You are currently browsing the archives for the Leadership category.

Help Chicago's under-served youth by donating to Chicago Adventure Therapy today.

Click here to donate to CAT now.

Get Chicago Adventure Therapy news delivered right to your inbox. Sign up for our e-newsletter today!

Follow all the latest happenings on the CAT Adventure Blog.

A big thanks to the organizations who have supported us recently:




Archive for the ‘Leadership’ Category

“We got our Three’s!”

img_0970

Scotland Squad

Just over a month ago, a small CAT group went to Scotland.  Three members returned as the newest British Canoeing 3 star sea paddlers, and I returned as the second American to earn the UKCC Level 3 Coaching Award.  Each of us is part of a pretty remarkable community of paddlers that trained with us and supported us and sent us off with their hearts and their hopes.

The words that often define and confine members of this community are varied and diverse.  Many are words not often seen in print about athletes or paddlers.  Some are words that more often preclude people from paddling or traveling.

Our words?  Homeless.  Teacher.  Ward of the State.  Hospice Employee.  Transgender.  Artist.  Suicidal.  Business Owner.  Abused.  Dancer.  High School Drop-Out.  Social Worker.  Teen Mom.  Actor.  Felon.  Musician.  HIV+.  Librarian.  Eating Disorder.  Outdoor Educator.  Gang Involved.  Grant Administrator.  Refugee.  Public Defender.  Anger Issues.  We range in age from a sophomore in HS to retired (and one community member’s 1 year old son).  Our experience levels range from first time in a boat to ACA L5 instructor.  We are Black, White, Latinx, Asian, Middle Eastern.  We are single, married (“gay married” and “straight married”), living with partners, divorced, and we have restraining orders against former partners.

 We have become a community. 

l3-write-up-29-of-34

We’re not perfect.  We hurt each other’s feelings.    We’re sometimes rude or mean to each other.  Not everyone likes each other.   Still, we’re a community.  We’ve had each other’s backs on the water and off.  We’ve called each other out when some members are left out of the “in.” We’ve apologized to each other when we too have been hurt.  Adult members of the group have come to symposia they usually wouldn’t have because a group of CAT young people would be there, and they’ve ditched the classes they paid for in order to spend the day with our community. They’ve traveled across the country to paddle venues they’ve had the opportunity to paddle before and haven’t, because THIS is the group they wanted to paddle with.  Our community crosses barriers that often divide us.  In the process, it changes the lives of people on both sides of those barriers.

*****

For my Coach Level 3 assessment, I needed to take two long term students with me – students I’d been coaching for at least a year.  For three years, my goal was to take CAT participants.  I thought it was probably impossible.  I was inspired by two young men.  They participated in the Gitchi Gumme Project in 2013.  They told me that they wanted to “learn everything we can about this sport.”  Coaching them and two volunteers at Montrose Beach that August was the precursor to this community that we’ve developed.  They went to the Golden Gate Symposium the next January.  One of them was in Scotland with me a month ago.

I was worried about taking CAT participants.  This was the first time that a trip would be as much or more about me as it was about them. I’m a Licensed Clinical Social Worker.  Many of my colleagues would say I was getting ready to cross a line that a Social Worker should never cross.

photo 3

When I had the opportunity to take those two young men to the Golden Gate Symposium, it reminded me that in youth development work, it’s about strength, not deficit; about ability, not obstacle; about opportunity, not compensation for poverty, diagnosis, oppression or flat-out bad luck.  It reminded me that we have a responsibility to provide young people with opportunities for challenge that don’t come with a guarantee of success.  I worried about the possibility that I was crossing boundaries held sacred in Social Work practice; and I trusted in my belief that the young people we work with deserve every opportunity for mastery that we can offer them.  If we don’t offer those opportunities, even for sound professional reasons, we are treating young people as “disadvantaged youth,” not paddlers or leaders.

I made the decision to invite three young people, so that if anyone ended up having to cancel at the last minute I would still have two students.  I asked an adult member of the community to come along to help manage the group.  Our documentarian came along as well – the documentary “Paddling in Spite of the Ordinary” about CAT will end with the Level 3 assessment.

l3-write-up-1-of-34

The L3 portfolio requires profiles of both “official” students and an annual plan that outlines the coaching plan for these two students for the year, with 12 session plans that are part of that annual plan.

