Shelterwood Executive Director appointed as NATSAP Best Practices Chairperson

All of us at Shelterwood are committed to serving our students with excellence. The latest in our ongoing dedication is the appointment of Shelterwood Executive Program Director, Rujon Morrison, as Chairperson of the NATSAP Best Practices Committee. The committee reviews NATSAP Best Practice Guidelines for continuing relevance and handles concerns about programs, plus makes recommendations to the NATSAP Board. In this national leadership role, Rujon leads her team in guiding fellow member organizations towards exceptional service for teens and their families.

NATSAP, the National Association for Therapeutic Schools and Programs, is a national resource for programs and professionals assisting young people, teens and young adults. From residential treatment and wilderness therapy to long-term and transitional care, NATSAP organizations share a dedication to serving children, teens or young adults. NATSAP is governed by an elected volunteer board of NATSAP members.

Rujon 683x1024 Shelterwood Executive Director appointed as NATSAP Best Practices Chairperson

After serving on NATSAP’s Best Practices committee for two years, Rujon was tapped to become the committee Chairperson. “Receiving an appointment of this nature is exciting.  It is an honor to serve NATSAP in this way,” Rujon says. “I love our involvement with NATSAP — the challenges, the conversations and the growth that can happen through it all. I am humbled to be the Chairperson of the Best Practices Committee.”

As Chairperson, Rujon leads the committee, facilitates meetings, communicates with members and is a liaison to the greater NATSAP board. Her committee also serves as a consulting group when a NATSAP member may need advising on ethical practices and principles. “Having served on the committee, I was very excited about this new role because it is a way to stay sharp and stay on top of the best practices in our industry,” Rujon continues. “Best practices will always be a relevant and excellent topic.”

This appointment is meaningful for Shelterwood holistically as well. “This is a tremendous opportunity for Shelterwood,” she says. “In addition to taking on an even higher level of involvement, we are being recognized by NATSAP as a program doing cutting-edge things and really serving our teens well.”

Rujon’s appointment as Chairperson is only the latest in our ongoing commitment to exceptional work at Shelterwood. “Excellence is vital to our work here, and best practices create that important structure,” she says. “Best practices are not static, they are dynamic. We need to always be proactive in our pursuit of excellence.”

From entertainment to achievement: Club activities at Shelterwood

Shelterwood students have the opportunity to participate in a variety of clubs, from soccer and photography to rock climbing and yoga and everything in between. At Shelterwood, every club is designed to help students set a goal and work to reach it. “The whole purpose of our clubs is to show students that they are capable of accomplishing something they did not think was possible. Our clubs are all about committing to a process and sticking to it,” says Kyle Anderson, Performing Arts Coordinator, who coordinates the student clubs at Shelterwood.

Most young people are not encouraged to stick with something for the long haul, and our culture encourages instant gratification, he says. “So much of our culture in America focuses on entertainment and we keep ourselves busy with passive entertainment activities,” Kyle says, including TV, smartphones, the Internet and more.

To combat that quick-fix entertainment culture, Kyle says, every Shelterwood club is designed around a specific goal. “Most high schools have clubs where students get together to do something they enjoy, but Shelterwood clubs take things a step further. Our clubs are focused on what we want to accomplish at the end of the process. These clubs are an opportunity for our students to say, ‘I can do this,’ and then move forward and be really proud of what they have done,” Kyle explains. This sense of accomplishment can be life-changing for struggling teens.

DSC 3257 1024x683 From entertainment to achievement: Club activities at Shelterwood

This spring, clubs included rock climbing, arts and crafts, weight lifting, soccer, photography, camping and survival, wrestling, yoga and even one designed around escape rooms. The clubs take place Tuesday and Thursday evenings and are run by young adult Mentors. Students began the club session by identifying their goals and committing to the process.

“For example, the photography club set a goal of framing and displaying their favorite images and setting up an art show on the Shelterwood campus,” Kyle shares. Students in the rock climbing club had binders where they tracked their progress in completing different routes and noticed their improvement over time.” Struggling teens see that they can set goals and do more than they initially imagined.

Students have different expectations in the clubs depending on what stage they are at in their Shelterwood journey. When students first arrive at Shelterwood, the expectation is to choose a club and set a goal. “As they move through the program, we expect them to set the goal, show effort to accomplish it and stay mentally engaged,” Kyle says. “During the upper stages of the program, we look to students to be positive leaders, positive peer influencers and to provide their encouragement to other students.”

Furthermore, the club activities build students’ self-confidence and help them practice recreation in a way that is healthy and fun. “The students get to experience activities that are healthy alternatives to some of the dangerous activities they may have been trying before Shelterwood, and they get a taste of an enjoyable, active way to have fun.” Clubs are part of a greater commitment to fun, engaging campus life at Shelterwood.

Not every club reaches their goal, Kyle says, and that offers an opportunity to practice dealing with disappointment and practice problem-solving. “If the goal doesn’t happen, we talk about it. We process why it did not work. This happens in life sometimes — so when we don’t reach our goals, how do we move forward?”

Other clubs, however, not only reach their goals, but surpass them and set even bigger goals. Kyle points to the escape room club, for example. “Originally, their goal was to prepare for their field trip to an escape room in Kansas City with some team-building activities,” he recalls. “Yet it grew so much with students stepping up and spearheading their efforts and the club actually designed and built their own escape room for the Shelterwood staff! Their perception of themselves changed and they understood how they could influence their peers in a positive way, and how to use their voice in a meaningful way.”

“We live in such an individualistic society, but to thrive as an adult, we have to learn how to work together,” Kyle says. “Through our clubs, students are learning commitment to a process, how to receive feedback, how to move forward with confidence and how to work together towards a goal. The skills the students learn through clubs are skills they can take with them into their future. We are really changing perspectives in these kids.”