Author: CERTS Group

Resources for Parent Support During Covid-19

There is a lot of information in the news about the Covid-19 Virus.  All of this information can feel daunting to parents who have children in treatment during this uncertain period.  Depending on your situation and where you live, you might be social distancing, sheltering in place, self-quarantining, working from home, taking care of children not in school AND elderly parents in your home.  Wow, so much!   It is easy for parents to feel overwhelmed and a bit out of control.  As a parent you are so busy taking care of others, you probably aren’t thinking about your own needs or doing any self-care.   At the CERTS Programs we want you to know that you are NOT alone!  Our goal is to provide resources for parent support during this difficult time. We hear you and want to help provide some parent support resources not only to our CERTS parents, but to other parents who might be looking at our website.

The good news is that CERTS Parent Education has some wonderful on demand webinars that can provide you with much needed connection, information and parent support.   On Friday March 20th, Jack Hinman, the Executive Director of two CERTS Programs–Kolob Canyon and Moonridge Academy provided a wonderful LIVE webinar about Self-Care during Covid-19.  This informative webinar provided CERTS parents with examples of how they can better care for their own emotional needs.   To access this webinar, just click on the arrow below:

In addition to this webinar about parent support during Covid-19, CERTS also has a number of previously recorded webinars on our CERTS Parent Education Channel.  Many of these webinars talk about self-care, relationships, meditation and other helpful information about parenting a child in treatment.  Below are some of the webinars that specifically address parent support through self-care.

We hope that some of these resources can be helpful as a means of parent support during this time of uncertainty.

 

Building Projects Improve CERTS Campuses

The CERTS Programs are highly invested in improving the quality of life for the teens that we support.  We provide sophisticated clinical services, mentor coaching and therapeutic environments in which our students can gain the skills they need to be successful in life.  In addition to this support, we believe that our students need to have facilities that enhance their treatment journey.  CERTS is continually working to improve our campuses.   The past few years have seen new buildings completed at La Europa Academy and Moonridge Academy.  Moonridge Academy also just completed renovations to their adorable farmhouse residence.  Mountain Springs completed two Bridge Houses in 2018 and early 2019 and a new student activity building is currently underway.

CERTS–La Europa Academy

La Europa Academy was thrilled when their new building was completed in November 2018.  This beautiful  addition adds considerable space for expressive therapies, academics and clinical services.  The new building houses a ceramics room, sand tray room and art room thus providing opportunities for students to explore and heal through music, dance, visual arts, ceramics, sand tray therapy and photography.  The spacious new dance room is 1200 square feet for La Europa students to move their bodies.  In addition to expressive arts space, the new building also increased academic space with classrooms, a library, community room, computer lab, and lockers.  Students and teachers alike will benefit from these spacious areas where creativity, learning and independent study can abound.  Clinical space rounds out this impressive building with therapist offices and group rooms making it easier for La Europa students to receive individual, family and group therapy.

CERTS–Mountain Springs Preparatory Academy

The new Bridge to Independence Program and houses on the Mountain Springs campus were completed last year.  These new homes provide a well scaffolded and immersive environment for students to practice increasing levels of self-initiative, responsibility, and independence in their lives.  All of this while maintaining receptivity to mentorship, skill-building, and interdependence with others as a young adult.  The Bridge Program is a continuation and enhancement of the Mountain Springs Preparatory experience and is not a stand alone program.  The new beautifully built and decorated independence houses will provide 8 additional beds for male students in our male independence house and 8 additional beds for female students in our female independence house.

Mountain Springs Preparatory Academy was excited to begin construction on a 6500 sq ft Student Recreation Center in the fall of 2019.   This beautiful new building will provide more space, more student activities, and well…just more! Expected to be completed this coming summer, this beautiful Modern Craftsman design will add a movie theater, music room, art studio and kiln, recording studio, inside/outside gathering areas, study rooms, and a multipurpose room.  Wow, talk about improving the quality of daily life for our students!   We are so thrilled for this dream to become reality!

CERTS–Moonridge Academy

Moonridge Academy was literally giddy with excitement to add a beautiful new, green-built building to their campus providing therapy offices for their amazing clinical team, a conference room, school rooms, study hall, administrative offices, and a covered porch for outside activities.  Moonridge also created a new riding arena to bring equine therapy and horseback riding skills closer to the other parts of our campus.  Life at Moonridge just got even better!   When Moonridge Academy completed their new Academic and Clinical Building they couldn’t wait to start renovating their adorable farmhouse residence.  In the past few months Moonridge has remodeled previous office space into new bedrooms, created a fantastic game room in our former school area and expanded their  laundry room. (Who knew that a laundry room could bring so much joy?!)  There is simply more space for our “tweenagers” to hang out, play games, and connect.  Anyone up for a game of foosball?