From a coaching perspective, we often build student profiles based on 4 related parts of paddling – the technical, tactical, psychological and physiological.  Do students know a skill? Do they know when or in what circumstances to effectively employ a skill?  How does their level of excitement or anxiety (or lack of either) impact their ability to choose or perform a skill?  Do they have the physiological ability to perform a skill in the conditions in which they want to perform it?  The TTPP profiles for CAT students often look different than what paddlesport coaches expect.  A few people in our community have these brief TTPP profiles:

  • ttpP – living in a shelter that serves cereal for breakfast, lactose intolerant – dinner often the only meal on any given day
  • TtPp – trauma – swing from dis-engaged (bored, sleeping) to over-stimulated (scared, belligerent) quickly – narrow Learning Zone; student unable to take direction in dynamic conditions, angrily shouts “No!” — challenging to keep student safe
  • ttPP – Hx of abuse, often dissociates – not fully embodied, challenging to teach a physical skill to someone who is not in their body; expect this student has some level of dyspraxia as a result of trauma
  • Ttpp – gets tired/bored practicing technical skills – need to keep it interesting; *create reason for needing technical skill,  *be able to teach technical skills in the flat water that we often have and ability to transfer skill to dynamic water
  • ttPP – strangled by significant other, gasket of dry top causes intense anxiety

My Annual Plan for my two “official” students is tied up in the annual plan for the whole community. We had a Surf Day last fall, lots of time in the pool over the winter.  We had a retreat in early May, a camping trip on the Mississippi River in mid-May, several 2 star assessments mid to late May and while we were in Scotland another group was camping and paddling in the Apostle Islands.  Twelve people did their Coach 1 and FSRT in June.  Community members went to symposia as students and as coaches.

Our learning and paddling together as a community doesn’t translate easily into a linear plan for two students.  But over three years we paddled and learned together, we built community, and I put it all together in my portfolio.  Last month, we went to Scotland.

l3-write-up-12-of-34 l3-write-up-23-of-34 l3-write-up-3-of-34

I’m really proud that we all passed.  I’m even more proud of our community.  We’re a more diverse, younger community than most in the paddling world – especially in the “serious” paddling world as opposed to a “program” for “urban” or “at risk” youth.

There’s lots of discourse about how to bring young people and people of color into our sport.  We’ve done it.  We’ve done it with young people who have some of the fewest resources at their disposal.  We’ve done it by believing that the words that so often define and confine us are not the only words that describe us, and that they do not have the power to proscribe what is possible.  We wrote a new script, and we did it together.  Some of us may be homeless.  We’ve considered suicide.  We’re high school drop outs, wards of the state, teen moms.  We’re musicians, business owners, social workers and outdoor educators.

We have another set of words. Paddler.  Coach. Leader.  Learner.  Community Member.

professional-sorted-1-of-1 l3-write-up-27-of-34

Thanks to Scotland Squad member Zack for this write – up of the Port Austin Kayak Symposium!

 

Version 2Recently I went to the Port Austin Symposium. The first time I’ve been, and I was assisting as a coach for the kids program. Now, that may not seem like a lot to the more veteran members of the paddling community, but let me paint a picture. I am an 18 year old black boy, unfortunately when I smile I look even younger, and trust me, I smile a lot. Point is, you don’t see people that look like me often.

It’s often a glaringly obvious fact when I arrive that there aren’t many people like me present. However, this doesn’t make me sad. Okay, it does a little bit. But more than that, it makes me determined. Because to diversify the paddling community, with youth as well as race, would be to revitalize it. To make it more inclusive.

Working with the kids there showed me the kind of an impact I could have. I thought my biggest challenge that day would be getting all of the kids to wear sunscreen, or handling any temper tantrums on the water, of which there were many. Then came an hour or two into the symposium. I learned that there would be a group of kids coming in from Detroit, and that myself and another CAT PC youth, Tiara, would be coaching them.

This group of kids had a 4 hour drive, and were navigating through traffic. So they would arrive around lunch. The rest of the morning session went fine, with an eventful attempt on our lives by a rogue mother seagull. Right before lunch Andrea arrived to tell Tiara and I that the Detroit group had arrived.

That group happened to be comprised of 5 young black boys, and two black women. I’m generally extremely apprehensive when meeting new people, and Tiara immediately announcing, “Let’s go introduce ourselves” of course didn’t help. But then I remembered my first symposium, and how besides our CAT group, there weren’t many people like me there. So I bucked up and walked over. That was literally the best decision I had made that whole Symposium.

 

IMG_2411

Tiara and I went on to take that group through the motions of kayaking, from gearing up, chowing down, and then paddling out. We taught them proper technique, took them on a little tour around the breakwall, and then brought them back with some good old fashioned rescues, my specialty. I slowly realized that my biggest challenges were gonna be getting them to all wear sunscreen, but this time  there was only one temper tantrum. By the end, we had completely exhausted these enthusiastic boys, and I feel they were better off for having known us. Which is really all you can say sometimes.

The next day I officially met Rowland Woollven.  In his morning class, during the introduction, the funniest thing happened. Everyone was going around introducing themselves and their paddling experience. All these well traveled people boasting 35 years paddling, but only 9 seriously, that sort of thing. And then they get to me. “I’ll have been paddling for a year on July 14th”. Then came the giggles. And I understand, my experience paled in comparison. Or so I thought. Until Rowland clapped me on the back and then announced, “What he forgot to mention was that he’s a coach”. And the giggling stopped.

