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The Birkie Experience

RESIDENTS PREPARE TO VOLUNTEER AT HISTORIC EVENT

As the American Birkebeiner speeds towards the 46th annual Nordic ski race residents from Riverside gathered together on one chilly morning and Prairieview on another, to test out their cross-country skiing skills on the world-famous race course reaching from Cable to Hayward in Northern Wisconsin.

An outdoor adventure like this is a great way to apply elements of the Passageway, such as nature, recreation, and exercise in to the residents daily lives. This was also an excellent learning opportunity for the residents to see how the Birkebeiner’s mission statement is very similar to the therapeutic lifestyle that they learn at Northwest Passage. The Birkebeiner aligns with the Passageway in the commitment to maintain active and healthy habits in the lives of their participants. The Birkebeiner motto of ski, run, bike, live! promotes not just a race, but a year-round lifestyle.

This day trip to the Birkie trail built on lessons and training that the group had learned on the Riverside Campus over the previous weeks. It was an opportunity for them to put in to practice the skills they had learned in a new and more challenging environment. Skiing the trail gave residents the opportunity to see how they could use this element of healing long after their time at Northwest Passage.

It was also an orientation for Riverside, to the site where they will volunteer with other members of the community on the day of the race to photograph and provide “feeds” for the thousands of skiers that will stream through the Strand-Johnson aid station in just a little over a week.

Residents from Prairieview got the opportunity to ski around the Hatchery Creek aid station, a stop located in the final stretch of the race. The residents also had the invaluable opportunity to go to the Birkebeiner office and visitor center to meet with Laurie Landgraf, a long-time skier of the Birkie. Landgraf helped the residents paint a picture of the history and the excitement of the long-awaited race day. Residents explored the visitor center and marveled at ski equipment from the past and fun facts about the race.

Skiing through the trail, the whoops and hollers of excitement bounced around the trees as the kids glided through the snow. They were willing to reach and stretch to learn new skiing techniques, even some tumbles in the snow were met with smiles. Towards the end of the day, the pride on the kids’ faces was clear. Both groups of residents received an invaluable opportunity to ski on the same path that elite athletes and Olympians have for 45 years. This was an outing that they will not soon forget.

HELP SUPPORT MORE OUTINGS LIKE THIS!

Northwest Passage encourages residents to build a healthy lifestyle in accordance with the PassageWay, which includes eight therapeutic lifestyle choices: Nature | Recreation | Relaxation | Nutrition | Exercise | Relationships | Service | Spirit. Participation in the Birkebeiner Ski Race offers kids a healthy form of recreation and exercise, and promotes service to others through volunteerism.

   

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PIONEERS EARN THEIR FIRST WIN!

BASKETBALL HELPS NORMALIZE LIFE FOR KIDS IN RESIDENTIAL TREATMENT

Northwest Passage continues to break down walls and stereotypes surrounding mental health issues by offering innovative programs and opportunities at our residential treatment facilities. One of the most unique opportunities allows residents of our Prairieview program in Frederic to join a basketball team.

The “Pioneers” as they are called, just wrapped up their third season, and they are just that—Pioneers. The team members have stepped out of their comfort zones, most of them trying basketball, or any organized sport for that matter, for the first time. The team, coordinated and coached by Northwest Passage teacher Taylor Mathias, provides the unique opportunity to bring the girls into the community, allows them to play against other girls their age, and normalizes life for them. The team plays approximately eight games per season against local public and private schools.

It took three seasons, and 21 games, but the Pioneers recently earned their first win in program history. Coach Mathias described the last seconds of that memorable game, “As I watched the final seconds of the game tick down, I knew we had just solidified our first win. I felt like time stood still. I looked around a gymnasium that was full of teachers, therapists, case managers, clinicians, and all sorts of direct care staff that had come out to support their girls. I looked down the bench and saw all of my players and coaching staff trying to hold back their exuberance for just a few more seconds. The clock hit triple zeros; we shook hands with the opposing team, and then the celebrations began. It felt like we had won a National Championship. Fans and family ran onto the court and hugs were given as tears ran down the many proud faces of those who knew just how far these girls have come”.

