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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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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!

Passage Makes it into the Pages of Enduring Gift

We here at Northwest Passage know the importance and value of nature. We take advantage of the pristine wildness of the St. Croix River and its tributaries regularly with our residents through our nature photography programming, In a New Light (and Under the Surface). It is with this appreciation that we are excited to celebrate a recent publication–famed nature photographer, Craig Blacklock’s– “St. Croix & Namekagon Rivers: The Enduring Gift.” We have long admired Craig’s work and are thrilled he chose to capture the spirit of the St. Croix; the National Park in our own backyard.

Of course, it is no coincidence that Craig’s book was published in 2018, the 50th anniversary of the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act. It was through a partnership with the St. Croix River Association that this work of art came to be in recognition of this impactful legislation that protects the gorgeous river we all know and love. The Wild and Scenic Rivers Act of 1968 was co-sponsored by Sens. Gaylord Nelson and Walter F. Mondale and sought to protect a handful of riverways from the harmful impact of humanity by giving them a special designation and with that, protections. Both the St. Croix and Namekagon are two of the original eight rivers protected and are evidence of the program’s success.

The gift this legislation has been to our region is incalculable. It is truly a unique experience to be on a Wild and Scenic River. The undisturbed water’s edge is as though civilization is miles, if not decades away. We’re lucky to have over 252 miles of this wild terrain, and we’re lucky to have a book that captures this treasure so beautifully.

We make our appearance on page 79 opposite of a gorgeous shot of St. Croix State Park – be sure to check it out.

There is photo exhibition at the Mill City Museum, in Minneapolis. Located in the museum’s central Mill Commons from April 12 through June 24, 2018. We recommend you make time to see these photos up-close and in person at the exhibit, or order your book now by visiting stcroixphotography.com.

The river is full of energy,

full of life in a constant flow.

I feel like my life is just like the river

I have all this energy, and my life is now just beginning for the first time.

Derek, 17

Former Lakeshore Resident

The glassy world of today

Will never shine quite that way.

Tomorrow comes and goes

Just like the river flows.

We are pebbles beneath the glass,

We are redder than the mountain pass.

Our real selves just below air.

Trying to live without a care

We’re stuck in the water, oh so deep

We can’t go anywhere, cannot leap.

We are deep and meaningful.

You know it’s true.

We are the rocks of every hue.

Aarin, 15

Former Lakeshore Resident

There are so many beautiful aspects of life that we never see and we never know about, unless we look. Sometimes we have to look in the places that are dark, scary, and unfamiliar to find the greatest beauty of all. I was really surprised to find out that there were sponges in freshwater ecosystems, and now I’ve had an opportunity to capture their beauty to share with the world.

Jonathan, 17

Former Lakeshore Resident

Revived

Into the water I went

Washing away the pain the scares left

I watched the memories float down the stream

Away from my thoughts, away from me

Submerged in the peaceful current

I left myself go for just a moment

As I rose up out of the water

The sun seemed to shine brighter

I knew I was going to be okay

Jade, 16

Former Prairieview Resident

Seizing the Light

PRAIRIEVIEW ARTISTS PRESENT: SEIZING THE LIGHT

The light dances off the surface of the crystalline surface.

Light penetrates the recesses of the hollow spots.

The hidden bright spots can be found in surprising spots if the light is right.

This is Seizing the Light.

We hosted an artist reception to celebrate the opening of Seizing the Light, a new exhibit featuring the work of our Prairieview kids. Molly, their artistic director, who infuses art therapy into her work with the kids, “This show captured the beauty of the way the light dances on the blank canvases of snow, the warm neutral tones of the winter brush, and the sparkle of the ice crystals.”

You can see the full show at the In a New Light Gallery located at 7417 N Bass Lake Road in Webster, Wisconsin. Our gallery is open Monday through Friday from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., stop by anytime!