Over the course of the day I realized that I was better off having known Rowland Woollven. And John Carmody, who assessed my Level 1 Coaching. And Phil Hadley, who assessed my Level 1 Coaching and my FSRT. And honestly, Andrea Knepper, who puts so much work and dedication into helping me achieve my goals in paddling. Who I wouldn’t be going to Scotland without, and frankly I wouldn’t want to.

13442707_257367587966630_4927984058144051567_o

 

arc of justice

 

I wonder who among those of you who will read this post – who among you are old enough to remember when Martin Luther King Jr Day became a national holiday?

freedom not voluntarily givenI remember.  I was a kid.  Not a little kid – probably early teens.  Old enough to understand that this was important; young enough to be so naive as to be stunned when I learned that making Martin Kuther King’s birthday a federal holiday wasn’t an automatic, easy win.

I had a button in support of the holiday.  A big, round red and white political button.  I was wearing it one day when I ran into our neighbor, Mrs. Buckler.

Mrs. Buckler was old.  She was frail.  And she had some dementia.  I had watched my mom protect her when the local fraternity publicly and loudly teased and humiliated her during Rush Week.

So I was stunned when she saw my button and started an impassioned political conversation.  And even more stunned that she was furious about the idea that our country would create a holiday in honor of Dr Martin Luther King Jr.

what are you doing for others

 

For my 13th birthday, I asked for “A Testament of Hope,” Dr. King’s collected writings.  Despite the fact that he and Harriet Tubman were my long-standing childhood heroes, I was oblivious to the fact that there was anybody who didn’t idolize MLK as I did.

I was shocked that anyone in this country would oppose a national day to remember and honor him.

 

 

Because, you see – I was a white girl.  Had I grown up a black girl, I would not have been shocked that racism still existed.  I might have idolized Rev. King – but I would have had no illusions that he or the Civil Rights Movement ended racial inequality and injustice in the United States of America.

This is what White Privilege is.

I could grow up passionately devoted to justice and equality, and not understand until my early teens that racism was alive and well.

 

inhust ice anywhere longThe majority of the young people we work with at CAT are young people of color.  They have taught me about this City we share.

Our young people of color don’t have the luxury of being so naive as to believe that our City is safe; or that it’s as safe for them as it is for me.  They talk of the dangers of “driving while black.”  They share stories of being stopped by the police, of being roughed up by the police every day.  I’ve watched police drive by a paddling venue and stop where they can watch our groups as we load kayaks; something that has never happened when I’ve paddled those same venues with white paddlers over the last 15 years.  We’ve had a peaceful group, sitting in a public gazebo debriefing a paddling program, approached by a police officer who’s first sentence was an aggressive “What’s REALLY going on here?”  He accused the group of threatening and violent behavior.

As a clinician, it’s tempting to take the view that I work with individuals; with individual hurts, individual betrayals, individual traumas — all safely apolitical and uncontroversial.

 

Trauma-informed care tells us otherwise.

silent aobut things that matter“To study psychological trauma means bearing witness to horrible events. When the traumatic events are of human design, those who bear witness are caught in the conflict between the victim and the perpetrator. It is morally impossible to remain neutral in this conflict. The bystander is forced to take sides. It is very tempting to take the side of the perpetrator. All the perpetrator asks is that the bystander do nothing. He appeals to the universal desire to see, hear, and speak no evil. The victim, on the other hand, asks the bystander to share the burden or pain. The victim demands action, engagement, and remembering.”
~ Herman, J. L. (1992). “Trauma and recovery”

_________________________________________________________________________

silence of our friends

 

In a city where we know the names of Rekia Boyd, Sandra Bland, LaQuan McDonald – I’m left with the question:

What is our ethical responsibility as clinicians who work with young people who have experienced trauma because of oppression?  Because of systemic racism, sexism, heterosexism, cisexism?

I believe we cannot be silent.

_________________________________________________________________________

While I would be less surprised today by Mrs. Buckler’s vehement opposition to making the Rev Dr Martin Luther King Jr’s birthday a Federal Holiday, I still have the privilege to choose to be utterly blind to the oppression and systemic racism that is a part of our young people’s lives day in and day out.  As a well-trained clinician, I believe I have an ethical responsibility to take an active and visible stance against it.  If I don’t, I betray the trust our young people put in me.

moments of pressure footer

Sweetwater Kayak Symposium trip Report, by Cory Kazawitch

 

The Sweet Water Sea Kayak Symposium is an excellent opportunity for paddlers from all over the country and of all skill levels to get coaching and meet others who share their passion.