Coaches Taylor Mathias (left) and Dustin Anderson (right) with the 2019-20 Pioneers team after their first franchise win

Another successful season is in the books for the Pioneers of Northwest Passage. Reflecting on the season, Mathias said, “After games, I often get asked, “Did you win?”. With this team, it goes beyond the win/loss column. When I see these girls laughing, high-fiving, and busting some serious dance moves (yes, sometimes they dance during the game), I realize—this is winning! After one of our games this season, I overheard a player tell her teammate, “Wow, tonight I felt normal”. That is a win in my book any day. “

Help support more life-changing experiences for the youth at Northwest Passage!

Northwest Passage encourages residents to build a healthy lifestyle in accordance with the PassageWay, which includes eight therapeutic lifestyle choices: Nature | Recreation | Relaxation | Nutrition | Exercise | Relationships | Service | Spirit. Participation in the Pioneers Basketball program is a healthy form of recreation that encourages team relationships and promotes regular exercise.

   

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“Healing in the Riverway” at River Falls Public Library

MONTH-LONG EXHIBIT SHARES A MESSAGE OF HOPE & HEALING

The Eugene H. & Dorothy Kleinpell Gallery at the River Falls Public Library shared Northwest Passage’s message of hope and healing in an exhibit displayed from September 30 – November 1, 2019. Gallery visitors were able to experience the healing power of nature as the residents of Northwest Passage debuted their most recent terrestrial and underwater photographs. In addition to stunning environmental photographs, the exhibit featured unique portraits of the artists, superimposed with scenes from nature that hold special meaning for them. Through Northwest Passage’s Artist-in-Residence program, professional artists were able to help youth who are struggling with mental health issues find beauty in the world that surrounds them, and in themselves.

A closing reception was held on Wednesday, October 30 and was attended by many members of the public as well as several Northwest Passage residents who had photographs on display. Ian Karl, Northwest Passage Experiential Programming Coordinator, and Dr. Toben LaFrancois, Northland College, were on hand to share their experiences with the kids on their recent underwater photography trip to Dry Tortugas National Park in Florida. They talked about the impact the immersive therapy experience had on the kids they traveled with, and also touched on the importance of conserving natural envirornments and their importance in our overall ecosystem.

Several of the young photographers shared their experiences with nature and underwater photography during their time at Northwest Passage. The kids were united in their belief that their time spent under the surface and behind the camera was life-changing. Many commented on the calming effect they felt while immursed in a natural setting and the sense of accomplishment they achived through creating the stunning photos on display. One resident stated “It’s so cool to see a photo by a professional photographer up on the wall in a gallery and then realize, HEY… I’m that photographer!”. Members of the public were impressed with the confidence, candor, and composure the young photographers displayed in front of the audience, further evidence that these young people have truly grown from their experiences at Northwest Passage.

The exhibit was a tremendous success, with more than 760 people visiting the gallery during the show. Cole Zrostlik, River Falls Public Library Event and Gallery Coordinator, said “People loved the show, and several visitors felt inspired enough to get in touch with NWP in person! Our library director was incredibly moved by the students who talked at the closing reception, and I was impressed with everything, as always!” 

Northwest Passage is thankful for the opportunity to exhibit our work in such a beautfiful gallery space, and look forward to more shows in the future!

HELP US CREATE LIFE-CHANGING EXPERIENCES FOR YOUNG PEOPLE IN RESIDENTIAL MENTAL HEALTH TREATMENT.

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Healing in the Riverway

PROFESSIONAL ARTISTS ANDREW WALSH, JAMES NETZ, AND KAREEN KING INSPIRE CREATIVITY IN RESIDENTS

The In a New Light Gallery was alive with excitement on August 10, 2019 as nearly one hundred Northwest Passage residents, staff, and supporters gathered to celebrate the conclusion of their fourth Artist-in-Residence (AiR) Season titled “Healing in the Riverway”. The AiR program was developed to provide a therapeutic experience with art for the youth of Northwest Passage. Each summer professional artists are welcomed to historic Schaefer Cabin on the Namekagon River to share their talents and philosophies with young people struggling with mental health issues.