 

 

Putting the ART in Therapy–Expressive Therapies at La Europa

Expressive therapies provide a powerful alternative to traditional therapeutic methods for adolescents who may not know how to talk about their feelings in therapy or for those who have been exposed to a lot of talk therapy. Through these modalities students are able to communicate emotions and experiences that have been difficult to reach, and help create a bridge to much needed healing. The variety of expressive therapies at La Europa deepen the therapeutic process, build self-awareness and increase confidence, even for students who do not consider themselves “artistic”.

We have an amazing Expressive Therapies Team…

La Europa is unique for its breadth and depth of expressive offerings and its investment in licensed and board certified practitioners that are accredited in their specialties. This level of expertise turns glitter, pom poms, hula hoops and an iTunes playlist into therapeutic progress.

Art Therapist:  Malissa Morrell, LMFT, ATRBC

Malissa is a nationally board certified art therapist and a licensed marriage and family therapist. She loves to help teens and their families find creative solutions in difficult situations. As the director of the expressive team, she coordinates the clinical and expressive therapies.

 

Music Therapist:  Ada Mae Crouse MA, MT-BC

Ada Mae is a State-certified and Board-certified music therapist with over 30 years of experience in clinical music therapy and a Masters degree in Psychology of Music. Her years of training included studying violin at Julliard School of Music. Her expertise breaks down walls, and allows students to push through their anxiety.

Dance/Body Movement Therapist:  Paula Naatz MA, BC-DMT, RYT

Paula is a board certified dance movement therapist. She believes in developing whole body integration and awareness in a variety of ways. Her groups help students build a healthy relationship in their own body and will explore healthy boundaries in other relationships.

 

Recreation Therapist:  Nikki North, MS, MTRS

Nikki has a Masters degree in therapeutic recreation and has been a recreational therapist for the last 10 years. She is also trained in sand tray therapy and integrates her training in DBT.

 

Expressive Therapies Groups Offered at La Europa

Groups are chosen carefully to cater to students’ strengths and push them out of their comfort zone to foster increased insight.  Each week students will participate in 4 of the 13 expressive groups we have available totaling up to 6 hours.  Groups are chosen carefully based on the student’s interests, and are intended to help students try new things that will push them out of their comfort zone fostering a new understanding of their own needs. Here are some examples of the types of expressive therapy groups available:

  • Art Therapy
  • Music Therapy
  • Dance/Movement Therapy
  • Creative Writing Therapy
  • Psychodrama
  • Singer/Songwriter Music Therapy
  • Sand Tray Therapy
  • Recreational Therapy

 

 

2019 Has Been An Incredible Year at the CERTS Programs

As we reach the end of 2019, we at the CERTS Programs are so incredibly grateful for this year.  With new buildings, new staff, new training and new directions we feel that we continue to provide the support and services needed for families in need.  This year two of the CERTS Programs added new buildings to their campuses to enhance treatment.  In January 2019 Mountain Springs Preparatory Academy officially completed building and opened up the Bridge House for their female students to add to the Bridge House for male students that we completed in 2018.  This beautiful new residence is on the Mountain Springs Campus, but is separate from the other dorms allowing for more autonomy.  The Bridge Program allows students to live more independently learning how to transition into college or living on their own.  Students living at the Bridge Houses need to be at least 17 years old, have jobs or actively volunteer, take classes both at Mountain Springs and often at the local university, receive a monthly stipend and create a monthly budget, shop for their own groceries, make their own meals, make their own appointments, and have greater opportunities to make their own decisions.  It is really a true opportunity to practice “adulting”.  Mountain Springs also broke ground on our new Student Recreation Center!!!  Scheduled to be completed in 2020, this incredible new building will bring so much to our campus with a theater, recording studio, art room, computer area and places for students to hang out and socialize.  We are excited as the building process moves forward!

Moonridge Academy, another CERTS Program completed construction on their new Academic and Clinical Building.  This amazing new space added classrooms, a conference room, study hall, therapist offices and administrative offices to their campus.  In turn, this opened up space in the lovely farmhouse used as a residence allowing Moonridge Academy to add an additional 8 beds.  We are thrilled to be able to provide support and a healing environment to even more students and their families.  As the program has grown this year, Moonridge Academy welcomed two new therapists Annette and Ashley to their staff and will be adding another new therapist in January 2020.  With the addition of these amazing therapists, Moonridge Academy has focused more on trauma informed care and somatic therapies such as Brainspotting and EMDR.  Moonridge Academy and her big sister school Kolob Canyon introduced their new Admissions Director Wendy Penrod in September 2019.  We are thrilled to have her on our team!