After two long days of traveling the interstates and living off truck stops we finally got to St Pete. We were welcomed with a perfect little cottage complete with a porch swing at a local KOA. Our campground was right around the corner from a dock leading to the mangroves and just up the street from our first launch spot. At dinner, I tried pipos and found out I love Cuban food.

10850253_10204398075566139_1888504089807272468_n

The first day was a little chilly but awesome anyway. We pulled up bright, early and thoroughly caffeinated. We took down the yaks and Andrea introduced us to Cynthia Thompson, a fellow paddler and coach at Ladies of the Lake, and also the person who made this whole trip possible for us. We chatted with fellow paddlers and coaches from all over the country. After a while we all gathered around a picnic table, had a short brief about the plans for the day and launched off. I took bracing for my morning class and bracing on moving water for my second. I learned a lot about proper hand positioning in using high braces and catching yourself from capsizing and when correction is needed at full speed using my hips more than my paddle. Most importantly, I learned the importance of sunscreen!

Our last day was by far my favorite. The weather was perfect, sun shining, wind blowing to our backs, waves breaking to make for a slight challenge in getting past and onto the island. The perfect day for paddling! We began our 3 mile trip through the break and over the shipping lanes and met for lunch at Egmont Key. I took a nap on the beach for a while, something you don’t have the luxury of doing too often in Chicago, then back to sea and inbound back to the launch spot from the morning. A little over an hour later we were there and all headed to the last social of the trip.

11034330_10203064566168934_7082733179627423788_oWe met great coaches such as Sylvain Bedard! I can confidently say that after getting this experience under my belt that I feel much closer to being at BCU two star standard in time for my assessment in Baja a couple weeks from now. I had a great time and I hope I can come back next year, maybe assisting in leading a class myself.

 

11000325_10203047375059167_41539504306091614_o

 

CORY KAZAWITCH
Sweetwater Sea Kayak Symposium
February 27th-March 1st
Saint Petersburg, Florida

I’d like to introduce you to Robert Weisberg, CAT’s newest board member.  Robert officially joined us  on the Board in December, but he’s been helping out since the summer.  I’m delighted that he accepted our invitation to join us.  Robert brings a tremendous enthusiasm coupled with practical, no-nonsense financial knowledge and project management skills.  Robert has already jumped head first into the details of cash flow and budgets, and also into the big picture of financial strategy.  Thanks for joining us Robert!

 Conversation with Robert:

What drew you to CAT?

As most people involved with CAT, I have a deep love of the outdoors. I have personally received many therapeutic benefits from outdoor activity, and I get really excited about creating similar opportunities for youth that otherwise do not have the means to do so. I learned of CAT through an event with the Kellogg Graduate School of Management, where I am an alumnus. After seeing Andrea speak for 5 minutes about CAT, I was hooked.

Employment

I do Strategy and Corporate Development for U.S. Cellular. In addition, I volunteer my time to local non-profits, typically in a financial management or development capacity.

If you could have one superpower, what would it be?

Flying – it would be so easy to travel anywhere and everywhere.

Skills you bring to the leadership of CAT

Financial management, strategy, development, and goofiness

Favorite outdoor sport

This is a tough one for me to answer, but if forced to pick only one, it would be running. My morning runs are my solace and strength and it would be incredibly difficult for me to give them up. I also love hiking/backpacking, camping, and beach volleyball.

Your most admired historical figure; and what they would like about CAT

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. I think he would be most proud of the fact that CAT’s work helps to foster non-violence in our community.

Favorite quote

“It really boils down to this: that all life is interrelated. We are all caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied into a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly… Before you finish eating breakfast, you’ve depended on more than half the world. We aren’t going to have peace on Earth until we recognize the basic fact of the interrelated structure of all reality.”

~ Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

Robert Weisberg

Robert Weisberg

Nelson-Mandela’s-Top-Five-Contributions-to-Humanity
Nelson Mandela died yesterday.

A man who, as our own President said a few hours later, “took history in his hands, and bent the arc of the moral universe toward justice.”

As photos and news stories, quotes and tributes began to fill the internet, I, like many others, found myself looking at memories.

And then, an interesting thing started to happen. A few articles started to appear that said, essentially, “let’s remember ALL of history.” Let’s remember Nelson Mandela’s full story.  Nelson Mandela was in prison for 27 years because justice does not come easily. Equality does not arrive on its own.

For many of us of a certain age, Nelson Mandela may have been the person who was the impetus for some of our first forays into political action. A friend reminisced about avoiding Coca Cola products in high school and college, as part of the boycotts of corporations invested in South Africa. In 8th grade, I added a “Divest Now” button to my store of political buttons. We boycotted and called for divestment because our own country was fully complicit in practices and policies that upheld Apartheid.

