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Translations in Watercolor: Inspired by Schaefer Cabin

Residents of Prairieview Find Inspiration in Nature

Therapeutic nature photography is an important part of the healing process at Northwest Passage. The program emphasizes skilled expressive arts training and nature immersion, ultimately empowering marginalized youth to define themselves by their strengths rather than their weaknesses.

In October, residents of Prairieview took advantage of the crisp fall weather to venture to Schaefer Cabin. The colors of the changing leaves and the peaceful waters of the Namekagon River helped to inspire their work with watercolor painting. Working from their own photographs taken over previous weeks, they began their paintings inside the cozy cabin with a fire blazing in the fireplace.

While watercolor can be a difficult medium to master, the students were up for the challenge. One artist said “I’ve worked with acrylics before, but not watercolor. The colors get muddy really fast if you’re not careful. This was a learning experience”.

Once their masterpieces were complete, they were ready to be shared with the Northwest Passage staff and residents. A show entitled “Translations in Watercolor: Inspired by Schaefer Cabin” was held on November 15 at the Prairieview gymnasium in Frederic. The artists circulated and answered questions about their pieces and provided feedback for their peers. They took great pride in their watercolor paintings and enjoyed displaying them for an audience.

Northwest Passage supports living a therapeutic lifestyle we call the PassageWay. One of the elements of the PassageWay is NATURE. Spending time in Nature allows us to recenter and unplug. The sun on our faces, the wind blowing, the sounds… all come together to bring harmony to our lives.

LEARN MORE ABOUT THE PASSAGEWAY

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NWP CELEBRATES 40 YEARS OF HOPE & HEALING

Northwest Passage, a forerunner in residential mental health care for children and teens based in Webster, Wisconsin, is celebrating 40 years of hope and healing. Northwest Passage is dedicated to restoring hope through innovative mental health services for children and families.

Steve Ammend and Denison Tucker co-founded the development of Northwest Passage in 1978. After working together at an adolescent psychiatric unit, they had a vision to develop a mental health treatment program for adolescent boys using the wonderful natural resources of northwestern Wisconsin. Why Wisconsin? The area, beyond simply lacking in treatment programs, possessed a restorative and healing natural environment, unlike the concrete walls of the psychiatric unit they had grown accustomed to working in. After many long nights, and a rumored 37 million cups of coffee, Ammend and Tucker founded Northwest Passage on the premise that kids with mental health issues can get better in places other than a hospital. They believed healing could happen in a beautiful place, in nature, out in the woods. The founders knew then the intrinsic power nature has to heal.

From its genesis in 1978, Northwest Passage’s programming has focused on blending traditional mental health treatment with arts and nature-based therapy. Though the problems facing children and teens have evolved since 1978, the fundamental needs for self-respect, trust, relationships, and steady guidance remain the same. And while Northwest Passage has grown in size and sophistication, they’ve never lost sight of the foundations all children need to be successful. Above anything else, Northwest Passage’s goal is to restore hope in their clients. By investing in the lives of marginalized youth, they are influencing and changing how mental health is ultimately treated and viewed. The transformations seen at Northwest Passage are no less than extraordinary.

 

“We had been to doctor after doctor. No one seemed to be able to tell us how to help our daughter. When we found Northwest Passage, we had little hope left. But, then the doctors listened to us and to her. The treatment team worked together to figure out the puzzle our daughter’s life had become. When they finished their assessment, they sat down with us until it all made sense. They talked to us like people, not just like professionals. And they helped us where no one else could before. Now, we know what our daughter needs and we can finally help her to get it. The careful assessment that Northwest did gave us a miracle…and gave us back all the hope we had lost.” – Parent of a Northwest Passage resident

 

A long way from the humble beginnings of one house on the banks of the Clam River, Northwest Passage now operates three distinct residential treatment programs and two group programs:

