Celebrating Graduation at Shelterwood

At Shelterwood, we always cherish the opportunity to celebrate our students’ accomplishments. May 27, 2016, was an especially meaningful occasion — graduation.

For Shelterwood students, graduation marks more than a purely academic achievement. This is a celebration of perseverance, explains Shelterwood Principal John Lawrence.

“Some kids come to us not even interested in graduating high school, feeling that they were too far gone,” John says. “Others face issues in their high school, and Shelterwood provided them a way to continue school and education in a different setting. So for all our graduates, this is an exciting time in their lives.”

%name Celebrating Graduation at Shelterwood
Students from the Shelterwood Class of 2016

Not only is graduation special for the students, it is meaningful for the Shelterwood team too. “This is a significant stepping stone for these students and we played a part in helping the student’s achievement come to fruition.”

The Shelterwood class of 2016 is made up of students with a variety of aspirations and ambitions. Some hope to be teachers, one wants to pursue sports therapy and some want to do social work. Our students’ fully-accredited diploma from Shelterwood means that they can go to college anywhere. Our graduates’ plans include work, community college, distance coursework and attendance at state universities.

Families and loved ones traveled from across the country to support their students. The graduation ceremony began with the traditional Pomp and Circumstance, and students entered the Shelterwood chapel in caps and gowns. A Shelterwood teacher continued the ceremony with a welcome and opening prayer. Another teacher gave a graduation charge, encouraging students to always look forward.

As students received their diplomas, a staff member read a short biography about the student’s hopes for the future, plans for school and what they want to accomplish. Students moved their tassel from one side to the other and graduation caps flew.

“Anytime we have a graduation, whether it’s graduation from high school or from the program, it’s fantastic for our other students too,” John says. “They get to see themselves in it, and see what’s possible.”

For staff, students and families, Shelterwood graduation represents obstacles overcome and dreams realized. “All of us are excited for graduation, because it celebrates what felt impossible before.”

College Readiness at Shelterwood

When a student enters a therapeutic boarding school, parents may fear their teen’s college dreams are over. But for Shelterwood students, it’s often the opposite. From our top-tier academics to ACT and SAT preparation, we work hard to help students get ready for higher education on all fronts.

“Just because they’ve entered into a therapeutic boarding school, that doesn’t change their goals,” says Sam Cummins, M.A. Ed., Instructional Specialist at Shelterwood. “It’s not a dead end for higher education. Actually, the door to college is more open than ever.”

Sam has been at Shelterwood for nearly four years. In addition to leading the independent and online studies program, he guides students in preparation for the ACT and SAT exams.

“The way we help students prepare for college entrance exams has really evolved over the past few years,” Sam says. Shelterwood students have an individualized test prep plan. “Since our students come from many different backgrounds and ability levels, it’s important that they can move at their own pace.”

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Sam Cummins guides Shelterwood students in ACT and SAT exam preparation.

For both ACT and SAT prep, Sam guides students through on online preparation program. Prep for these tests begins with a diagnostic pre-test, which helps students identify areas in which they are weak. Next, students take a deep dive into these subjects and get trained on the types of questions where they struggle. They’re tested again on these concepts to ensure learning.

Test prep at Shelterwood also covers test taking habits and how to prepare for the test day. Shelterwood helps students with test logistics too, from registration to transportation to and from the exam.

College preparation at Shelterwood extends far beyond test prep. “We offer opportunities both for remedial and for accelerated instruction,” Sam explains. Students in an unhealthy high school environment, for example, may benefit from the chance to complete high school courses earlier and receive their diploma ahead of schedule — so they’re ready to start college earlier. Other students may be very close to high school graduation when they enter Shelterwood; they can seize opportunities for college classes to stay ahead of the curve.

Ultimately, Sam explains, students are better prepared for college because of their time at Shelterwood. “We’re going to work with students not just on their outward behaviors and academic skills, but also their hearts, the way they view themselves and on their goals. We address social skills and heart skills so our teens are ready for college,” he says.

By addressing our students’ educational and therapeutic needs, Shelterwood produces strong results. “We’re seeing students do very well and many are accepted to competitive universities,” Sam says. “It’s important to us to help students achieve their goals.”

Shelterwood receives the NATSAP Gold Seal Award

Everyone on the Shelterwood team is committed to serving our students with excellence. That’s why we’re especially humbled and thankful to receive the NATSAP Gold Seal Award For Evidence-Based Outcomes. This designation is just the latest in our ongoing commitment to measure our success.

As one of the first recipients of this award, this designation demonstrates the positive outcomes taking place every day at Shelterwood, says Rujon Morrison, Program Director. “The bottom line is, what we’re doing here at Shelterwood is working, and the Gold Seal Award says we have the evidence to prove it.”