People – whether individuals, countries or corporations – rarely give up privilege, convenience or wealth voluntarily. And so Mandela, a Freedom Fighter, was a prisoner before he was the President; he was dubbed a “terrorist” before he was honored as a “statesman.”

I was reminded of how much easier it is to claim heroes as our own after they have “won” than while they are fighting. Had Nelson Mandela died in the 1960’s or the 1980’s, at the beginning and in the midst of his struggle for justice and for equality in South Africa,  few Americans and few American organizations would have paid tribute to him the way we did yesterday.  To stand resolutely for justice when it is not yet the law of the land takes a courage, perseverance and vision that few people have.  And it requires risking more than most of us are willing to risk.

Whatever the challenge, whatever the risk – our kids in Chicago need us to summon some small piece of Nelson Mandela’s vision; some fraction of his courage; and as much perseverance as we possibly can. Our kids are not just “making bad decisions.” They are struggling mightily in situations stacked against them.
• Some of the kids we work with grow up with no examples of options beyond the gangs that dominate their neighborhood
• Some of the kids we work with are thrown out of their homes in adolescence because of their sexual orientation or gender expression
• Some of the kids we work with come from families without the money for college, and have no access to financial aid or to military service – both of which sometimes provide access to college for kids who can’t afford it – because they are not citizens
• Most of the kids we work with live in poverty
• Most of the kids we work with experience systemic racism every day

These are questions of justice. We want to help our kids make good decisions, develop positive self-esteem, learn solid problem-solving skills, become good team members and communicators. But this is not enough. Our kids need justice. They need equal access to a solid education, to the resources of this city, to not just adequate but good health care. The list goes on…

Yesterday, President Obama said “His journey from a prisoner to a President embodied the promise that human beings—& countries—can change for the better.” We share Obama’s words with you today in the hope that our own country, and our own City, can change for the better.

“The day…he was released from prison gave me a sense of what human beings can do when…guided by their hopes rather than…fears.” At CAT, we hope to have the courage and the vision to stand for justice now, when our kids need us to.  When, in this city, it is not yet easy.

What our kids can do, when guided by hopes, not fears, will be something to stand back and watch. Because we work with some of the most amazing young people in this city – and we’ve seen what they can do when they walk past their fears.

IMG_21083

 

If you get our monthly emails, you know that we recently welcomed five new members to our Board of Directors.  Today we’re introducing you to two of our returning members.  Keep checking back here – we’ll be introducing all of our Board members, new and returning.

 

Keisha Farmer-Smith

When I first met Keisha in 2009, the first thing that impressed me about her was how fully she embodied the practice of youth empowerment and of creating truly youth-led programming.  At the time she was the manager of one of our partner programs – and unlike any other contact person, she asked the young people to vote about whether they would like to enter into programming with CAT.  I was so impressed!  I was invited to give a brief presentation about Adventure Therapy, what type of programming we might do over the summer, and what they could expect from it.  After the presentations (with two groups of young people), they voted.  (They voted yes – I was so pleased!)  I have continued to be impressed by Keisha’s dedication to youth empowerment and her deep respect for young people.  Keisha also has experience consulting for non-profits.  Her extensive network in the non-profit community, her unwavering commitment to Chicago youth, her knowledge of non-profit management, and her ongoing loyalty and dedication to CAT have earned her my deep respect and appreciation.  I am so pleased to welcome Keisha as a returning Board member.

Conversation with Keisha:

What drew you to CAT?
I loved the energy of the staff and the simple, but powerful idea of exposing and exploring new, interactive and fun activities like indoor rock climbing and kayaking to young people.

Employment:
Director of Programs and Quality Assurance and Family Focus Inc.

If you could have one superpower, what would it be?:
Probably the power to bend minds to do my will- like Charlie’s father in Stephen King’s Firestarter.

Favorite outdoor sport: swimming

Skills you bring to the leadership of CAT
I bring over 15 years of youth development programming experience, grant writing experience and program evaluation skills.

Your most admired historical figure; and what they would like about CAT
I have so many- this is a difficult question to answer.  One is certainly Shirley Chisholm- the 1st African American woman elected to Congress

Favorite quote:

one of my favorite quotes and affirmations is  “I am, was, and always will be a catalyst for change.”     ~ Shirley Chisholm

 

Keisha Farmer-Smith

Keisha Farmer- Smith

Beth Santos

Beth is an incredibly active and enthusiastic Board member.  She is always willing to step up to whatever challenge presents itself, whether scheduling meetings for a group of very busy people, designing a new fundraising campaign, or volunteering to serve on a committee.  Beth has a nuanced understanding of CAT’s mission and benefit; she has extensive experience in and a deep love for the outdoors; she’s an accomplished athlete; and she has experience working in domestic and foreign non-profits.  The talents and knowledge she brings to CAT are rounded out by her current enrollment in Northwestern’s Kellogg School of Business, with a concentration in social enterprise.  One of the greatest things about Beth is her cheerful demeanor; Beth is friendly to everyone, always supportive, and brings a positive spin to any situation.  She’s the type of person who’s presence in a group makes the group function better than it would without her.  I am deeply appreciative of Beth’s activity with CAT’s board and pleased to welcome her as a returning board member.