  • COMPREHENSIVE ASSESSMENT PROGRAM provides a focused multidisciplinary health assessment centered around collaboration that generates a dynamic treatment plan. This one-of-a-kind program offers children and families a chance to stop the guesswork and find stability. The program serves boys and girls ages 6-17 in 23 beds at Northwest Passage’s Frederic, Wisconsin location.
  • INTENSIVE RESIDENTIAL TREATMENT FOR BOYS is ideal for boys experiencing significant emotional and behavioral disorders. This program blends sophisticated treatment with the teaching of essential life skills such as personal responsibility and relationship building to provide an intensive, effective, and lasting treatment experience. The program serves males ages 12-17 in 26 beds at the Riverside location in Webster, Wisconsin.
  • INTENSIVE RESIDENTIAL TREATMENT FOR GIRLS is designed for the unique needs of adolescent females. Programming focuses on increased self-esteem, development of healthy coping skills, promotional of positive relationship-building and social skills, and promotion of a connection to community. This program serves girls ages 12-17 in 24 beds at the Prairieview location in Frederic, Wisconsin.
  • NORTHWEST OASIS GROUP HOME uses preexisting community services and couples those with a stable and structured setting giving clients opportunities to experience success in their home community and assists them in a seamless transition home. This program, located in Hayward, Wisconsin, focuses on serving juvenile males ages 12-17 experiencing difficulties in their homes, schools or communities.
  • NORTHWEST TRANSITIONS is a four bed adult family home located in New Richmond, Wisconsin. The group home is contracted with St. Croix County Mental Health and is working as part of their community support program to provide services for adults who are classified by the State of Wisconsin as having emotional disturbances or mental illness.

Northwest Passage also operates the In a New Light Gallery. The gallery is the physical manifestation of the hope and healing experiences of art and nature. The first of its kind, the In a New Light Gallery showcases the artwork of Northwest Passage’s clients who are learning for the first time to navigate their lives based on the talents they hold. Opened in May of 2013, the gallery also serves as a bridge to the community – a public testament to the truly astonishing talents of children and teens who are too often marginalized with the stigma associated with their mental illness. The space provides an opportunity to create conversation and foster partnerships within the community and local tourism groups. Through art exhibitions around the United States, as well as worldwide media exposure, the young artists of Northwest Passage have touched the lives of over one million people to date. By sharing their story, In a New Light gives marginalized children a voice to prove to the world that they are profoundly worthy of society’s investment. The In a New Light Gallery is located at 7417 North Bass Lake Road in Webster, Wisconsin, and is open Monday through Friday from 9:00 am – 4:00 pm.

 

“Our kids often struggle to engage the world in a positive way, so we have worked hard to develop programming specific to helping them connect meaningfully with people and their community. Part of this effort has been the development of partnerships and other community connections that directly affect the kids we work with. We have many new and exciting projects on the horizon that will ensure we can continue our mission and continue to help each child we work with to realize their life is worth living. We are incredibly grateful for the support of our community, and look forward to being a valuable resource for families in Northwest Wisconsin and beyond for many years to come.” – Mark Elliott, Executive Director

 

Prairieview and Assessment Students Celebrate Outdoor Classroom Day

INTERNATIONAL MOVEMENT ENCOURAGES KIDS TO “THINK OUTSIDE”!

Northwest Passage hosted their second Outdoor Classroom Day event on November 1st as part of an international movement to get kids outdoors. The teachers and kids at Prairieview and Assessment in Frederic spent all morning enjoying the brisk and sunny fall weather while participating in outdoor activities that encouraged them to “think outside.” Activities included a prairie hunt challenge, relay races, STEM challenge with apples, handmade bird feeders, chalk art, nature photography, archery, and outdoor yard games run by the awesome Northwest Passage staff!

Our education team works to incorporate outdoor and experiential education opportunities to all students across all subject areas on a daily basis. These special days are important for the students and staff as they break up the regular school day routine and provide a positive outlet for everyone’s energy. They are also a lot of fun! These types of activities provide a unique opportunity for staff to work with students other than those in their regular classes and for staff to collaborate with one another to organize the event.

Outdoor Classroom Day is a global campaign to celebrate and inspire outdoor learning and play. “Outdoor learning improves children’s healthengages them with learning and leads to a greater connection with nature. Play not only teaches critical life skills such as resilienceteamwork, and creativity but is central to children’s enjoyment of childhood.”

Outdoor Classroom Day has a goal of helping people understand that spending time outdoors is as important for children’s development as learning to read and write. This belief coincides with Northwest Passages’ focus on blending traditional mental health treatment with arts and nature-based therapy to restore hope in the children and families we serve.