DSC 3214 Shelterwood receives the NATSAP Gold Seal Award

NATSAP, the National Association for Therapeutic Schools and Programs, was founded in 1999 as a national resource for programs and professionals assisting young people. From residential and wilderness programs to long-term care and transitional living, all NATSAP organizations are dedicated to serving children, adolescents or young adults.

One of NATSAP’s key endeavors is helping their member organizations conduct outcome studies. From this effort comes the Gold Seal program. To receive this designation, a minimum of 70% of Shelterwood students and parents must participate in and complete the outcome study on an annual basis. 

The outcome study provides important scientific evidence to back up the Shelterwood program, Rujon adds. “It’s so important for us to know what we’re doing well and where our opportunities for growth are. We take what we’re doing here seriously, and there’s nothing quite like hard data to support our efforts.”

%name Shelterwood receives the NATSAP Gold Seal Award

Also driving the study is Stacy DeVries, our Shelterwood Research Coordinator. Having worked for our ministry for more than 17 years, Stacey is committed to seeing and tracking student progress. Furthermore, her efforts help our therapy team track clients and interpret the results of these important surveys.

At Shelterwood, we’re gathering data from parents and students several times along the way: within a week of enrollment, upon departure, six months after discharge and then a year after discharge. These parameters mean we’re gathering long-term data, and we’re seeing restoration and transformation that lasts long after a student’s departure from Shelterwood.

“We’re very proud of this award,” Rujon says. “The Gold Seal demonstrates that the Shelterwood program has evidence-based treatment that creates reliable change. The outcome study provides that important scientific evidence that promotes what we’re doing here.”

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!

Is my teen ever going to change?

Screen Shot 2015 02 26 at 4.31.29 PM 247x300 Is my teen ever going to change?

A Difficult Winter – Is my teen ever going to change?

For the majority of the country, this has been a particularly difficult winter. Temperatures are plummeting and snow is accumulating at record rates. While our patience may be wearing thin, there are still some cool things we can learn from winter.

We may not see it on the surface, but winter offers a lot of growth. Above the ground the leaves have all fallen off the trees long ago, but below the ground, growth has only intensified.

So often we want growth to look exactly like we planned it. When we can’t see obvious progress, it’s easy to get frustrated. But, let’s look at what growth means to a tree. When the leaves die in autumn, the tree is able to devote its energy to the roots. When the frost comes, the roots must become resilient to the cold and push deeper into the earth.

It can be really difficult to wait for growth when it’s below the surface. It’s easy to become results-driven or to want proof that growth is happening. But, remember that growth often does not look the way we expect or want it to look. I can get so frustrated when I hear about my own son continuing in his anger. My immediate reaction is to jump in and fix things. I want him to grow and to show that he’s learning. It’s in these moments that I must remind myself that growth is continuing in his life as he processes through his difficult circumstances. Even when this growth is not easy for me to see and is happening below the surface, I remind myself that the deeper and stronger the roots, the more resilient and strong my son will become.Screen Shot 2015 02 26 at 4.27.29 PM Is my teen ever going to change?

Waiting for the spring takes patience, trust and hope that growth is happening below the surface. But, in these times, take heart. It is in the most difficult of situations that our roots are strengthened. Growth is still taking place, just below the surface.

I Hate Boundaries

Screen Shot 2014 12 11 at 11.15.36 AM 300x199 I Hate BoundariesAm I the only person that hates limits, expectations and boundaries? I know they are important, but if I was honest with myself, I hate it when others want to place limits on how I believe, think or behave. Sure, it sounds good when counselors tell you to apply boundaries to your kids. After all, you are the boss and applying boundaries to someone else seems appropriate and fair. I sure don’t mind telling those that work for me what I expect and I am quick to stand up for myself when I feel miss understood by my spouse. But it can be hard to embrace boundaries imposed by others. I hate it when bosses reprimand me for being late or highlight poorly done work, or if my spouse expects me to be home and clean when I would rather be out golfing with friends. Very few of us are thankful for these guardrails on our own behavior.

Boundaries are limits, borders or guardrails that are placed around our behaviors. We can place them ourselves or they can be placed by others. When they need to be placed by others, it is often a sign that we are living a risky lifestyle. As adults we often recognize our need to mitigate risk by putting up guardrails. Married guys try not to go out for drinks alone with single women. We try to watch what we eat to avoid future health issues. Boundaries are completely necessary and help us function in society in a healthy way. Teens, however, don’t have the necessary experience to put guardrails up for themselves. They believe that they are capable of handling complete freedom.

