Posts Tagged ‘Chicago Adventure Therapy’
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. Even the best lawyers cannot 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.
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.
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.
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
one of my favorite quotes and affirmations is “I am, was, and always will be a catalyst for change.” ~ Shirley Chisholm
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!
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.
“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
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.
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
“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
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.
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!
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. 🙂
December 15, 2012
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.
- 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.
– 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.
After a VERY busy summer here at CAT, I had a chance to take a short solo camping trip last week in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. It was a GREAT trip – utterly beautiful.
For me, getting into the wilderness centers me and grounds me. It gently, almost imperceptibly pushes aside all the things that don’t matter, and reminds me of who I am. It allows me to be fully present in the moment.
That respite, that pause, that chance for worry to fall away – it helps me get back to calm after a busy, hectic, exciting, fabulous summer. And so I am reminded, also, how important that respite, that pause, that chance for worry to fall away – how important that is for our young people.
Don’t get me wrong – there was plenty of excitement, too! A solo kayak camping trip is not something to be taken lightly. The weather changes just as dramatically whether you’re solo or with a group. When it comes down to it, the Lake is in charge.
You have to know and understand the risks. You have to know your own skills and limits. You have to respect the weather and the conditions. You have to be ready to change your plans, whether you want to or not. You may well be nervous, even scared, during parts of your trip.
I had several tricky judgement calls to make. For instance – one should not paddle with water spouts! On Day 2 I paddled around a point to find a water spout front and center. I got ready to turn around and hightail it back to land – but I paused because I was mesmerized by the beauty and the awe of the water and the spout. As I watched, the water spout and the rest of its cloud moved east quickly, there was clear sky behind it to the west, and I was traveling north. I kept paddling in calm waters and the water spout eventually disappeared.
Or how about this one? You should not paddle in conditions beyond your limit. Listen to the forecast and heed it. The night before I planned to paddle out, the forecast was calling for 4-7 foot waves the next day. I like to play in those conditions with friends on a sandy beach with an unloaded boat. I do NOT paddle in those conditions solo around cliffs with a loaded boat! The conditions didn’t materialize in my sheltered bay the next day but I was concerned about north winds and the north-facing point I needed to round in order to get home. I watched, and could see that the bay had waves less than a foot high – well within my limits as a solo paddler. I could see larger waves on the horizon, but it looked like my point was still in the lee of the rest of the island. And I could see that there was a safe place for me to go where I could see around the point. I paddled out, reminding myself that if conditions warranted I MUST go back and re-set camp to paddle out two days after my planned departure, when the winds were forecast to settle down again. I got to my observation spot of the point to find a few gentle 3 foot waves – at the edge of what I’m willing to do solo, and diminishing the farther around the point I could see. I paddled out that day.
So I ended up paddling solo with water spouts one day and in a 4-7 foot forecast the next. Without the background info, I would call bad judgment if I heard about someone doing that.
But it was fabulous, it was safe, and the combination of respite and honed observation or risk had remarkably rejuvenating effects. The combination of respite, pause, a chance for worry to fall away on the one hand; and excitement, risk, careful consideration of sensory stimulation sorted through a filter of what we know about our chosen activity – this combination can get our brain working well. It can get our brain making creative connections, without the overstimulation and inability to stop that comes with chronic trauma or with other constant, unending stimulation. I won’t go into the brain chemistry and morphology involved – it’s fascinating and deeply relevant for the work we do with Chicago youth, but I won’t do it justice. My brain certainly started working better. As did my heart and my soul.
I had lots of ideas about CAT programming, about a staff retreat out here, about all sorts of stuff. What I am left with is this:
We talk a lot about the importance of respite for our young people. Providing for respite is recognized as one of the necessary components of trauma-based interventions. I think that sometimes we forget what that really means, and why it’s so important. We get caught up in making sure we’re matching the right theory with the right population; that we’ve got an effective debrief; that we’re building life skills that can be measured in order to prove we’re doing quality work with important outcomes; that we can articulate why and how we do what we do. The list of important considerations goes on and on.
What I am left with after this trip is the visceral reminder of the importance of respite.
I am home now, the cook set and other gear is washed and put away, and I have returned to find fall waiting for me. It’s a season when we do a lot of reflection and planning. We want our young people to learn to assess the risk in their lives and develop skills for managing it. We want them to be able to think critically in the midst of nervousness or fear. We want them to make good decisions. We want a lot of things for our young people!
This fall I will remember that as we carefully plan interventions that allow our young people to assess risk, to think before they act, to communicate clearly, to solve problems effectively, to develop a personal confidence they hadn’t had before – I will remember that this active part of our programming must always be balanced with respite, pause, and a chance for the worries to fall away. At its best, our programming should gently, almost imperceptibly push aside all the things that don’t matter, and allow our young people to be fully present in the moment. It should remind them of who they are.
Wishing you all a great fall, full of challenge and respite!
–Andrea Knepper, LCSW
Over the next 2 weeks, you get to meet Chicago Adventure Therapy’s interns! They’ve been with us for almost a month now, and have already made their mark on our organization. We are so thankful for their work and dedication, and thought you’d like to witness their awesomeness for yourself!
First up: Alyssa!
Name: Alyssa Yokota-Lewis
Previous/Current Occupation: EVERYTHING. Specifically, Climbing Instructor, REI Customer Outfitter (my name for it), Nanny, Tutor, Former Lead Educational Outreach Coordinator
Childhood Ambition: Librarian or Circus Performer
3 Words that best describe me: Passionate, Perceptive, Open
Proudest Moment(s): The moments I realize I have learned how to share.
Why CAT?: Because I believe in the therapeutic power of guided kinesthetic challenge. And because that belief and a passion to help youth find their own inner strengths is wholeheartedly felt throughout this organization.
What have you learned so far in your internship?: That we learn from each other as much as or more than from any independent pursuit of knowledge and experience. And that by acknowledging and celebrating the unique qualities of each individual (leaders and youth included) we can grow stronger as a group. No group exists without its individual parts.
What has surprised you about CAT/AT?: Given the incredible consideration, room, and access to nature it gives for an individual to grow by their own definition, I am surprised that there are not more Adventure Therapy organizations like CAT in areas where so many youth struggle to fit into their rigid and distracting urban environments.