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Interview with a Pioneer

RETURNING PIONEER PLAYER NAMED TEAM CAPTAIN

ARTICLE CONTRIBUTED BY COACH TAYLOR MATHIAS

I recently sat down with Candus, one of my players from last season’s inaugural basketball season. Candus has been in Northwest Passage’s Prairieview program since March of 2017 and is hoping she can stick around a little while longer to be part of this basketball season too.

When asked about what she is most looking forward to as the new season approaches, Candus stated, “I’m excited to see who we have this year for players. With new players comes excitement and I am ready to see what this new team has in the tank. I think we will have a lot of potentials.”

Candus has made strides in her treatment since being at Northwest Passage. She has been setting goals for herself along the way, and that included goals for this upcoming season. Candus wasn’t shy about her goal. “I’ve been practicing all year for this new season. I’ve been working on my three-pointers a lot and I think I can provide a spark like Mariah and Malia,” Candus explained. Mariah and Malia were our top guards from last season, who led our team in scoring with 32 and 30 points, respectively. As Candus nodded to, they also led the Pioneers in three-point field goals made.

When asked about some of the most exciting moments from last season, I was expecting a story about a great shot Candus made or the time she got hit in the face and got a black eye, but she surprised me with an off-the-court story. “I’m really looking forward to writing pen pal letters to the Cedar kids. It was fun interacting with them last season. It was eye-opening how much those little ones looked up to us because we were part of a team,” said Candus with a smile on her face.

One of the most difficult aspects of forming the Pioneers is the fact that the team is always changing. Over the course of last season, we had 20 different players on the team at one point or another. That’s the nature of a team in a treatment setting. Candus agreed, “The transition of players on the team was a lot to handle last season, but you have to keep grinding and focusing on yourself. I am really hoping for more consistency within the team this season.”

Just as basketball is a team sport, it takes a team of staff to push residents toward their goals whether they’re part of a team like the Pioneers or not. Candus had this to say about some of her staff, “Kim and Jenny have helped me a lot in the off-season by pushing me to stay in shape. Fitness class has definitely been an area that I no longer dread and I now look forward to. And of course, whenever I get the chance to shoot hoops—I do!”

To wrap up our conversation, I informed Candus that she will most likely be one of the only returning players from last season. I also let her know she would be the Pioneers’ team captain for the 2018-2019 season. Candus’s face lit up and was ecstatic when I told her. “There is going to be a lot of leadership involved, that’s for sure. I will push myself and encourage my teammates during practice and games, and even off the court. I won’t let the team down,” stated Candus with confidence.

The start to the new season is up around the bend and there is plenty of excitement from not only Candus but other residents and staff around Northwest Passage. Our first official practice kicks off November 6th and be on the lookout for our schedule coming out in the next couple of months.

Go Pioneers!

WATCH CANDUS AND THE REST OF THE PIONEERS PLAY!

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Pioneer basketball is making an impact – one kid at a time

TEAMWORK, TENACITY, AND TRIUMPH ON THE COURT ARE TRANSFORMATIVE

Mariah is a shy 14-year-old girl who could be described as a wallflower. A person who preferred to exist quietly in the background, a bit apprehensive and frequently relying on others to take the lead.

People would not know this while watching her on the court with her basketball team. Mariah was a leader on the Northwest Passage Pioneers basketball team that started last year. She is still working on stepping up vocally but she was the first to shoot or go after the ball and with low numbers on the team, was always willing to play the entire 24 minutes.

“Mariah is one of the hardest working players on the team,” her coach Taylor said. “She is the point guard, has a knack for the ball, great ball control, and is a great defender, leading the team in steals after three games.”

Through basketball, Mariah found an outlet to explore some of her capabilities, both athletically and on a deeper, personal level. She not only learned to work together with a team but she explored her own independence, perseverance, and resilience.

“Basketball, here at Passage, means a lot to me,” Mariah explained. “I’m so proud to be able to play in an actual game again. I like that I can play as a team again and just have fun playing with my peers. When I play basketball it helps me release my stress and all the negativity I have going on.”

The Pioneers team was a therapeutic experience for Mariah. She was forced to sit with the distress or discomfort she may have been feeling, while also staying in the exact moment she was in, not thinking about the past or the future, and working on improving her skills in order to master the sport. Each of these things is a fundamental piece of the dialectical behavioral therapy she learned at Northwest Passage.