Conversation with Beth:

What drew you to CAT?
Having grown up in New Hampshire, I’d always taken nature for granted. For me, it was everywhere. Since leaving for college, I’ve lived in a number of rural and urban places, and it’s been interesting to see the dynamic between a big city and its surrounding ecosystem. Not only do I think that the natural world is good for the soul, but I’m also a huge fan of the social, developmental and cognitive growth that occurs with team sports. I rowed crew for nearly six years and coached high school rowing for two years in Washington DC, and I’ve seen first-hand how rowing can bring a diverse group of teens together. I’d love for kids in the Chicago area to get that same experience, especially considering the fact that outdoor sports often aren’t cheap!

Employment:
I work at Rotary International, a large non-profit with headquarters in Evanston. As a Regional Grant Officer, I review grant applications submitted by Rotarians that request funding anywhere from $30,000-$200,000 for them to conduct service projects in the Caribbean and Latin America, especially Brazil.

By night, I’m the founder and editor-in-chief of Go Girl, an online magazine and community for women travelers. We host over 6,000 readers per month based in 110 countries around the world, and have recently launched meetup groups in Chicago and Boston for women travelers to connect with one another and their local community.

If you could have one superpower, what would it be?:
Teleportation (and to teleport someone with me, too)! Lunch in Florence, dinner in Paris, after-dinner dancing in the streets of Port-au-Prince…sounds good to me!

Favorite outdoor sport:
I suppose the fact that I rowed and coached for nearly eight years is a dead giveaway. I have a deep love for the art of rowing, which is a very complex sport that is incredibly gratifying. One of my favorite elements is the team aspect – the requirement that each rower depend fully on the person in front of them or behind them. I think it’s a very beautiful concept.

When I’m not rowing, I do enjoy a good kayak or hike in the woods!

Skills you bring to the leadership of CAT
I’ve worked in the non-profit world during almost my entire career, in a variety of sizes and forms. Before Rotary, I worked for an organization that developed digital learning curricula in Haiti and around the Caribbean, and before that I worked for a small non-profit in São Tomé e Príncipe, off the west coast of Africa. Currently, I’m studying for my MBA and Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Business, with focuses on entrepreneurship/innovation and social enterprise. Kellogg’s social enterprise curriculum is highly regarded, and social enterprise in general is a hot topic these days. I hope these experiences can be of use to CAT in its endeavor to grow and support youth around the city.

Favorite quote:

“It’s a little like wrestling a gorilla. You don’t quit when you’re tired.  You quit when the gorilla is tired.”   — Robert Strauss

beth profile

Beth Santos

If you get our monthly emails, you know that we’ve recently welcomed five new members to our Board of Directors.  Today we’re introducing you to two of them.  Keep checking back here – we’ll be introducing all of our Board members, new and returning.

 

Christopher Moore

I’m pleased to introduce Christopher Moore, one of the newest members of CAT’s Board of Directors.  Christopher’s deep commitment to young people in Chicago is an inspiration.  He brings a unique combination of skills to CAT.  He has a passion for the outdoors, an understanding of how outdoor experiences can be transformative, experience leading and creating outdoor programs, and a degree in Park and Recreation Administration.  Christopher’s outdoor background and experience is matched, even surpassed, by his deep and varied experience and leadership in the field of youth development, working as front-line staff, supervisor and program manager in a variety of settings including transitional living programs, residential treatment, alternative education and youth centers.  CAT is unique in that it exists in a space that is squarely within the non-profit world, and squarely within the outdoor world; Christopher inhabits that same unique space.    — And he’s one of the nicest people we’ve ever met!  It is an absolute pleasure to welcome Christopher to CAT’s Board of Directors.

Conversation with Chris:

What drew you to CAT?  My Wife
Employment:  Site Director, Lawrence Hall Youth Services
If you could have one superpower, what would it be?  Teleportation
Skills you bring to the leadership of CAT  Event planning, marketing , community relations
Favorite outdoor sport  Swimming
Your most admired historical figure; and what they would like about CAT  Major Taylor (World Champion Cyclist) – He would love that urban youth would be introduced to cycling
 Favorite quote:

“Change will not come if we wait for some other person or some other time. We are the ones we’ve been waiting for. We are the change that we seek.” ~ Barack Obama

 

Chicago Adventure Therapy Board of Directors

Board orientation April 14 – CAT timeline

 

Marianne Moroney

Marianne Moroney has been an active an enthusiastic volunteer with CAT since 2011.  Marianne has expertise in sales and marketing in a variety of industries; a degree in Psychology; experience working in the outdoor industry right here in Chicago; and is active in the world of non-profit volunteering and networking.  Marianne has helped with a variety of CAT events as a volunteer, including helping to organize an event with volunteers from Discover Card last August, and securing Stand-Up Paddle Boards for volunteers to play with after the event.  I am grateful for  Marianne’s infectious energy and her remarkable dedication to CAT.  I couldn’t be more pleased to be welcoming her to CAT’s Board of Directors.

