Students showcase creativity at the Sheltie Awards

Shelterwood students have many opportunities throughout the year to practice performing arts, but the most exciting occasion is the annual Shelterwood Film Festival. Nicknamed “The Shelties,” it is a festive evening of celebration and creativity.

Staff and students alike look forward to this special event, which features both student-created videos and live performances. Everyone dresses up, enjoys a special dinner and takes pictures. This year’s Sheltie Awards were the first to take place in Shelterwood’s new chapel.

“The thing I love most about the Shelties is the way it brings people together to showcase and celebrate the work our students have been doing,” says Kyle Anderson, Performing Arts Coordinator. “The energy of the night is high, and there is plenty of cheering and support.”

Shelties Collage 1024x1024 Students showcase creativity at the Sheltie Awards

Every performance receives an award. This year’s categories, inspired by those at the Oscar Awards, included Best Actor, Best Actress, Best Musical, Best Editing and Best Overall Picture.

“This is a chance for students to release their creative juices a bit,” says Kyle. “It is a showcase of what we’ve been working on the past few months.”

No two films are the same. Some students take a light-hearted approach, with compilation-style videos. “We had lots of laughs this year!” Kyle says. Another group of students created a film inspired by the 48-Hour Film Project, with a required character, a required line of dialogue and a required prompt, but total freedom otherwise. Some videos were more dramatic, ranging from adventure to poetry.

“Students gain a new sense of confidence from showcasing their work,” Kyle explains. A small choir from his performing arts class sang the song Glory, from the film Selma. “Many of them were nervous to perform live, but there is a different confidence in their faces, their bodies and their posture. Great confidence comes from people being proud of their work.”

Students sometimes use creative arts as a way to process their past or work through issues they’re struggling with now. One student wrote a song about an especially difficult experience and performed it live at this year’s Shelties. “It was a beautiful and well-written song, and it talked about both real hurt and real hope,” Kyle explains. “It was such a moving performance and she found real closure in this.”

One student wanted to share his Indian heritage by creating a Bollywood-style video, complete with a choreographed group number. “He had a big vision and wanted to get many people involved,” says Daniel Schlenker, Activities and Volunteer Coordinator. When the student arrived at Shelterwood, he struggled to relate to his peers and work with other students.

On the day he filmed the video, however, 15 students arrived, enthusiastic to participate. It was an inclusive experience for this student, and he practiced overcoming social challenges in the process. “I could tell on the day it was shown that he had a lot of pride in the outcome of the video,” Daniel says.

Beyond the creative experience, the filmmaking process is an opportunity for students to build their relational and leadership skills. In filmmaking, students initiate a project and see it to fruition. As they share and receive feedback, they read social cues and learn to compromise. Collaboration with a team helps students relate to their peers. They practice taking responsibility for their actions. When the project is complete, students learn to take pride in their work.

“Students develop responsibility and gain the ability to dream, cast vision and imagine grander things,” Kyle says. “It’s all preparation for the real world.”

Teacher Appreciation

Teacher Appreciation Week

%name Teacher AppreciationThis week is Teacher Appreciation Week. Here at Shelterwood, we are so very thankful for our Teachers! As I think back on the many teachers I’ve had in my life, I am so very aware of how they have shaped me. Through their encouragement, patience, and passion, I have understood that education is a very shaping experience and goes beyond the walls of a classroom.

Here at Shelterwood, we are thankful for our Teachers who constantly go above and beyond. Our Teachers take extra time before and after school to offer extra tutoring and support. They are deeply involved in campus life and often join in on equine therapy, flag-football leagues, fly fishing club, basketball pick up games, wilderness trips to Canada, local fundraising efforts, and much more. Shelterwood Teachers are eager to share at student’s graduations and are often praised in graduation speeches as pivotal in a student’s time here.

Thank you to all of our teachers who work on individual plans for students, patiently explain HS grad 1 copy 300x200 Teacher Appreciationmaterial, and rejoice over the success of our students. I am continually impressed by their investment, not only educationally, but also individually in each of our students’ lives. To all our teachers, thank you from the bottom of our hearts. You have planted seeds that are so obviously being sown in the minds of countless Shelterwood students. You are appreciated!

The Intake Day

%name The Intake DayThe intake day was challenging, as they often are, because Mom was on her own and without any additional support. Her daughter was pretty hard on her mom-in the customary ways.

