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Posts Tagged ‘Leadership Group’

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

Fun at the Chicago Shoreline Marathon

Last week I promised to tell you about two young women who weathered the same micro-burst as Michael and Jeremy who Grace introduced last week.  I get to use Kawana’s and Latrice’s real names with you, because they have spoken in public about their experiences as CAT participants.  We first met Kawana and Latrice in the summer of 2009.  Both are in college now.
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I first met them at the end of our 8-week program with the girls from the Girl World Program at Alternatives that year, when four of the girls said that they wanted to know how to volunteer with CAT.  One of them went to college at the end of the summer and wasn’t around; the other three, including Kawana and Latrice, raced with us in the Chicago Shoreline Marathon and the the Flatwater Classic in August and October, and then joined our very first leadership program in January.  We created the leadership program because of them.
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I want to tell you about the Chicago Shoreline Marathon.  It’s an international race.  The girls talked with the winner from South Africa in 2009 (he told them to keep training…), with an Olympic kayaker who had driven a trailer of boats from San Francisco, and with the only woman in the heat of elite racers (who encouraged them to keep paddling); in 2010 they got their picture taken with the 1st and 2nd place winners who had last raced each other in Australia (a group of CAT volunteers are in that picture too). The race has three lengths – a 26 mile marathon length, an 8 mile beach-to-beach length, and a relay race just off shore.
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In 2009, conditions were rough.  When we arrived in the morning, I had a serious talk with the girls about coniditions.  Race organizers were considering cancelling the relay.  I was consdiering cancelling our participation in the relay even if the race organizers didn’t cancel it.
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The race didn’t cancel, I didn’t cancel, and the girls decided to go for it.  With my heart in my throat and already questioning my own judgment, I watched them launch into conditions they’d never paddled in before, each with a staff member at their side.  I gave Christine and Emily instructions about shortening the route, and last-minute rescue instructions despite the fact that they’d been teaching rescues all summer.
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Kawana capsized.  Latrice capsized twice.  On her second capsize, Latrice had a hard time getting back in the boat.  On the paddle back, Latrice was scared, quiet, and not very good at listening.  Emily struggled to help her calm down.  When Latrice got back and I congratulated her, she didn’t think there was reason for congratulations and didn’t fully believe me that she’d done a good job.  I told Latrice about the times I’d gotten knocked over  – that those were also the times when I learned the most and that my paddling improved the most.  I sent her a picture of me upside down in my boat.  I was worried we’d put her in a situation that was too stressful; that this was no longer going to be fun for her.
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We periodically have these conversations with our youth – conversations about NOT meeting our goals, about being disappointed in our performance, about feeling like a failure.  We love the times when our youth are successful beyond their wildest dreams. We like being cherr-leaders for them.  And we’re REALLY good at it.
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But I think perhaps they learn the most when they don’t do as well as they’d like.  Because one of the hardest things we learn to do is to deal positively with faliure.  To learn to scale back our goals.  To learn to be happy with doing our very best. 

2009 Relay Club Team First Place!

We stayed at the beach and had lunch, and left around noon.  We didn’t stay for the awards ceremony later in the afternoon. We didn’t learn until 2010 that they had taken first place in the Club Team category in 2009. 
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In 2010 both girls showed up to the Shoreline wearing their Shoreline T-shirts from the year before and the CAT baseball caps they got at the camping trip with “Micheal” and “Jeremy” where, as we like to talk about it among ourselves, they “survived the hurricane.”
We miss both girls this year.  We’re so proud of both of them to be starting their college careers.  And I’ve told both of them that if they come back to Chicago after they’re done with college, I would be honored if they would consider sitting on our Board of Directors.
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I’d like to leave you with something Latrice said this past summer.  Both of them spoke at our research presentation in August.  We asked them to answer a few specific questions – and we also told them that if there’s anything else about CAT they think people should know, to include that.  Latrice seemd a little nervous – but told us all that the thing she most appreciated about CAT was that we reach out and offer programming for “kids who wouldn’t normally be able to do stuff like that.” 
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I was so pleased that Latrice recognized the issue of access.  That social justice aspect of what we do is important to us.  I hope that if Latrice returns to Chicago after college, she’ll help us continue to offer programming in a way that rights some of the inequalities and injustices in this city.
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In the mean time, we so enjoyed having Latrice and Kawana with us for three seasons; and we’re so proud of both of them we hardly know what to do with ourselves!
This week Grace introduces us to two young men who helped introduce her to CAT.  Grace was a Social Work intern with CAT in the summer of 2010.  She completed work study hours with us throught the next school year, and then we hired her on.  We’re very glad to have her with us.
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If you, like me, find yourself inspired by the stories of these two young men and the other youth we’ve introduced in October, I hope you will take a moment to make a donation to Chicago Adventure Therapy.  We work with some of the most at-risk youth in the City.  Most of our partner agencies are working with very limited budgets.  We offer programming on a sliding scale – agencies pay what they can afford.  We believe that no individual or agency should be unable to participate because of financial reasons.  We work with each referring agency to negotiate a realistic cost for them.
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We started programming in 2008, when the economy crashed.  We’ve had to be a resilient organization in order to stay in business and provide services for youth most in need in Chicago.  You have made that possible – last year 61% of our revenue came from individuals like you.  Donations of less than $100 are our mainstay; larger donations go a long way to support our programming and are highly appreciated. Soon we’ll be sharing with you some new CAT projects that will make each dollar you donate make even more possible for the young people we serve.