This summer the kids spent two weeks in June with returning artist and professional photographer, Andrew Walsh. Andrew came from Portland, OR to lead the kids in nature photography and create unique double exposure portraits of each photographer, merging their image with a natural element that holds meaning for them, creating wonderful and unique works of art. The kids then spent two weeks with professional nature photographer James Netz, a local artist who splits time between the Twin Cities and Hayward. James is passionate about the outdoors and capturing its beauty and was able to inspire the kids to use their cameras to see nature as art. The final artist to visit Northwest Passage was Registered Drama Therapist, Kareen King from Osage City, KS. Using artistic modalities like storytelling, poetry, creative expression, metaphorical exercises, music, and improvisation, Kareen helped the kids capture their thoughts and feelings in written biographies and reflections, and vocalize their experiences through song and spoken word performances.

The unique resident portraits and photographs will be on display at the In a New Light Gallery, located at 7417 N Bass Lake Road in Webster, through September 2019. Admission to the gallery is free and open to the public M-F from 9:00 am – 4:00 pm. For more information about Northwest Passage, please call 715-327-4402 or visit nwpltd.org.

This program was supported in part by grants from the Wisconsin Arts Board, National Endowment for the Arts, Arts Midwest Touring Fund, and the St. Croix Valley Foundation.

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Under the Surface Collection Makes an Impact

A selection of iconic photographs from Northwest Passage’s “Under the Surface” collection recently inspired visitors to the Dwight Foster Public Library in Fort Atkinson, Wisconsin. The exhibit, entitled “Under the Surface”, hung in the library from March 1 to April 1, 2019, and was one of the most attended exhibits held in the library’s history. Anne Moser, librarian for the Wisconsin Water Library at UW-Madison, held a talk on March 9 entitled “Great Lakes Challenges and Opportunities”  as a compliment to the underwater photography on display.

Many library visitors felt compelled to write to the artists and share their thoughts and interpretations of the exhibit.

Wow! Absolutely gorgeous and inspiring. I hope you give yourselves credit not only for your talent but for the courage it takes to be vulnerable enough to share yourself with others in this way. Thank you for touching my heart today, and best wishes to you all.

Nichole

Visitor, Dwight Foster Public Library

This exhibit took my breath away. What a fantastic program! I am blown away by how these kids have overcome pain and hardship and channeled emotions and experiences into creating great art. Thank you for sharing!

Yoyi

Visitor, Dwight Foster Public Library

Amazing photos. So very proud of these young artists, not only for their photos but for the difficult changes they are making in their lives. Wonderful program!

Pat

Visitor, Dwight Foster Public Library

I am the librarian responsible for bringing exhibits to our library. This exhibit generated the most comments – all positive – of any exhibit we have had in the past 8 years. People loved the subject and quality of the photos. They were moved by statements of the students. They were happy to hear about the great program that produced the exhibit. Kudos to all.

Amy Lutzke

Assistant Director/Reference, Dwight Foster Public Library

The Dwight Foster Public Library has a long and interesting history and operates in its second century with a proud record of achievement. Since its inception in 1890, the library has added greatly to the quality of the cultural life of its community with a constantly expanding variety of educational and informative materials and services including a community space to showcase art, like that of Northwest Passage residents, that addresses environmental and mental health issues.

Meet Dr. Jennifer Olson

Dr. Jennifer Olson, PSY.D.

Dr. Jennifer Olson, PSY.D.

