for the classroom. Now take a moment to see our educators, and kids, in action as they strive to provide a classroom experience to fit all of our kids’ needs; to ignite a passion for learning.

By combining service, nature, and project-based learning we are curating classroom experiences where our kids are excelling at learning, sometimes for the first time. If you’d like to learn about what we’ve been up to, here are just a few stories to get you started.

We are proud of the education the kids at Passage receive during a very difficult time in their lives. The kids that come to us are dealing with mental health and emotional challenges, but they’re also struggling with the realities of living away from home, meeting new people, making friends, and learning many new life skills. One thing we can do to help ease the kids into their home-away-from-home is to provide an adaptive education that looks and feel like a normal classroom. We still have science fairs, papers due, and those desks connected to their chair, but we also inject project based learning that can open up the classroom to learners of all levels.

Our educational curriculum is guided not only by state and core standards, but by the principals of living the PassageWay – learning to live a Therapeutic Lifestyle. This means that many of the elements to living a therapeutic lifestyle are incorporated into the classroom, resulting in a more dynamic approach to teaching. From service to time spent in nature, our kids have a robust learning experience that we’re proud to say is fully accredited and truly serves as a building block to success in life.

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Northwest Passage Riverside Captures Gitchi Gumee In a New Light

THE YOUNG MEN OF RIVERSIDE HIT THE SHORES OF LAKE SUPERIOR

Experiential learning on the shores of Lake Superior connects boys to nature, history, and even themselves.

Gitchi Gumee, otherwise known as Lake Superior, lies just over an hour’s drive up the road from Northwest Passage Riverside – practically in our own backyard! Over the course of the next year, the young men at Riverside will turn their camera lenses and desire for adventure to “the Big Lake” while they learn about culture, history, and the environment. They will explore the tributaries, shorelines, lighthouses and beaches while they capture the many faces of the lake and discover the healing power of Gitchi Gumee.

So why are we so excited about spending time at the shores of Gitchi Gumee? Well, for anyone who’s ever been there, it is obvious. But just to be clear let’s talk a little more about her. She is the biggest body of freshwater on earth. Three quadrillion gallons of it sloshing around in a sand and stone basin that was formed by volcanic activity over a billion years ago. From east to west the Lake is just over 350 miles long. From north to south, 160 miles. One could more easily travel from Miami to Seattle than trace each foot of shoreline* along the Lake. The water is home to 78 species of fish, countless invertebrates, mammals and birds. It is so clear that  along most of its coast you can see down deep, to the sandy bottom. However, it’s much deeper than you can see – over 1300 feet at its greatest depth east of the Keweenaw Peninsula. If Lake Superior were drained it would cover the entirety of North America in about a foot and a half of water.

Gitchi Gumee is far more than facts and figures and math and measurements, though. She is calm waves on endless beaches. She is distant horizons with hopeful sunrises and reflective sunsets. She is ice-heaved shorelines in the middle of January and ten foot tall crashing waves on rocky cliffs in October. She is the tributaries and coastal wetlands of her watershed. She is an inland sea with many faces and countless moods.

Please follow our adventures and get to know Gitchi Gumee a little better… and along the way, our special young men.

*If you paddle your kayak fast and you can take some shortcuts, you can make it around in about two months…trust me.

Ian Karl – Experiential Programming Coordinator for Northwest Passage

 

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Building Character with Marshmallows!

Building marshmallow towers, building character, just another day at Prairieview

It is easy to take for granted the power of character and how we develop the very mental and moral qualities special to each of us, but here at Passage we work every single day to nurture healthy “characters.”

Each week, the ladies at Prairieview participate in “Character Development” group. The group teaches the girls about 14 character traits, such as respect, honesty, integrity, compassion, empathy, perseverance, tolerance and character. The goal of the group is to educate and inspire the girls to treat one another with respect and kindness. The group also educates them on the difference between inevitable conflict and bullying – a core theme of the group. The girls participate in group discussion, team building exercises, projects, activities, and even have take away work to reflect on their experiences.

Recently, the girls had a team exercise to wrap up the latest cycle of their group. The challenge was to build the tallest structure their group could in just 12 minutes! Each group was allowed: spaghetti noodles, different sized marshmallows, and 1 object of their choice to build their tower. The structures had to be free standing. Each group approached the challenge differently, but they were all successful in collaborating and practicing the traits they have learned about!

Brittany Bosak – Prairieview Teacher

WANT TO HELP OUR TEACHERS DO MORE IN THE CLASSROOM? CONSIDER A DONATION TODAY!

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Exploring Robotics through Trial and Error

THE ASSESSMENT KIDS DIVE INTO LEGOS, MINDCRAFT, SCIENCE, AND MORE!

The kids walked away from the classroom learning more than just a little science, but how to persevere through challenges and to trust that through hard work and a little time, they can overcome the obstacles in their lives.

Recently the Cedar classroom within the Assessment program has been busy using Legos to learn about programming, building robots, and overcoming obstacles. As part of this project each client participated in “the hour of code”- learning the basics of computer programming and got a hands on opportunity to use it to guide characters through a minecraft maze. “The Hour of Code” is organized by Code.org which is dedicated to expanding participation in computer science by making it available in more schools, and increasing participation by women and underrepresented students of color. It is broken into self-guided tutorials that allow students to work through the skills at their own pace. By far the most popular choice for Cedar was MindCraft!

After learning these skills residents got the opportunity to work in groups to solve a challenge. Using two Motors they were asked to create a vehicle that could move items from once place to another. After a quick group brainstorming session the kids were off and designing away! Three designs came out in the end and were all very unique.

The final test was trying to move a group of marbles. After some initial challenges the groups had to return to the drawing board to add some additions onto their creations. It was discovered that just a single plow was not effective, so sides were added and SUCCESS! Another group developed a gear system to move the wheels to increase their vehicles speed while the last group opted to attempt to build a claw that would pick up items.

Through this project the kids really got the chance to “do” science and learn that it is not a single step process, but something that is always changing and that can take several tries before getting it right! We look forward to continuing our robotics adventures and expanding on our programming skills.

Hannah Curran – Assessment, Cedar Unit Teacher

Northwest Passage is dedicated to creating an engaging classroom. Our teachers are skilled in connecting with each child’s individual strengths and challenges.

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