Excerpts from the latest show:

“Thoughts” by Candus, 15

“Cold and frozen, brittle and broken, lost yet found, beautiful they say but self-conscious deep down inside, hidden but right in the center, hurt but smiling because I’m still trying …”

“What’s on the Inside” by Malia, 16

“No one in this world will ever be able to figure out what one person is like unless they put in the time and effort to get to know them. People are absolutely incredible and completely one-of-a-kind.”

“Angel” by Sidney, 16

“Haze” by Beaux, 13

“If you want to know who you are, you have to look at your real self and acknowledge what you see”-Itachi Uchiha

“Neglect” by Anonymous, 15

“Neglect. Broken, hurt. Crying, suffering, damaging. Dad, beer, contact, love. Laughing, hugging, smiling. Fulfilled, joy. Attention.”

“Fear Has No Power Over You” by Jazzlyn, 16

“Fear is an emotion, it can’t hurt you, touch you, or hold power over you. You’re in control of your emotion, especially your fears.”

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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New Wellness Center

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 county. 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.

For more details about the event, please visit our events page at nwpltd.org/events. To RSVP please call us at 715-327-4402 or visit our Facebook page.

Resources: Photos courtesy of Dillon Vibes

 

In a New Light Gallery to host student film premier from Panama expedition

Northwest Passage Expeditions, Northwest Passage’s newest therapeutic program for students ages 18-24, has spent the past month on a filmmaking expedition in Panama.  Mentored by Sachi Cunningham, a renowned San Fransisco-based documentary filmmaker and photographer, the students created a series of short documentary films about “Blue Mind,” the emotional and psychological benefits of being in or near water.   The students will show will their films and talk about their experiences at the In a New Light Gallery in Webster on Wednesday, August 16 from 3:30–5:30 pm.  The event is free and open to the public.

 

“The students have accomplished something extraordinary” said Ben Thwaits, coordinator of the program.  “Not only have they mastered advanced skills as documentary filmmakers in less than a month, but they’ve also integrated themselves within new community and a new culture to find some truly fascinating people and stories.  Their films are powerful and moving, and they’re expressing new and important ideas. The experience is transformative on so many levels.”

 

After a 10-day orientation in Wisconsin, the students spent nearly a month based on Panama’s Azuero Peninsula, where they explored the region to spend time with people’s whose lives are centered on the water, from local fisherman to champion surfing celebrities.  With each, they explored the nature of their connection to the water. While the expedition focused on filmmaking, the students’ therapeutic experience was the primary objective.  “Adventure is inherently therapeutic” says Thwaits.  “Sometimes you have to remove yourself from the life you know in order to more clearly see the life that is waiting for you.”

 

The expedition to Panama was funded in part by the generous contribution of Darby and Geri Nelson.

 

About Northwest Passage

With locations in the northwestern Wisconsin communities of Frederic and Webster, Northwest Passage offers comprehensive residential mental health services to young people, with the aim of restoring dignity, emotional wholeness, and a sense of self worth.  Northwest Passage Expeditions is a new adventure-based program that partners world-class explorers, artists, and scientists with mental health professionals to lead therapeutic expeditions around the world for 18-24-year-olds.  www.northwestpassageexpeditions.org

 

About Sachi Cunningham, Panama filmmaking teacher

 

As a documentary filmmaker, Cunningham’s stories have screened at festivals worldwide, and on outlets including the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, PBS FRONTLINE, FRONTLINE/World and the Discovery Channel. The Emmys, Webbys, and Pictures of the Year International have honored Cunningham’s work. A graduate of UC Berkeley’s Graduate School of Journalism and Brown University, Cunningham’s documentaries focus on international conflict, the arts, disability, and the ocean environment. On land she has turned her lens everywhere from the first presidential election in Afghanistan, to the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. In the water, she has swum with her camera along side everything from 350-pound blue fin tuna to big wave surfers, to Olympian, Michael Phelps. Once an assistant to actress Demi Moore and Director/Producer/Writer Barry Levinson, Cunningham brings a decade of experience in feature films and commercial productions in New York, Hollywood and Tokyo to her career in journalism and filmmaking.