“Mariah glows when she is on the court and her pride is positively tangible,” Gina describes. “As her therapist, I am hopeful that as she moves forward, the benefits of basketball will not only continue while she is here but also long after she transitions into the community.”

IF YOU’D LIKE TO SEE THE PIONEERS IN ACTION – COME TO A GAME!

Basketball is a healthy, recreational activity that falls under the PassageWay elements for living a therapeutic lifestyle, which Mariah learned every day. Mariah will be able to find basketball anywhere from urban areas to rural farmlands as she moves forward from Northwest Passage. It will help her make healthier lifestyle choices, build relationships, and avoid old patterns such as substance abuse or other conduct issues.

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Artist in Residence: Words from the Artist

Hannah Prichard

Artist in Residence, Ceramics

My experience with Northwest Passage was particularly unique. At the start of the summer, I began as the Artist in Residence Intern but finished as the Artist in Residence. The first artist of the summer, Kat King, provided a good model of what the Artist in Residence should be and I was excited to get the opportunity to work with another artist in July. A week before the next artist was supposed to arrive I was told he had canceled last minute and I was asked to step in as the next Artist in Residence. Of course, a myriad of emotions flooded my brain: excitement, nervousness, anticipation, and doubt. I had to make the transition from supporting another artist to becoming the artist, planning and leading my own programming. Although I was not sure if I would be able to reach the bar set by Kat at the beginning of summer, I was eager to share ceramics with the kids.

I have always found working with clay to be a meditative experience. It has acted as an emotional release for me, as well as a source of joy and fulfillment. However, it was not until this summer that I realized how applicable the lessons I’ve learned from pottery are to real-world problems. Even though the kids may not realize it yet, I think they learned a little more about themselves and how they react to different situations. One resident had a hard time at the beginning of every project. Her frustration with the clay would build to a point where she was unable to think logically about the task at hand. Multiple times I told her to step away and take a break. Every time this happened, she would come back a few minutes later and conquer the project. It was only after she became angry with the clay that she was able to move forward and produce a beautiful end product. Not only did she make a quality piece of artwork, but she also expressed immense joy when she saw her finished piece. This resident’s story is a perfect example of how anger can hinder the artistic process. It isn’t until we take a step back and breathe that we can really see how to solve the issue. It also reminds me that anger is a natural part of the problem-solving process.

Over the course of the four weeks, I found that I was learning more from these kids than I could have ever taught them. I forgot what it was like to start out in clay; how difficult and new it felt. We don’t use our hands in our daily lives like we do when we are handcrafting something out of clay. However, the beginning isn’t just a time of frustration and confusion. It is the most innovative part of any new venture. Anything is possible. In addition, kids have a way of surprising you and doing the unexpected. Sometimes my instructions were not as clear as I wanted them to be and kids would create something completely different from what I pictured in my head. Although in many circumstances this was aggravating because I felt I was not communicating effectively, it allowed creativity to run free. These kids are incredibly creative and a lot of them haven’t been able to explore their artistry. Doing pottery allowed them to forge through uncharted innovation and individuality. They were problem-solving and coming up with many new ideas for other projects. For the first two weeks I had very specific plans, but once I realized their creative potential I let the kiddos expand and develop their own ideas. Of course, they needed a little structure, but only enough to get them started. Once they were started they didn’t want to stop.

There were many times a kid would call me over and ask me to do it for them. I would ask them to take a second, then follow their instincts and trust in their own ability. In almost every circumstance the resident told me the next steps to be taken and then proceeded to do it on their own. In that moment of doubt, where I can guess that many people prior had told them they couldn’t do it or simply took over and did it for them, they needed someone to tell them, “You know this, you can do it.” I can personally attest to this feeling; not knowing you had the ability until someone told you that you did. There is no better feeling than being empowered by your own ability.

It was truly inspiring to watch these young people work through and find their own creative process and find the ability to create something beautiful. Frustration is so important because it means that we’re engaged in our work and we care about the outcome. Knowing that we worked harder and really dedicated the time to perfect one-piece makes it more significant than the others that came easily too us. This experience exceeded my expectations and the moments of frustration, hope, and joy I had with these kids will never be forgotten.