Conversation with Marianne:

What drew you to CAT?
My love for the outdoors and my passion to help teach and heal at-risk youth. I’m inspired by Andrea’s and CATs commitment of time, energy and empowerment they give every day to Chicago’s under served youth.

Employment:
I work for Discovery Student Adventures, part of Discovery Communications and Discovery Education. Discovery Student Adventures offers educational travel to over 13 exciting destinations for students and educators. Our adventures to places like Yellowstone and the Tetons, Costa Rica, Europe, South Africa, China and Australia/ New Zealand all feature elements of adventure, science education, service, cultural immersion and behind-the-scenes access. My love for travel, adventure and educating youth makes it easy to love my job!

Favorite outdoor sport:
I can’t pick just one! I love biking, kayaking, Stand-UP-Paddleboarding, mountain hiking, camping… really anything that allows me to bask in the warmth of the sun and the natural beauty of our world. I always love a challenge so I will continue to work on my golf game this season!

Skills you bring to the leadership of CAT
I look forward to helping to raise awareness and community support of CAT’s mission by sharing the importance of the work we do with our city’s youth. I am elated and honored to keep working with Andrea and CAT going forward and making 2013 a great year!

Superpower:

If I could choose a superpower I’d use it to create a peaceful and loving world (Does that count as a superpower?) I know it sounds cliche but it’s how I feel. And if enough people work together and commit to making a peaceful society, maybe it won’t need to be a superpower after all.  :)

Marianne in the desert

Marianne in the desert

December 15, 2012

Dear friend,

I expect that you, like me, are reeling from the tragic shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School yesterday.  Whether it hit you in the gut as you heard the awful news, or took a day to settle in, the enormity of the tragedy is unavoidable.

In the midst of the grief, powerlessness, anger and despair, I did what I often do.

I went paddling.

I went paddling to find silence, perhaps solace, to remember that in the midst of horror and tragedy that we are powerless to fix, the world is also a good place.

 

It did not lessen the grief, the anger, the despair.  It did — whether because it brought me back to myself; because it let me feel my own strength in my arms, my core, my legs; because it offered perspective  — it did lessen my feeling of powerlessness.

Paddling today brought me back to myself.  I’ve watched it do the same for our kids.  One young man last summer showed up to a paddling program angry with the world and refusing to participate.  He eventually agreed to paddle in a double kayak with one of the program’s mentors, and got into the boat with a scowl.  As we were paddling back an hour and a half later he told me that he had lost something.  I didn’t hear what he had lost.  “I’m sorry.  I didn’t hear.  What did you lose?”  -Did he lose a water bottle?  -A flip flop?  -Just don’t let it be a pair of glasses!

“I lost my anger.”

As it did for me today, paddling brought this young man back to himself.

I am powerless to fix the horror and the tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary School yesterday, or the violence on the streets of Chicago every night, or the abuse or oppression that so many of our young people face every day.

What I CAN do is to work with our Chicago young people.  I can help them lose their anger.  It is my small contribution to making the world safer for our kids. It feels insignificant in the face of 20 kids dead. Nonetheless it is what I can do.

 

 

 

 

I invite you

– encourage you

– to join me in making one small contribution to making the world safer for our kids.

 

 

 

 

For each of us it will be a different thing.
  • Some of us will hold our kids a little bit tighter and a little bit longer.
  • Some of us will advocate for stronger gun laws, better access to mental health services or increased funding for human services.
  • Some of us will pray, whether alone or with others.
  • Some of us will spread messages of hope on our Facebook pages or Twitter feeds.
  • Some of us will work to get the economy of this nation back on track.
  • Some of us will make sure that we tell our friends, our family, our kids, our spouses that we love them.  We will make more time to be with them.
Please take a moment to do whatever will bring you back to yourself,
– what will ground you,
– what will restore your belief in humanity,

– what will remind you of what your small contribution to a safer world for our kids will be.

 

  • Your contribution will be small.
  • It will feel insignificant in the face of 20 kids dead, with 6 adults who loved them.
  • It will make a difference.

Your contribution, whatever it is, will join mine. They will join the contributions of the other 1,265 people who will receive this note via email or see it posted on our Facebook page or Twitter feed.