New Resources Refresh the Equine Therapy Program

Thanks to our clinical director Angela Frederickson, we have been able to provide Equine Therapy to our Northwest Passage kids for the past eight years. It has been an excellent experience for many of our kids and we are so happy to announce that our program is not only flourishing but it is also growing!

Passage is bringing back horses to the Gallery grounds on Fridays for the Riverside boys. Horses will also now be available at the Prairieview and Assessment facilities. Plus we have added another EAGALA certified clinician at Riverside who can facilitate the Riverside programming at the Gallery.

EAGALA stands for Equine Assisted Growth and Learning Association. According to Eagala.org, EAGALA is the leading international nonprofit association for professionals incorporating horses to address mental health and personal development needs. Incorporating horses into our kid’s treatment plans is a refreshing way that they can become more introspective.

Equine therapy can be a great tool used by our residents. Associate editor at Psych Central, Margarita Tartakovsky M.S. explains, “Because horses can sense a person’s feelings and respond accordingly, they can serve as a mirror that the person can use to see and understand feelings they may not be aware of.”

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The EAGALA website states, “To evade predators, horses have evolved to be extremely sensitive to their environment. They instinctively analyze and react to our body language and other nonverbal cues. As a result, we are able to gain insight into our own nonverbal communication and behavior patterns. The EAGALA Model invites clients into an arena for ground-based interaction with horses to facilitate the therapeutic process. These horses become the focal point in client-driven discovery and analysis.”

Our newest EAGALA clinican, Kayla said, “I grew up riding horses in northwest Wisconsin with my family. One of the horses I am bringing to Passage has been with me since I was 12 years old and he has not only taught me how to ride, but also taught me how horses can impact people from the ground.”

The EAGALA model is based on off all groundwork; at no point does a client ever mount or ride a horse. By just being in the arena with the horses our clients can experience comfort, support and sometimes even a challenge. At that point, the horses become a part of the treatment team because they are apart of the recovery process and what happens in the arena. As part of the EAGALA model the animal is represented as a professional partner.

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EAGALA has more of a mental health focus compared to other horse therapy programs and is all about giving the kids a place to be themselves and to experience their issues in the moment. It requires a lot of trusting in the horses to take care of the session and to be able to sense what is needed in that moment.

Horses require relationships to be built in order to trust. They require relationship repair the same as any person would after damage has been made, but they don’t pre-judge the way that people tend to. The horses do not get a rundown of the client’s mental health history or any background information.

Tartakovsky continues to explain the opportunities for cultivating healthy relationships; “Horses offer the person a non-judging relationship, which can help a person struggling with the negative relationship consequences from his mental illness to rebuild his confidence without fear of criticism.”
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During our equine sessions, the horses are set loose and are free to roam around the arena so that they are able to be themselves. They each have their own personalities and mannerisms. It is entirely up to the residents to interpret the feedback that the horses give. The clinicians who facilitate these sessions are strictly there to provide emotional and physical safety if need be.

EAGALA is about trusting the herd. Due to this being such an experiential model, it is important that the horses names, genders, and ages are not identified to the clients so that they can utilize them as they see necessary in the moment.

Overall, Northwest Passage is excited to be exploring another innovative therapeutic method so the work can continue to expand on our diverse, yet effective paths of healing. By taking to these new techniques, it is just one more way Passage stands out from other residential treatment facilities. Northwest Passage continues to look forward to seeing all the progress our kids will make due to equine therapy!

