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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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“Baking” the Holidays Brighter!

Northwest Passage’s Prairieview kids bake up some holiday joy!

“If Christmas had a smell, it would be like these cookies!”. This sentiment, spoken by a resident of Northwest Passage’s Prairieview facility, added humor to an already enjoyable day at Northwoods Bakery Cafe in Frederic. During the month of December the owner of the bakery, Maria Booher, invited youth from Aspen, Willow and Maple Units to spend time in the kitchen to create sweet holiday treats. The kids rolled the dough, cut the cookies and helped with the baking, making it feel like Christmas – even while away from home.

Northwoods Bakery Cafe, located at 115 Oak Street W in Frederic, is a full-service bakery and cafe featuring daily specials and great coffee! The bakery is open daily and offers fresh bread, rolls, pastries, birthday cakes and cupcakes in addition to their delicious and festive holiday cookies. In addition to hosting Northwest Passage kids for holiday baking, the Northwoods Bakery Cafe currently employs two Prairieview residents part-time, allowing them to work in their community and earn some extra pocket money. Tracy Kronn, Northwest Passage Case Manager and Aftercare Coordinator, explained “It has been a pleasure to partner with the bakery. They have welcomed us into their family with open arms and have been a big supporter of Northwest Passage and the work we do every day with these kids. They have provided a positive work environment for our residents, who have absolutely thrived from the experience. The Christmas cookie baking extravaganza was a hit among several of our residents… who doesn’t love a little cookie therapy from time to time? We are looking forward to partnering with Northwoods Bakery Cafe for more baking sessions in the New Year”.

While the kids enjoyed the preparation and baking of the cookies, they may have enjoyed taste-testing the most! After sampling their finished product, one student declared “These cookies taste low key sweet!”, then quickly assured the baking team, that is a GOOD thing!

 

Northwest Passage is dedicated to restoring hope through innovative mental health services for children and families.

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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.

 

 

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