But a Shelterwood student (Brooke) helped this family in an amazing and unprompted way. The new student had sneaked back into Mom’s rental car and staged a 90 minute sit-in unless Mom agreed to fly her home and deliver her to a Detroit jail (which, as you’re aware is better than Shelterwood). Brooke, shared her own story, speaking very highly of Shelterwood and sharing that the Shelterwood process offers “only the challenges that are needed for someone to heal, grow, and ultimately thrive.” Brooke single-handedly coaxed her out of the vehicle, gave mom a hug (making mom cry tears of gratitude). As Mom left, she shared “I can’t wait until my daughter becomes mature, loving, and wise beyond her years like Brooke; maybe, even someday, she will talk some other new student out of a rental car!” I told Mom I was confident this was possible for her and I chuckled knowing that few would have ever thought this possible for Brooke.

Yesterday reminded me of everything that’s great about Shelterwood. Namely, how we work so hard to love well and how on our hilltop, even a parent’s toughest-day-ever can end well. Lastly, I was reminded how Shelterwood’s culture of loving tenaciously can melt even the toughest of student hearts like it has Brooke’s to the point of creating Shelterwood loyalty so persuasive it can even pry a hostile teenage stranger from her mom’s rental car.

Bravo, team and thanks.

Jeremy Lotz, MA, LPC, NCC
Director of Training & Leadership

Jimmy Faseler was critically injured

Jimmy Faseler was critically injured in a shooting at his home. According to court records, Jimmy came home, interrupted a burglary in progress and was shot in the torso. Police said he was still in critical condition Sunday afternoon and they described his injuries as life-threatening.


Staff Portrait Crops 4 Jimmy Faseler was critically injuredWhen Jimmy Faseler moved to Kansas City from Branson, Missouri, he never knew a place like Shelterwood existed. “I applied for a job just to make ends meet,” he said, “but it turned out to be my calling.”

Today, Jimmy is Shelterwood’s Admissions Director. Often the first point of contact for parents, he focuses on admitting students and helping them as they transition into their time at Shelterwood.  In the fall of 2014 Jimmy received the “Excellence in Service Award” from the National Association of Schools and Programs (NATSAP).

When he isn’t at Shelterwood, Jimmy enjoys cheering on the Kansas City Royals. He’s a familiar face at the team’s home games at Kauffman Stadium, and the Royals themselves call Jimmy a super fan.

Service Project in Haiti

%name Service Project in HaitiThe Haiti Service Project exceeded our expectations again!   Trips like these leave behind some enduring memories.  I have many, and I will share a couple with you.

Our trip to Haiti started out with a special gathering in Ft. Lauderdale where we had to stay overnight in order to make our 6:00 AM departure to Port Au Prince the next morning.  So, that first evening, Lili Chaves and her family hosted us for a wonderful meal, and a great time of sharing.  Lili had served at Shelterwood as a mentor for our teens the previous school year, and she and her family are missionaries from Brazil who live and work in South Florida.  It was a wonderful evening of fellowship, and hearing her story blessed our teens, showing them how the Shelterwood family continues to grow and crosses geographical and cultural boundaries.

These trips are primarily focused on spending several days at a number of different orphanages in Haiti.  And our kids have one assignment: to devote their full attention to the children at these orphanages for as long as we are there.   Our teens did a marvelous job and were not disappointed. They played ball, colored books, sang songs, played tag, jumped rope, blew balloons, held babies, comforted toddlers, dried tears, laughed, cried, and gave 110% to the children.  They loved well, and they were loved right back. They were full days, and very tiring, and even in spite of the heat and the bugs, our teens slept well.

On our last full day in Haiti, we like to visit a Haitian church, and then drive a couple hours to enjoy lunch and an afternoon at the beach.  Even with the heat, humidity, and a three-hour church service, our teens often describe the service as one of the great highlights of the trip.  The passion of the worship is so vibrant and real that our teens push through their discomfort and fully enter into the worship experience.  After the church service, we take the team to the beach.  However, this year, several of our teens asked if we would cancel our plans to go to the beach, and “Go back to an orphanage instead?”  While I could not honor their request, I will never forget it. We bring our teens to Haiti in the hopes that they will have a paradigm shift in their thinking about what is really important in lives. These young men and women wanted to spend their last afternoon in Haiti loving the orphans even more.   I am so very proud of them.

%name Service Project in HaitiAs it turns out, I am very glad that we went to the beach for an entirely different reason.  Prior to leaving for Haiti, one young man approached me and told me that he wanted to be baptized in the Caribbean on the last day of our trip.  By the end of the trip, fourteen of the twenty-two teens we took on this trip had asked me to baptize them.   It is amazing how loving orphans, and receiving love in return helped our kids experience the love of the Father who has adopted each of us.  Our kids really do encounter Jesus on these trips.  I think it has perhaps been the greatest evidence of the power of love that I have seen at work.  I get to see hard hearts melt, and witness the beautiful transforming work of the Holy Spirit in the lives of our kids.