Pediatric Neuropsychologist

Northwest Passage is pleased to welcome Dr. Jennifer Endre Olson, Psy.D. to the clinical team at our Prairieview campus. Dr. Olson holds a doctoral degree in Clinical Child Psychology with a specialization in child and adolescent psychopathology. She received intensive training in pediatric psychology, developmental psychopathology, and neuropsychology while at LaRabida Children’s Hospital and the University of Chicago. She completed her post-doctoral fellowship at the University of Chicago with Catherine Lord, Ph.D., widely recognized as the foremost authority in the early diagnosis of Autism Spectrum Disorders. At LaRabida, she became a certified independent trainer on the Autism Diagnostic Observation Schedule (ADOS, ADOS-2, and ADOS-T) and the Autism Diagnostic Interview (ADI-R). Through continued association with Dr. Lord, the University of Michigan and Boston Children’s Hospital, Dr. Olson solidified her own sub-specialty on the diagnosis of autism. Now internationally recognized herself, Dr. Olson has spent much of the past two decades teaching and training others about assessment and the diagnosis of Autism Spectrum Disorders. With this expertise, she has conducted hundreds of clinical and research trainings across five continents and in more than two dozen countries.

Dr. Olson was recognized in British Columbia, Canada in 2006 with an Award for Service to the Autism Community and again in 2008 with an Education Award as part of the British Columbia Autism Assessment Network (BCAAN) for her work setting up a training-based, province-wide network of diagnostic services and recurring refresher education programs.

In addition to clinical practice, Dr. Olson’s expertise has facilitated involvement in a number of longitudinal genetic and epidemiological studies on Autism Spectrum Disorders, including

  • the Canadian Institute of Health Research (CIHR) Pathways in ASD Project, one of the largest and longest-running longitudinal studies of the development of young children and adolescents with ASD,
  • the Epilepsy Phenome Genome Project, a genetic study evaluating de novo mutations in children with epileptic encephalopathies;
  • the Simons Simplex Collection (SSC), a core project of the Simons Foundation Autism Research Initiative (SFARI) that established the first permanent repository of genetic samples from 2,600 simplex families and
  • the Simons Variation Individuals Project which probed phenotypic variation, and in particular the phenotypic expression of individuals with a deletion or duplication of chromosomal segment 16p11.2.

Additionally, Dr. Olson holds positions as a visiting instructor at the University of British Columbia, and Ovspring Developmental Clinic, Singapore. She has also served as adjunct professor at both Ball State University and the Chicago School of Professional Psychology. 

Dr. Olson continues to pursue clinical research interests related to the assessment of Autism Spectrum Disorders in diverse populations, particularly in developing countries such as India where, as a co-project lead of PICAN, the Provincial Autism Resource Center Indo-Canada Autism Network, she maintains a clinical/research Autism Training Autism Network.

Dr. Olson’s motivation for doing her work is to understand the complexity of each child, help them to believe in themselves, realize their strengths and appreciate their resiliency.

Meet Dr. Michael Woodin

Dr. Michael Woodin, PH.D.

Dr. Michael Woodin, PH.D.

Pediatric Neuropsychologist

Northwest Passage is pleased to welcome Dr. Michael Woodin, Ph.D. to the clinical team at our Prairieview campus. Dr. Woodin’s strong background in pediatric neuropsychological assessment and intervention makes him a welcome member of the team. In addition to his neuropsychological background, Dr. Woodin formerly served as a Graduate Program Director and Clinical Professor at Miami University where he focused on courses in psychological assessment, evidence-based interventions, collaboration with educational and medical professionals, neurodevelopmental disorders, and teacher education. While working in higher education, Dr. Woodin actively worked as a neuropsychologist in service to urban and rural school districts providing direct service and consultation to teachers, administrators, students, and their families. He was comfortable providing services in the schools as he previously worked as a teacher, English Department Head, and Special Educational Administrator.

Dr. Woodin is an expert in neurodevelopmental disorders who has authored current books on brain research, childhood development, assessment, clinical case studies, and special education. He has conducted and published neuropsychological research in the areas of behavioral genetics, neurocognitive phenotypes, the 22q11.2 microdeletion syndrome, attention, executive functioning, working memory, giftedness, anxiety, and evidence-based interventions for use in school and clinical settings.