If we chafe against boundaries being placed on us as adults and look for ways to negotiate our way through them, we can’t expect our kids to react much differently. After all, we find ways to play golf or be late to work for appropriate reasons in exchange for working harder or staying later on other days. Well, our kids are no different and actually want to find ways to live with the boundaries that we set. Note that I didn’t say ‘within’ the boundaries. They want to live with, or survive, the boundaries that they are experiencing within the home, which means that teens don’t often want to give in too much and are usually only interested in expanding the boundary. But you’ve gotta love them for trying.

So Mom and Dad, recognize the completely normal battle that occurs over maintaining this line. Smile as your teens try to expand their freedoms. Try not to take it personally when they violate your boundaries, but also don’t ignore it and give way. Boundaries provide structure, support and safety in our lives. Evaluate the lines that you have established in the home. As your child gets older, some of these boundaries can and should be expanded while others need to be firmly maintained. Talk with your teen, negotiate, and remember boundaries are there to bump against. Guardrails keep us from careening over the cliff. Don’t remove them in your life or in the lives of your teens.

The Power of Words

Screen Shot 2015 02 19 at 11.03.39 AM 300x242 The Power of WordsHave you ever thought about the power that your words have? In one description, words are like seeds planted in the soil of one’s heart that have the potential to produce life or death. What we say to people has consequences that can affect them in the short- or the long-term. These effects can be detrimental to one’s development emotionally, physically and spiritually. Your words have power.

Can you recall a word or a phrase that was said to you that left an imprint that has affected your actions, the way you think, or who you are today? Some of those words were empowering, while others were disabling. Some of those words were so hurtful that they robbed you of your potential for greatness in your life to where every opportunity of success seemed distant. You missed that interview on purpose or decided to turn down that opportunity because those negative words from the past are still being played in your head. The reality is that people from all walks of life have experienced words and their powerful effects. The power of words can be toxic and can produce hurts and hang-ups that can be passed on from one generation to the next.

As a pastor and licensed counselor, I have seen the power of words produce emotional hurt and total discord in families. There’s a popular saying, “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me.” The reality is that words DO hurt, and they can leave deep wounds that minimize peoples’ choices and devalue their self-worth. For example, I remember counseling a client who struggled with the hurt of being told by his ex-wife that he was a ‘loser’ and that he was ‘worthless.’ These words haunted him as he struggled with self-esteem and connection in other relationships. To diffuse his hurt, he turned to drinking alcohol. He finally lost his job and became very depressed. When he finally did get help, the affects of those words were set so deep that it took some time for him to expose the lies of those words. Words hurt, especially when someone you love speaks them, particularly when it comes to spouses or parents. Because you love them and value what they say, their words have more weight and can sink in deeper than words said by others that you don’t have an intimate relationship with.

Parents have a lot of power in how they influence their children. Children learn a lot through modeling and if we are modeling words of negativity, then we are teaching our children tools of destruction. When words are constantly spoken over our children, they learn to believe those words. Those words become ingrained in their minds, and then in their hearts, to where those words have set root and become automatic beliefs. For instance, a child can be called “stupid,” or “idiot,” or “incapable,” so many times that one day the belief is acted upon, and then parents act surprised when they see the power of their words acted out. I’m not placing blame, but pointing out a reality that happens in our homes. It is easy to create a culture that manifests a conditioning that can scar and trigger children to believe lies instead of the truth that everyone has potential for greatness. I know we as parents believe this and we want what’s best for our kids; yet, at times when we speak to them, we are not mindful enough of how our emotions, tone, and body language might communicate something that we don’t want our kids to internalize.

Screen Shot 2015 02 19 at 11.02.22 AM 266x300 The Power of WordsMany kids internalize words or ideas that have been said and will grow to believe them. Children from ages 1-5 years old are like sponges that soak up all that is modeled for them. If damaging behavior and speech towards them continues, those words can produce behavioral patterns that can later be devices leading to discord. I have seen this so many times in teenagers who devalue their parents thoughts and opinions because there were more words of destruction spoken in their homes than there were words of life. The outcome is that when these kids grow up, they can carry on the cycle to the next generation. How can we break this cycle? How can we use our words to bring life instead of destruction?

Consider this practice: speak LIFE. Speaking LIFE is a phrase to remember before speaking negatively. It takes some work because some us can be impulsive, but when rooted in love and a conscious effort to model success to your family and friends, the process becomes easier. Here are some practices to remember by using this acronym of L.O.V.E.:

L-ove – Speak out of Love, never out of hurt or negative emotions.

I-ll words – If you do speak hurtfully to someone, take ownership and commit to restore that relationship because you value that person.

F-orgive yourself – We make mistakes, but don’t stay there…break the cycle.

E-xemplify – Speak with control, love, and safety.

 

Watch — Students create their own video to express the change in their identity – watch the words change !!