Earth Partnership for Schools

EDUCATION + ENVIRONMENT + HANDS ON = SUCCESS

Northwest Passage is proud to announce a new partnership with the University of Wisconsin-Madison’s Arboretum to bring Earth Partnership for Schools to our campuses. We’re grateful for the Arboretum’s investment in our program and our kids. Since we serve kids across the country, and the nation, we’re proud to be exposing hundreds of kids each year to such a great core curriculum. Our Executive Director, Mark Elliott says, “We are looking forward to plugging into the experience and wealth of knowledge that Earth Partnerships will bring to our commitment to creating hands-on, environmentally focused, flexible educational opportunities for our clients.”

Earth Partnerships for Schools (EPS), “collaborates with diverse communities to create vibrant outdoor learning spaces using a curriculum-based ecological restoration process. Through facilitated relationship-building and dialogue, communities identify their shared stewardship vision and the ways EP can help make it a reality.” Northwest Passage has identified a beautiful 20 acre site as its stewardship project and has the goals to bring it back to its prairie roots.

“Everything came together to allow us to be able to make this commitment to our clients, Education Director Andy Flottum says of the prairie restoration initiative through Earth Partners. “Our outdoor classrooms are nearly finished, the pledge to the National Park Service to increase pollinator space was approved, and our desire to bring more flexibility and capacity to our educational curriculum was made a top priority. With all these things in place, we just had to make the connection with EPS and the rest is history.”

“We are devoted to meeting our kids educational goals while transforming mental health through the healing process. It is our belief that time spent in our natural environment will improve both mental wellness and capacity for learning. We hope to send kids home with a greater dedication to their education.”

“Using hands-on experience to foster learning and practicing skills by working through a long-term project that requires our students to really dig in to investigate and engage with a challenge and solve problems helps to connect our kids to the knowledge we want them to walk away with in a strength-based approach.”

Experiential Coordinator, Ian Karl, one of the staff charged with the implementation of this new curriculum is a naturalist himself and sees the obvious connection between Passage’s commitment to getting our kids all the tools possible to live a therapeutic lifestyle well into their independent lives. “If we can empower our kids to improve their world and learn from it, we’ll be fostering healthier lifestyles.”

What will this all mean for our students? Ellen Race, program Director at Prairieview and Assessment says that curriculum will be filtered through a project based, environmentally themed lens. “Our classrooms often have kids with varying skills in math, science, and reading. Now couple that classroom with a project done together that has tasks at varied levels for everyone to be successful? A child at a low-functioning level may do measuring, while a student who functions at a higher level may assist their group mates in calculating the measurements and mathematics, while another student may draw out the space, and yet another will write a narrative of the groups efforts. What you have is a win/win for students, teachers, and parents.”

 

The educators at Northwest Passage work every day to find new and exciting ways to teach our students. While we do use a classroom for some activities, we believe that getting them active and outdoors helps the learning experience, along with their overall physical and mental health. This partnership with Earth Partnerships for Schools will get them outside where they can see and touch the materials they are learning about and then return to the indoor or outdoor classroom where they can reflect on what they have learned.

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Tropical Adventure: An Expedition to Dry Tortugas National Park

KIDS EXPERIENCE DEEP CONNECTIONS

Water is medicine and adventure is transformative. When we cast aside our reference points and dive into something completely new, we can see who we are, feel who we are, with deeper clarity. The true journey of any grand adventure is ultimately an inward one.

As you’ve likely heard, the young artists of Northwest Passage have spent the past three summers submerged in Wisconsin’s rivers and lakes to photograph a story of otherwise unseen magic and beauty. Their award winning photographs have been celebrated in exhibitions, presentations, magazine articles, and videos. Imagine, if you will, snorkeling alongside the kids in their “home waters” of the St. Croix National Scenic Riverway: maneuvering in the cool, swift waters; peering through the dark currents in search of fleeting shots of timid fish.  Now imagine an aquatic world as different as possible from the rivers of the north. You’re probably imagining a place much like Dry Tortugas National Park.