Before joining Northwest Passage, Dr. Woodin worked as a pediatric neuropsychologist at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, the Rush-Presbyterian Medical Center in Chicago, and in private practice. He received his training in Pediatric Psychology, Pediatric Neuropsychology, assessment, and therapy through the Children’s Seashore House and the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia where he completed his residency. He also completed a two-year postdoctoral fellowship in Pediatric Neuropsychology at the University of Pennsylvania Medical Center in Philadelphia where he was part of a team that completed groundbreaking research on the neuropsychological profile of children with velocardiofacial syndrome, a genetic condition that has links to schizophrenia, mental health concerns, and childhood problems with social cognition. 

Dr. Woodin has consulted at the state and national levels and worked extensively with public, private, and charter schools to effect positive change for students, staff, and parents. He spent several years as a teacher and administrator for a private and residential summer school program in Vermont for individuals with learning disabilities. Dr. Woodin has presented at international, national, and state conferences and has actively trained professionals such as psychologists, teachers, administrators, and graduate students.

Dr. Woodin is proud to be married to Teresa, his wife of 23 years and to be the father of his two teenage sons, Connor and Brendan. Dr. Woodin is thrilled to work with the children and teens who come to Northwest Passage by giving them a great overall assessment, finding their strengths as well as identifying their weaknesses, and helping them to move forward and live a life worth living.

2018 Equine Assisted Roundup

EQUINE THERAPY OFFERS A UNIQUE OPPORTUNITY FOR HEALING

2018 marked the first year that both of Northwest Passage’s treatment programs – Riverside and Prairieview – had their own dedicated Equine Assisted Growth and Learning teams located directly on their campuses! Kayla Rinkel, LMFT led the herd at the Riverside campus and Angela Fredrickson, LCSW coordinated the intervention at the Prairieview campus. 

Each child residing at Riverside during the summer was engaged in equine assisted psychotherapy. The team was able to incorporate equine learning into every Dialectical Behavioral Therapy skills group. The Alcohol and Other Drug Addiction group went to the arena to practice avoiding temptations and work on building stable foundations for living back in the community. Riverside residents also had the opportunity to incorporate equine therapy into their individual therapy throughout the summer months. Additionally, several kids took the lead to care for the horses by cleaning the arena, feeding the horses, and making sure they had water.

At Prairieview, a trauma-focused group was piloted that the participants dubbed “Triple H – Horses, Humans, Hope”. This group utilized the collaboration of expressive arts teacher Molly Thompson and therapist Gina Lundervold-Foley to join the interventions of psychoeducation, art, and equine learning. The equine team was also available to support both individual and family therapy throughout the summer months.  In addition, this fall each treatment team in the Prairieview program had the opportunity to experience equine intervention first-hand as they engaged in team building with their co-workers. 

Of course, equine therapy could not happen without our four-legged therapy partners. Much appreciation to Angel, Dreamer, Velvet, Lienies, Cindy, Buck, Casey, Sakota, and Emma!

Please support Equine Assisted Therapy and other unique opportunities for hope and healing!

Equine Therapy incorporates many elements of the PassageWay, our guide to living a therapeutic lifestyle. In addition to providing an opportunity for recreation and relaxation in nature, horses require relationships to be built in order to trust. Learning to build trusting relationships is an important life skill and the core of our human experience.

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Cultivating the Lion Mind: A Mindfulness Metaphor

The following article, by Sam Himelstein, Ph.D., is a lesson in mindfulness incorporating the use of metaphor. For most people, especially teens, metaphors offer a new way to relate to information.

I often ask the youth I work with how they’d define mindfulness. For those I haven’t work with long, it’s not uncommon for me to hear definitions like “relaxing,” or “taking deep breaths.” While these experiences can be a part of practicing mindfulness, they’re by no means requirements. This is one of the biggest misconceptions about mindfulness I hear. That mindfulness is about relaxing and calming oneself down. I believe most of the misconception comes from the practice of mindfulness meditation (as we’ll review in a bit) and particularly mindfulness of breathing meditation. Awareness of breath occurs in several types of meditation. In mindfulness, we use the breath as an anchor; we bring our awareness to the breath as a way to keep it in the present moment. When thoughts, feelings, or other experiences arise, we simply and non-judgmentally note those thoughts and then return our awareness to the present via the breath.