 

Paul Po Ching,  MA
Admissions Counselor

School Distress Signals

images 8 School Distress SignalsWhat distress signal might your teen be sending?

You child’s school is a different world: relationships, victories, disappointments, troubles, tests, clubs, sports, bullies, and teachers. Sometimes it’s hard for adults to remember that the day-to-day world our kids face is a complex one.

How can we know that all is OK in their world? Our kids depend on us to support and protect them, even when we can’t be with them. Here are some school distress signals our kids might be sending to alert us when things are not alright:

  1. Evasion: Is your child evasive when asked about homework, grades or relationships? They could be hiding problems. Breaking eye contact, changing the subject and defensiveness are all evasive tactics kids can use to pull the spotlight off of trouble areas. Our job as parents is to compassionately press in during these times and seek to help. Lock in empathy, ask a lot of questions, and plan for follow up (letting them know you’ll be following up with teachers, etc.).
  1. Change in daily homework rhythms: Does it seem like your student is spending less time on homework? Does he give a consistent “no” when asked if he has any studying to do? This could be an indication that he is behind in a class. A quick check of online grade books, and/or an email to teachers can be easy ways to get to the bottom of things.
  1. Frequent “sick” days, or late to school: This could be an indication of social/peer issues. Navigating the complex social structure of school is difficult enough for students when there aren’t problems, but if a child is faced with bullying or hurtful gossip, it can overwhelm them. Don’t accept frequent sick days at face value. School attendance is important, and missing school will cause issues to compound (such as missing assignments, tests, coursework). Once again, engage in conversation, speak with teachers, and communicate with school counselors.
  1. Poor attitude at home: Kids tend to bring their problems home with them. If your child seems to have developed a terrible attitude, there might be something behind it. Conflicts at school often manifest themselves through talking back, using language that isn’t normal for your household, or sarcasm. This problem can be tough, as parents will many times address the symptom instead of the problem. Next time your child displays a poor attitude, try to respond by asking questions. “Is everything alright?” can open the door to a great conversation with your child. It may take work to get through the initial behavior, but keep at it!

Open and frequent communication is the common ingredient to not only picking up on school distress, but also to help your child in his or her time of need.

Chad Smith
ELA Teacher/Academic Dean

Self-Advocating

One of THE Most Important Ingredients for Academic Success

student computer 300x205 Self AdvocatingOne of the most significant foundations for academic success, and becoming a successful adult, is self-advocating.

What does it mean for a student to advocate for himself in the classroom? Simply put, advocating is sticking up for something or someone. When a student advocates for himself, he is simply speaking up for his interests in the classroom or in any other setting.

Practically speaking, self-advocating looks like this:

  1. A student doesn’t understand the course material, and takes action as a result. He can ask questions, speak with the teacher outside of class, do extra work, and/or seek peer assistance, all of which would help him understand the content better.
  1. A student misses an assignment, and desires to make it up. This student can speak directly with the teacher, find out her options, and then do the work without missing a beat.
  1. A student struggles with peers in class. A self-advocating student will seek to repair relationships on her own, but if issues continue (bullying, gossip, etc), she will speak with the teacher, a school counselor or principal.
  1. A student has a learning difficulty or disability. This student can speak up for academic accommodation or adaptations in their educational program. When a student himself drives his academic services, he will receive more help.

No matter if a child is outgoing or shy, everyone can learn to speak up for themselves more effectively at school.

But what might happen if the students in the four examples above don’t advocate for themselves?

  1. A student who doesn’t advocate for himself will stay quiet when he doesn’t understand material. The problem compounds when he fails to master key building concepts and subsequent material becomes progressively more difficult. This may lead to a student believing he is “stupid” or incapable of learning.
  1. A student who is uncomfortable with speaking to teachers might let missing assignments go undone, simply so he doesn’t have to speak with the instructor. This may lend to failing grades and deeper level of anxiety in this student.
  1. Teenagers are notorious for remaining silent when they are experiencing peer trouble. The ones that don’t seek help may begin to skip school, do poorly academically, or (even worse) experience physical harm. They may fear being labeled as a “tattletale,” but they need to know that there are caring people who would love to help them if they would simply ask.
  1. Growth for a student with learning a learning disability begins with her becoming comfortable speaking with staff about her issues. If this student understands and utilizes the help that is offered, she stands a much better chance of success. If she can be actively involved in her accommodations, this will lead to improved confidence. She can then ask for help more readily and remind staff of the adaptations that are in place (such as extra time for homework or tests).

If your student is experiencing difficulties in school, encourage him or her to stick up for him/herself! It is a crucial first step on the road to success in school and in life.

Chad Smith
ELA Teacher/Academic Dean

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