 

 

Maple takes first in Siren Summerfest Chalk Art Competition

A humid, rainy day is not ideal weather for a festival, however, that’s what was provided for the Siren Summerfest Chalk Art Competition. The optimism of the Maple unit, a competitor in the contest, was abounding and brightened the gloom of a possible thunderstorm.

When we arrived at the old Fourwinds Market parking lot and saw that it was vacant of competitors, truth be told, I was nervous about the Maple units reactions to the possibility of the event being canceled. To my relief, they were understanding and said it was okay. I gave them two choices, we could turn around now and have a regular day of Saturday programming, or we could play at the park and go back when we felt tired out. When one of the residents asked to check the sign out by the road to see if there was any new information about the event, out of blind optimism, I said sure, maybe it moved.

Lo and behold, IT MOVED to Crooked Lake Park! The fish pavilion was our new destination! As we gathered our blankets and chalk, I anticipated there being a few contestants already hard at work with masterpieces, but to our surprise, Maple unit was the first to arrive! The group convinced Olivia, one of Maple’s Weekend Primaries, to participate as well and she sidled up right next to us creating her own brilliant artwork.

Maple unit began mapping out their plans and was fast at work in harmony and contentment. The artwork began to take shape and transformed into a whimsical underwater visual splendor with the main subject, a Mermaid, eating a cheeseburger. This completely encapsulates the Maple unit’s humor and style constantly quoting funny movies and telling jokes.

Time flew by and our 5’ by 5’ square was complete, but Maple unit and Olivia were the only competitors! The Siren Chamber of Commerce, Chris, pulled me aside and asked if Maple unit would enjoy the prize items that were originally dedicated for a much younger group, a large basket of Crayola art supplies, to which I had to reply “ABSOLUTELY!”

Maple unit was incredibly gracious when they accepted 1st place and were awarded the treasures of the grand prize. They stood proudly by their work for some photo ops and we ended the morning by having lunch and a treat at the local Dairy Queen, which many Maple residents would argue that Pop Rocks DO belong in ice cream. What a great day it turned out to be and I am so incredibly proud of the Maple unit’s accomplishment.

Happiness through Kindness and Service

At Northwest Passage, we understand the importance of living a therapeutic lifestyle. One important element of that therapeutic lifestyle is service. Participating in service and exemplifying kindness can help not only those at the receiving end of the generosity but also those who give. Kindness is good for a person’s physical and emotional well-being. Practicing kindness can make a person happier, improve physical health, and even lengthen a person’s lifespan.

Neuroscience and psychology offer scientific evidence that shows the physical and emotional benefits of service and acts of kindness. According to research from Emory University, when a person does an act of kindness or service the pleasure centers of the brain light up. These are the same areas that light up for the person receiving the kindness. This distinct physical sensation that is associated with helping is known as the “helper’s high”. Performing acts of kindness increases the serotonin level in the brains of both the giver and recipient of the kind act; even anyone who simply witnesses the act gets the boost! This increase in the brain’s feel-good chemical causes both the giver and recipient to feel stronger, more energetic, calmer and less depressed.

Kindness also helps to build and nurture social relationships. Showing kindness and empathy helps us to relate to others, making the relationships we build more positive and fulfilling. Any behavior that gets people interacting with one another can generate positive feelings. Naturally, any activity that involves participating in service or an act of kindness involves interacting with others. In doing service you are showing kindness and compassion for another person.

Helping others also buffers the negative effects of stress on one’s well-being. By showing empathy and doing acts of kindness a person is distracted from any negative thoughts that may be weighing on themselves. By focusing on being compassionate or kind to others, a person is responding to their own pain and the other’s pain with compassion and caring action. When you tune into another’s needs and send compassionate thoughts to them it fills you with more energy. It is human nature to want to help someone that is suffering or in need of help. We care about others and it feels good to relieve the stress we feel when we see another suffering.

Being compassionate, kind, and doing acts of service produces a sense of fulfillment. By helping others, one has a greater feeling of self-worth and purpose. You feel better mentally and emotionally when you stop thinking about negative stressors in your own life and take a few moments to help someone else in need. Being kind is good for yourself and those around you.