Dry Tortugas is a tropical paradise of crystalline waters overflowing with life.  This tiny cluster of islands 70 miles by boat from Key West, Florida is an underwater photographer’s dream.  Overlooking these waters is Fort Jefferson, an immense pre-civil war era sea fortress and one of the largest masonry structures in the western hemisphere. Fueled by the generous funding and guidance of the National Park Service Submerged Resources Center (SRC), the National Park Foundation, the Richard Parrish Foundation, and the staff of Dry Tortugas National Park; Jaden, Jonathan, and Johnny—three of our all-star program alumni—brought their unique artistic vision to these exotic waters last month. With the guidance of world-renowned underwater photographer Brett Seymour of the SRC, they spent a week capturing the essence of the islands. Joining Brett and the kids were program leaders Toben LaFrancois, Ben Thwaits, and Austin Elliott, along with retired NPS diver Bob Whaley, and filmmaker Jesse Placky, who was working with Curiosity Stream to film our experiences.

Our adventure had one additional companion.  Throughout our trip, Hurricane Matthew was stalking several hundred miles to the east. While we were extremely fortunate that our itinerary carried on as scheduled, Matthew’s high winds occasionally forced us off the water or limited our snorkeling to the lee sides of islands. But despite these challenges, the photographers discovered magic. It was a week immersed in a Neverland of coral reefs, giant groupers, and shipwrecks patrolled by packs of barracudas; of sun and salt and sweet sea air.

But Johnny, Jaden, and Jonathan also discovered a deeper layer of Tortugas magic, as it quickly became apparent that this expedition was about far more than just underwater photography.  The Tortugas experience was about connecting deeply with incredibly generous and talented National Park Service mentors, guides, and leaders,  whose passion for this place was inspiring, and who made us feel embraced and at home in a distant land. It was about living within the rich history of Fort Jefferson, which NPS historian Kelly Clark brought to life for us. It was about night skies of unmatched brilliance, delicious red snappers on the end of our line, and a crocodile named Carlos who seemed to bond with our team.

Above all, the Dry Tortugas was a peak experience of deep connection. Connection to peers, to mentors, to nature, to the past, to oneself.   And we all know that connection is the ultimate catalyst for healing.  But don’t take it from me.  Here’s what our young photographers had to say:

On my way to Dry Tortugas, I had so many ideas of what he place will be like, but I completely underestimated what it would be like. When it was in seeing distance of the fort, I was amazed by the size of it. it looked like something in a movie. Living here felt like a dream. Walking around the fortress and learning about all the history made me feel honored to stay in such a beautiful historic place. Being in Dry Tortugas has been such an amazing experience, and it has been everything I’ve been needing. It was really good to cut away from the world and be somewhere new. Seeing all this amazing life and being able to capture photos of it has been an experience of a lifetime.

Jonathan, 18

Dry Tortugas is an amazing place. It is simply one of the most beautiful places on earth. It is still hard for me to believe that I was there. You might be able to look this place up on google, but when you see in with your own two eyes it will all change. This place has so many things to do. Anyone who will ever come to this fort will fall in love at first sight. I still try to come to reality that there is a place like this on earth. This place can change you in a good way. It made a lot of things in life make sense to me.

Johnny, age 17

The Dry Tortugas National Park is astonishing to say the least.  Above the surface is the old Fort Jefferson which in itself is amazing, but under the surface is where the real beauty is.  There’s a vast array of fish that are colorful and tropical.  I’ve never seen any animals that are so colorful and diverse.  Along with the fish are the breathtaking coral reefs.  The coral reefs are the center of activity for the fish.  It looks as if it’s straight out of a fish tank or something out of the movies.  It’s actually hard to put into words what’s under the water in the Dry Tortugas, so that’s what photographs are for. This experience was overwhelming, in a good way.  There was so much to take in and everything was so new to me that I was at a loss for words being a part of the expedition.  The trip really has proven to me that good things do come out of negative situations.  It was by far the most astonishing thing I have ever done.  It has also made me feel extremely grateful towards Northwest Passage organization and the National Park Service that I was able to experience these things.

Jaden, 18

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