In more concentrative forms of meditation (i.e., single-pointed awareness), the breath is used as the sole and single point of attention. There is a more of a strict attitude of keeping attention on the breath and practicing the discarding of everything else. And moreover, in relaxation-based meditations, the breath is often used as a focal point: taking slow deep breaths is oftentimes instructed to activate the parasympathetic nervous system’s relaxation response, which in turn produces a feeling of calm and relaxation.

At least sometimes.

It makes sense that mindfulness gets conflated with these other practices when I think about the wonders of using the breath as a tool in meditation. But for us teaching mindfulness to youth and other populations, it’s important to be able to articulate just what mindfulness is and what it’s not or we run the risk of those we teach not fully understanding the true liberating power of mindfulness. For example, what happens when we try to relax and we can’t? What happens when we try to meditate and our thoughts are moving at 100 mph? I often hear people say “I can’t meditate, I have too much on my mind.” Or youth I’ve worked with will say, “I have ADHD, I can’t sit still and meditate.” Well, they’re right if we’re only defining mindfulness and mindfulness meditation as trying to be calm and serene. People can, in fact, get good at calming themselves down with training, but that’s a complex discussion for another post and misses the power of mindfulness.

Mindfulness: The Lion Mind

The metaphor of the Lion Mind as a way to describe mindfulness comes from Larry Rosenberg’s book, Breath by Breath. I learned about this metaphor while working at the Mind Body Awareness (MBA) Project where we taught mindfulness and emotional intelligence skills to incarcerated and marginalized youth. I recently started volunteering for MBA again at the juvenile detention center where I started the meditation program roughly 10 years ago. It dawned on me that at the time of writing this post I’ve probably used the lion mind metaphor over a thousand times at this point. I’ve even added my own tweaks and twists and incorporated the metaphor into my MBSAT Curriculum.

The metaphor is simple and only takes a minute present. I hold up a pen or meditation bell (the stick used to strike the bell) and tell the group to imagine it’s a bone. If I’m standing in front of a dog and I wave the bone in the dog’s face side to side and then toss the bone a few yards away, what will the dog do? “Chase the bone,” the group often yells back. But what if I’m standing in front of a lion. And I wave the bone in the lion’s face from side to side and toss it a few yards away. What will the lion do? “Eat you!” is often the resounding response. The fact is that the lion may eat me. The lion could eat met. But there’s a fundamental difference between the mind of the dog and that of the lion. The dog has tunnel vision and can’t see beyond the bone. It becomes simple: If I control the bone, I control the dog’s reality.

Of course, it’s fundamentally different with the lion. The lion sits upright as I wave the bone, eyes looking beyond the bone and directly at me. The lion has poise, understands the bone is just a small piece of a larger reality, and therefore has much more autonomy. The lion can go after the bone, can sit there and stare at me, can eat me.

The “bone” is what gets related to our experience. When anger arises, what type of mind, the dog or the lion mind, do we employ? When we’re extremely anxious, are we chasing the bones of worrying thoughts, or sitting with autonomy? Sometimes we can get caught up in the bones of our own stories, thoughts, images, sensations, and emotions.

By remembering the image of the lion sitting there and being present and non-reactive, we remind ourselves of the state of mind we’re trying to cultivate with mindfulness. Not necessarily relaxed, but present, with a non-reactive and non-judging attitude. That’s what awards us with the true power of mindfulness. To face whatever “bones” get thrown our way.