Hiking at Devil's Lake

Grace writes:
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I met Michael and Jeremy* for the first time on a sunny morning in early summer 2010. As a new intern, I was a little nervous for the adventure ahead: a 2 night camping trip to Devil’s Lake with 5 youth, all of whom had more experience in adventure therapy than I did! The trip was the capstone experience for a year long leadership program in which the participating youth learn the more in- depth skills of each of the sports CAT offers, as well as the leadership tools one would need to lead a group through a CAT program.
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Michael and Jeremy were a funny pair. Brothers about 4 years apart, they were great friends, I could tell right away. From the first moment of stepping into the van, they were laughing and whispering to each other. Throughout the weekend, they proved themselves to be very respectful, helpful, and fun group members, very committed to their fellow participants.
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On the first evening, before we went out on the lake for a kayaking session, Andrea laid out her expectations of the group. Each youth was to be intentional about their role in the group; they should do their best to help the group reach its goals, even if those goals were as simple as putting the dishes away, or going to find water. If a youth didn’t know how to help, they should ask. Simple enough.

The whole group did a great job with these goals, and Michael and Jeremy were no exception. I especially appreciated their willingness to help that first afternoon. I had never kayaked before, and was learning some basic skills- paddle strokes, maneuvering, wet exits, and my favorite: the cowboy self-rescue. All 5 youth had experience paddling, so each helped me learn what I needed to know out on the water.

I especially remember Michael and Jeremy helping me learn the cowboy reentry. If you aren’t familiar, this self rescue has the paddler re-enter their boat by ‘swimming’ up onto the deck, scooting around until she’s straddling it, and then pulling herself forward until she can sit herself back into the cockpit. Not only did I need help learning the steps- which the brothers patiently led me through- I also needed help finding the motivation to jump into the chilly water. They were pretty convincing, and pretty funny, as they tried to come up with reasons for me to jump in. Alas, I took the cold plunge and didn’t regret it!

The rest of the weekend was challenging, fun, and pretty impressive. On the first night, we weathered a nasty storm, which blew over 2 tents, a pop- up, and had us all outside at 3am, reconfiguring sleeping arrangements. Our youth were pros, though, and dutifully helped come up with a plan to get everyone dry, warm, and back to sleep.

When we wrapped up the weekend of kayaking and climbing over pancakes and bacon on Sunday morning, we asked each of the youth what they would take away from this experience, with an emphasis on what they learned about leadership. Michael and Jeremy both chimed in with thoughts about always having a Plan B, having the skills to adapt to a new situation, and being able to help a group reach its goals.

As a clinician, I would say all 5 of these youth already had the skills they needed to make the trip a success. I think, though, what the trip really did for each, especially for the two young men, was give them a new experience in an emotionally safe environment, where they could practice those skills around a group that completely understood and believed in their ability to step up. They weren’t out there to prove to Andrea and me that they could be strong leaders, they were out there to prove it to themselves. And once they did, they were ready to go back home, with some pretty great stories to share, and fit those skills into their every day existence.

— Grace Sutherland, MSW
*names have been changed for confidentiality purposes