 

 

           

We are always looking for ways to give our residents an opportunity to engage in the community through acts of service. Over the years the kiddos have shoveled snow off numerous wheelchair ramps, planted 60,000 white pines, cleaned hundreds of miles of roadsides, stacked hundreds of cords of wood for “Interfaith Caregivers”, helped set up the Siren Lions Club garage sale for the past ten years, helped load vehicles at the local food shelf and helped clean hundreds of Northwest, WI boat and canoe landings. This is just a short list of the many ways that our kiddos get involved in the community. Service not only helps the kids on their path towards hope and healing but also allows them to foster healthy relationships with community members.

By working directly with the community the residents begin the healing process by feeling wanted and accepted. Their sense of self-worth explodes in a positive direction when an elderly lady says “Thank you, young man, for helping me”.  Hope for a better tomorrow is restored by the gratitude and the shining beacon of the local community while embracing the kids within its light and showing genuine humanity and resound.

Justin Stariha

Expressive Arts Instructor

Service gives the kiddos a sense of accomplishment, pride and overall satisfaction in knowing they are contributing to a community.  Often times, service becomes an important part of their wellness plan when they leave Passage to continue their contribution to the community they return to.

Amanda Lundquist

Program Coordinator

Maple Makes the Kinni River their Studio through Partnership with Kinni River Land Trust

Our Maple unit has been given the opportunity to join in a partnership with the Kinnickinnic River Land Trust, participating in an explore the Kinni project. Every couple of weeks, the Kinni Land Trust hosts our kiddos to experience the beauty and intersection between nature and human impact. In exchange for their time and expertise, we will be taking and sharing with them photos of the beautiful Kinni River.

The kids and Kinni River volunteers have visited different sections of the river, spending time appreciating and photographing the diverse areas and scenery that the historic river has to offer. Maple has been making the Kinni their studio, taking photos at each of their visits. Along with the Land Trust volunteers, the group was joined with volunteers from Trout Unlimited. Each kiddo was paired with a volunteer to learn how to fly fish at the Red Cabin site of the restored portion of the Kinni River.

     

This partnership exemplifies multiple PassageWay elements, giving our kids a chance to practice different aspects of a therapeutic lifestyle. Being out on the Kinni River gives the residents a chance to enjoy the serenity and therapeutic benefits of nature and relaxation. Working with and spending time with the wonderful volunteers from the Kinni Land Trust and Trout Unlimited gives the kids a chance to build positive and supportive relationships. Practicing photography and learning a new skill such as fishing, is a great way to help the kids develop a passion and interest for positive hobbies that they will be able to carry with them after their time at Passage. This service project is something that is beneficial for both the kids and the partnering organization. This project gives the residents a chance to contribute to the community and share their art, as well as assisting the Kinni Land Trust in their conservation efforts by photographing the beauty of the Kinni River.

     

                       

Beauty

By: Dylan P

As soon as I saw these flowers in the prairie I got out my camera and took a picture. The beauty that lies within this picture is remarkable. It makes me happy to see nature this beautiful.

Spreading Your Wings

Taking off is the hardest part

It comes from deep within the heart

But if you don’t you won’t survive

Flying will help you thrive

So spread your wings and jump,

Because if you do

You will

FLY!

Celebrating Pride Through Acceptance

June was Pride month, and at Northwest Passage, the kids in Prairieview were given the opportunity to reflect upon Pride in a different light through discussion and artistic expression. Staff member, Leonora, asked the kids to focus not on accepting members of the LGBTQ+ community, but on those who reject it. The kids discussed what acceptance means to them and how they should not try to tell those who disagree what to think but to accept their beliefs and views in the same way they expect their beliefs to be accepted. She encouraged the kids to become advocates for the LGBTQ+ community, to help people that do not agree understand and hopefully reach mutual acceptance. The discussion not only centered around acceptance, but also around what love outside of romance or sexuality means to them and why that is important to understand in talking about acceptance.

As a member and advocate of the community myself, I find it equally important to learn to accept people having difficulty

accepting something as it is to get them to accept.

~ Leonora Otto, Youth Development Specialist

In celebrating Pride month, it is important to recognize the allies of the LGBTQ+ community and not just the supporters. It is important to give the kids the chance to have an open discussion about pride and acceptance, to help them reach acceptance not only for those that may disagree with them but acceptance for themselves.

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