1,267 people each doing one small thing will make the world safer for our kids

If one small thing for you includes a donation to Chicago Adventure Therapy, I promise you that it will make a difference.


CAT has so many reasons to be thankful. This year, through a  capital campaign, CAT was able to purchase a fleet of boats. We received a donation of bicycles from Discover Card. 1 of our youth and 2 of our staff were certified as BCU Level 1 Coaches. CAT participated in the inaugural Gichi Gumee Project. The list goes on.

As we reflect on our achievements and our blessings, we must also remember why CAT exists. Youth in Chicago live in a city in crisis. Rates of violence are through the roof. Schools are struggling to offer students what they need to learn. The recent economic decline is still stripping under-served communities of resources. The list goes on.

CAT exists to offer Chicago youth ways to weather these storms with life skills, leadership skills, camaraderie, healthy relationships, and access to healing spaces.  Below, 6 present and former staff have shared their personal reflections on CAT and why they are thankful for its service to the Chicago community. Use the comments section to share your thoughts on thankfulness and why you support the work CAT does.

 

Andrea:

1. Name:  Andrea Knepper

2. My connection to CAT:  Founder and Executive Director

3. One awesome thing I did/ I will do in 2012:

  • Got to see one of our young people become a paddle sport coach and got to teach her to roll a kayak. She was SO EXCITED!

  • Took a solo kayaking trip to grand Isle in the UP this fall. Beautiful!!

4. I’m thankful for CAT because…   Where to start?!  

  • I’m grateful for the opportunity to witness the heart, the courage, the determination, the support that our youth bring to our programming.  I’m so inspired by them.

  • I’m overwhelmed by the generosity and hard work of all the people who’ve helped make CAT a reality and a success – our staff, our Board, our volunteers, our donors, our student interns, our funders, our partner agencies, the outdoor community…  I’m stunned when I take a step back and see how many people have come together to provide this opportunity for Chicago youth.

  • It’s really cool to get to see Chicago young people have the opportunity to do things they would never have otherwise gotten to do.

Stephanie Miller:

1. Name: Stephanie Miller

2. My connection to CAT: I have been with CAT since May 2010, when I did my 2nd level MSW internship there. I came on as full-time staff and Program Coordinator in 2011

3. One awesome thing I did/ I will do in 2012: Became a Level 1 BCU Paddle Sport Coach

4. I’m thankful for CAT because… 1.) it forces me to face my own privilege and biases on a daily basis and 2.) it provides an opportunity to create change in regards to those things, with the youth I get to work with.

Cycling with the Night Ministry

Grace:

1. Name: Grace Sutherland

2. My connection to CAT: I started out as a Masters of Social Work intern back in 2012, and now I’m the Resource Development Coordinator.

3. One awesome thing I did in 2012: Crossed off my #1 Bucket List item: seeing whales in in the wild.

4. I’m thankful for CAT because I get to be a part of a really amazing group of co-workers (staff and interns and volunteers alike!). There have been so many people involved in this organization over the years, and I’ve had the great opportunity to learn something from each of them. I am especially thankful that each of these people has been incredibly dedicated to opening resources and opportunities to young people, as well as treating each young person we encounter with profound respect.

 Ryan:

1. Name: Ryan D. Heath – the D stands for “Danger”

2. My connection to CAT: I was a Schweitzer Fellow at CAT in summer 2011- winter 2012, and became part-time staff in summer of 2012. I also provide comedic relief on an as-needed basis.

3. One awesome thing I did in 2012: I presented research on CAT at the AEE conference in 2012.

4.  I am thankful for CAT for its commitment to social justice in adventure therapy.  At the AEE conference in November 2011, I was reminded of how (even among social workers working in adventure therapy and experiential education) that much of the field and its dialogue is focused on methods and professional reputation. It was surprising to me because us at CAT, we not only focus on the psychotherapeutic as well as technical skills, but the staff is constantly reflecting on and questioning the social implications of the work we do and what the social justice purpose behind the work we do.  This is truly unique in the adventure therapy field, and a unique group of staff to be working with.  For that, I am truly thankful.

Erin:

1. Name: Erin Berry

2. My connection to CAT: I’m an intern with CAT.

3. One awesome thing I did in 2012: I started graduate school for a master’s degree.

4. I’m thankful for CAT because with them, I would not have met and learned from so many wonderful youth in Chicago.

 

Stephanie Taylor:

1. Name:  Stephanie Taylor

2. My connection to CAT: I worked for CAT in 2009 after I finished Grad School running programs over the summer

3. Awesome thing I did in 2012: Got married

4. I’m thankful for CAT because working for CAT solidified my decision to work in adventure therapy/experiential learning.   I now work for The Chill Foundation, where I’ve continued to utilize and build upon skills that I learned at CAT.