Prior to their baptism, I met with each teen, and they all told me in their own way that they wanted to follow Jesus with their whole heart. For example, one young woman said, “I want to set California on fire for Jesus.”   My best friends’ son, said “I want a fresh start and to bury those things from my past that I used to do, and to begin to live for Jesus.”   Another young woman said, “I was an atheist %name Service Project in Haitibefore I came to Shelterwood, and I didn’t want to serve someone else’s god, but now I know Jesus is real, and He is mine.”  One of our young teen leaders who serves on our Leadership Council said, “This was the next step in my journey of faith and I want to serve Jesus with all my heart.”   Another fifteen-year-old girl said, “I really love Jesus and I want to serve Him with my whole heart.”  A young man said, “I want this to be a reconfirmation of my life and a determination to put my old ways behind,” and one teen proclaimed, “Jesus is dope!”   They all stood in front of their peers on Sunday as they were baptized and proclaimed their love for Jesus.

I love my work here at Shelterwood.  There is absolutely nothing more fulfilling than to watch hearts transformed and to hear kids unashamedly proclaim their love for Jesus.

Jim Subers, CEO

Recreation Therapy Activities

artshow 3 copy Recreation Therapy ActivitiesThe Shelterwood Recreation Therapy team uses various activities and fine arts to meet some very unique needs on campus and give the students a VOICE. The team, led by Karalee White, is made up of artists and musicians who love to think outside the box in their efforts to give creative outlets to Shelterwood students.

Most recently, Karalee and Cindy Booth organized an art show for our parent weekends that featured all kinds of student work.   Students created pieces such as paintings, painted wooden chairs, wire sculptures, sketches, drawings, greeting cards, jewelry, knitted pieces, and refurbished picture frames. The artwork was displayed outside in the Shelterwood garden and the gazebo where parents and staff could browse and purchase various pieces. The $1465 that was collected helped fund a variety of projects including the Shelterwood coffee house, the Trash to Treasure club, the November Haiti trip and to another local ministry that fights human trafficking. Visual arts has proven to be an invaluable outlet for some students, often leading to greater relationships and further progress in their personal lives.

Another activity that is picking up steam is the music club overseen by Gabe Desince. Gabe is now in his third year at Shelterwood and he works with the students four days a week. He explores topics such as music theory, expression, lyric pet therapy1 copy Recreation Therapy Activitiesanalysis and symbolism in music. Students write their own music and perform at the quarterly coffee house and at chapel and other events. He is able to use his relationships and music/poetry to give the students a critical outlet and thereby help the therapy teams.

Other aspects of this department include pet therapy, rock climbing, weekend climbing trips, fishing, mountain biking, campfires on property, creative film making, and theatre activities such as choral work, musicals, monologues, one act plays, stand up and local and global service projects.

It is our hope that students can take these newly found skills home as part of their transition plan in order to continue to have a healthy outlet for expression.

Campus Stories

Class under Tree copy 200x300 Campus StoriesThe trees on campus have been brilliant this fall. We’re witnessing changing seasons, but also changing lives. After a few busy months this summer, we have almost a full house with 55 students.

We hosted guys and girls family retreat in October—it was an awesome time of growth. Always a few bumps and hard times, but a general sense of commonality in struggle and in hope. A few parents words: “It’s always good to share with others on a similar journey, to encourage and pray for each other.” “You don’t feel so alone in your own journey.” “Comforting to be with people who understand and love our son so much.” The sharing time on Sunday after chapel was powerful for many families. Speaking about that time, a few said: “Gave us hope.”  “Beautiful.” “Valuable…I am going to invest in Kleenex.”

The leadership has been doing a Bible study with the guy and girl Littles weekly this fall. Jim Subers (CEO) has been taking the guys through the “Beautiful Outlaw” by John Eldridge. It’s an optional gathering, but with the promise of grilled meat if you show up. A few guys were skeptical at first, but as the weeks progressed nearly everyone showed up. Rujon Morrison (Shelterwood Director) has been taking the girls through a study of “Women of Faith and Passion.” A few weeks ago a former super model told her story. The girls were captivated. There is nothing like the power of a real woman who understands struggle explaining how she found her security in Christ.