I often follow up the metaphor with a discussion with the youth about what particular “bones” are relevant in their life presently. What are the triggers they are dealing with the most? That makes the metaphor real and applicable. It takes the focus away from meditation, which is easy to conflate with relaxing or trying to calm down, and points it toward the symbol of the dignified lion being non-reactive and poised. I then use the lion mind terminology as a language thread throughout the rest of my work with the group or individual. It’s more help than the word “mindfulness,” which often is abstractly accessed by youth, for remembering the actual concept and practice of mindfulness.

When I check in with youth about situations they’ve been struggling with I can say, “What mind were you in? The dog mind or the lion mind?” and they understand exactly what I’m talking about. That is ultimately one of the goals in teaching mindfulness to teens; that they remember and understand what mindfulness is so they have more of a chance of actually employing it when most needed.

I highly recommend taking from this metaphor what you like, tweaking it if necessary, and catering as much as possible to the unique needs of the youth you work with.

Sam Himelstein, Ph.D.

Northwest Passage teaches the PassageWay, an approach to wellness achieved by living a full and mindful lifestyle. Relaxation, one of the eight elements essential to a therapeutic lifestyle, helps manage distress and provides an opportunity to step back from our fast-paced world. Relaxation promotes mindfulness.

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The Greatest Show

PRAIRIEVIEW’S TALENTED DANCE SQUAD PERFORMS FOR A FULL HOUSE

 

The energy level in the Prairieview gymnasium was high on the afternoon of December 14, 2018. You could hear a pin drop as the Razzle Dazzle Groove Squad filed in, heads bowed and hands clasped behind backs. This, however, was the only silent moment of the afternoon. Once the dancers took the floor the music, applause, and cheers of support filled the room with wonderful noise!

The performance began with four solo dances and culminated with a group dance featuring ten kids. The audience, consisting of Northwest Passage residents, staff members and family and friends of the dancers, were treated to light refreshments following the performance. The teens were enthusiastic as they greeted their fans and supporters, and the pride they had for their work was evident in the smiles on their faces.

The Razzle Dazzle Groove Squad is a group that meets on a weekly basis to promote mastery, healthy emotional release, empowerment, confidence, nonjudgmental attitude towards self and others, and self-expression through dance. Dancing is a positive outlet giving the teens a way to get more comfortable within their own skin, express their emotions and experiences within a creative condition, gain mastery, increase their self-esteem and overall positive emotions as well as offer yet another healthy exercise means. RDGS is a place where the teens can experience liberation and emotional release in a healthy and sustainable way. Through dance, the teens are given the opportunity to take ownership and to be creative in their treatment, working through challenges and healing.

RDGS operates in two 10-14 week seasons per year, balancing time with other experiential arts programs such as equine therapy and underwater photography. Northwest Passage staff members, Ashley E, Gina, Ashley V, and Molly, guide the students through song selection and choreography. The students are able to choose their own music for the solo dances, provided the song chosen is empowering and appropriate. The Razzle Dazzle Groove Squad members are Star’te, Mary, Grace, Victoria, Alex, Dmitry, Ari, Ellie, Emma, and Jade.

Membership in the Razzle Dazzle Groove Squad directly relates to the kids’ therapy in a variety of interesting ways and offers them a positive outlet for emotional and physical release. While the enjoyment and pursuit of dance as a hobby may not continue for everyone when their time at Northwest Passage comes to an end, the confidence gained and memories of enjoyment with their peers are certain to last a lifetime.

“Bless myself” by Lucy Hale: performed by Mary

“Scars to my beautiful” by Alessia Cara: performed by Grace

“Through all of it” by Colton Dixson: performed by Alex

“Salute” by Lil’ Mix: performed by Star’te

“Come Alive” from the Greatest Showman: performed by the Razzle Dazzle Groove Squad

Please support the Razzle Dazzle Groove Squad and other experiential learning at Northwest Passage!

The Razzle Dazzle Groove Squad incorporates many of the elements of the PassageWay, an approach to wellness that borrows from the wisdom of the past and combines it with current research about the importance of living a full and mindful lifestyle. We have learned that real, sustainable change occurs when our clients connect with their community, explore their identity, develop their passions, discover effective recreation opportunities, and move their bodies.

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