Mid-October our whole campus was out in Kansas City for two days of serving. We helped a variety of non-profits including a women’s shelter, a ministry serving pregnant teens, an inner city food pantry and soup kitchen, and a thrift store. The students did great and the days went by without any hiccups…expect, of course, the usual things that happen when you take a bunch of teenagers into a thrift store to sort random goods. Three guys ended up in adult diapers, a funny situation compounded by the fact that the person who gave them the idea was a counselor.

Memories From a Shelterwood Staff

A Staff Comments on his experience and growth while working at Shelterwood Academy.

Cross with Sun 300x200 Memories From a Shelterwood StaffWhat a privilege it’s been to be a part of the Shelterwood mission. When I jumped on board with Shelterwood nearly 16 years ago as a Shelterwood staff, little did I know I had so much to learn.  Of course, when one of my first parents stared me in the eyes and said, “you’re degree isn’t worth the paper it is written on,” my pride bubble was burst. And it’s been a humility ride ever since.

Over the years, I’ve learned that helping people heal is very difficult, but always worth it.  I’ve learned that there are no guarantees in family ministry. I’ve learned that all I can do as a “people helper” is to be faithful to the gifting God has brought my way. I’ve learned that the team approach to ministry is the best way to be about God’s work. I’ve learned that prayer is an absolute necessity to any successful ministry. And, I’ve learned that I’m only useable to God when I realize my place as His servant.

These days, my job description is certainly more global. With teenagers of my own, I continue to learn the same lessons of humility. Truth is, I seem to go through my own discipleship program and Shelterwood program every year. I learn all over again what it means to have a teachable, soft heart that is open to what my loving God needs to teach me.

I’m a blessed man, still learning to be content. I’m a humbled man, realizing I’m worthless when I get in the way of the Lord’s work. I’m a stubborn man, still learning to lean on the Lord in all circumstances. And I’m a man still learning to pray, still figuring out how to stay on my knees in prayer as I walk through each day.

I am so thankful and grateful to have been a part of the Shelterwood mission all these years. Through the ups and downs, I’ve witnessed so many miracles happen through this ministry. As I’ve changed hats over the years, I’m so thankful that the Lord has used Shelterwood to make me a better vessel for Him to use.

Human Trafficking

Here at Shelterwood, we love exploring creative and engaging ways for our students to be involved in the world around them. Currently, we have a small group of committed staff and students that meets weekly to discuss the problem of human trafficking. The group has watched a corresponding documentary and has been involved in different awareness raising events and projects on campus and in the community.

It is exciting and encouraging to watch students eagerly participating in the group and learning more about the issues related to human trafficking. We have also seen a therapeutic benefit to the group. According to our staff member who facilitates the group, “[the group] allows them an open, but safe environment to talk about the things in their own pasts, which have lead them to be passionate about the issue”. Being able to connect issues in community and world with their personal experiences has been tremendously insightful for them. The insight they have gained into their own situation further motivates them to become involved in becoming active participants in the group. The group members are currently looking into even more opportunities to raise awareness within the community.

Check out this amazing video one of our students created on the subject.

Self-Centered Behavior is no match for Service Work

haiti 2 199x300 Self Centered Behavior is no match for Service WorkHere at Shelterwood, some of our students are excitedly getting ready for a short term missions trip to Haiti with Global Orphan Project . We have been on eight different trips with students to Haiti since 2011.

What’s our passion behind taking a group of kids to Haiti? We have seen drastic changes in the lives of some of the students attending the trips. Stepping outside of their comfort zone helps them gain perspective in different areas of their lives. Students are faced with questions of what joy, happiness, and satisfaction mean in light of the situation in Haiti. They are able to see themselves as helpers, and practice empathy in action. We’re not the only ones seeing benefits in short-term missions. In 2008, Barna Group released data on short-term mission trips and their affects on teens. According to that study: A majority of those who have participated in mission trips said it changed their life in some way. The most common areas of personal growth that people recall – even years later – include

-Becoming more aware of other people’s struggles (25%)
-Learning more about poverty, justice, or the world (16%)
-Increasing compassion (11%)
-Deepening or enriching their faith (9%)
-Broadening their spiritual understanding (9%)
-Boosting their financial generosity (5%)
-Others mentioned the experience helped them feel more fulfilled, become more grateful, develop new friends, and become less self centered.

For six years we have seen this study confirmed time and time again. Being self centered is something that is present in our teens’ lives. Our trips to Haiti have been amazing opportunities for us to introduce students to other ways of living and thinking. We are thankful for chances to expose our students to global awareness and a broader perspective whenever we can and excited to see what’s in store for this upcoming trip.