With their new breeding program, Kolob Canyon, a CERTS Program that focuses on Adventure Therapy and Equine opportunities added three new baby horses to their campus in 2019.  There is literally nothing more cute than little foals and colts frolicking on campus.  Kolob also started a horse fostering program working in conjunction with a local horse rescue.  The students at Kolob Canyon have especially loved working these often ill and undernourished horses, nursing them back to health.  It can however be hard when the horses leave Kolob to be adopted by caring families.  The students are happy for the horses, but so sad to see them go.  Kolob Canyon and Moonridge Academy clinical teams spent time this fall training in Natural Lifemanship which is a trauma focused equine psychotherapy.  Natural Lifemanship concentrates on establishing a connection between the student and the horse.  This is so important for students who have struggled with trauma and attachment issues.

CERTS Program, La Europa Academy officially moved into their new Expressive Arts, Clinical and Academic Building in early 2019.  This building was completed at the very end of 2018.  This impressive building hosts space for all of the expressive arts including body movement, sand tray, art, music and ceramics that are so essential to the program at La Europa.  Our clinical team is thrilled to have lovely new offices that are now located directly on our campus and the academic team is excited about their new classrooms.  La Europa also welcomed two new therapists–Leslie and Jameson–to their clinical team.  The impressive clinical team at La Europa received extensive training in RO-DBT which will help students who struggle with over-control.  Some of the most exciting news at La Europa this year is the addition of the On-Point Program which will specifically meet the needs of a student who needs the clinical support of residential treatment, but doesn’t need the same degree of scaffolding.

Wow!  It has been an exciting year at CERTS Programs.  We can’t wait to see what 2020 brings!

Learning Financial Literacy Can be Fun and Profitable

Learning to budget, pay taxes, obtain a loan, find the most competitive credit card rates or recover from identity theft might sound stressful or maybe even boring.  The Financial Literacy class at Mountain Springs Preparatory Academy, taught by Becca Black is anything but!  Student Ethan shared, “Financial literacy is so important and Becca is such a great teacher!”

Students are currently involved in a realistic budgeting project. Each student has chosen a desired career and a city to “live” in.  Based on their chosen profession, each student was paid a salary.  Students then created a budget including housing costs, car payments, insurance, utilities, cell phone, medical expenses and so much more.  In an attempt to help students understand that life events can dramatically affect your budget, Becca recently assigned each student an unexpected financial situation such as a natural disaster, medical emergency or car accident.  Students have since made adjustments in their budget to account for this surprise development.  What a great way to learn that “real life” isn’t always easy financially speaking.

Class member Aubrey said, “I have had some really hard financial things come up in my life right now and I don’t have the stability that I thought I did.  I just applied to my dream college and I had to try and find a way to pay for that.  I had to borrow the money for the application from someone.  Now I am trying to figure out how to pay that person back.   This class is helping me figure out all of this.  I think it is good that I am learning this now, so I won’t be blindsided by finances in the future.  Without this class financial literacy, I would be so much more stressed out about my future.”   

Learning To Be Entrepreneurs….

During a recent class discussion, the students asked if they could go out to lunch as a class.  Becca thought it was a great idea and told the students they would need to come up with a way to fund it.  Ethan suggested that they start their own business to earn the money.  After brainstorming the students decided that selling baked goods would be the best way to turn a profit.  They determined to take advantage of a local farmer’s market to sell their product. Sophie provided a family recipe for Cowboy Cookies and together the class created a yummy brownie recipe.  Both recipes could be produced at a low cost.  The students made the choice to sell both fresh goods and dry mixes of their recipes. Each student invested as much capital as they could to acquire supplies. The class calculated how much they could make with the capital they had invested building a pricing and marketing plan accordingly.

Students contacted the farmer’s market making arrangements to sell on an upcoming Saturday. The Friday before found students preparing their products.  On the day of the event, students sold $110 of baked goods and mixes.  The class had invested $55 in materials and booth rental at the Farmer’s Market.  With $55 of profit, the students made more than enough to fund a pizza lunch. In the following class discussions, students determined what they did well and what could have gone better. Almost all of the students had something insightful to share, and ideas for where they could have improved. Lessons learned in Becca’s classroom will hopefully last a lifetime. 

 

Mountain Springs Is Doing Some Amazing Things This Fall

A key element of Mountain Springs Preparatory Academy is helping students develop into responsible individuals.  We want our students to practice making healthy choices and balancing all aspects of their lives.  We encourage our students to experience success and become powerful young people who are active and engaged in their community.

Capstone Projects

Mountain Springs’ students complete a capstone project that demonstrates their leadership, community involvement and independence.  Caitlin chose a Capstone Project that supported the community event Cedar City Rocks.  This event brings the community together with the purpose of spreading kindness and helping people find creativity in themselves.  Caitlin painted rocks, putting them in the community for people to find.

Bryson’s Capstone Project involved him leading a school wide group providing tools to internalize the therapeutic work students completed in wilderness and previous residential treatment.  To prepare for this group, Bryson returned to his residential treatment program to interview students and therapists.

Volunteering

Mountain Springs’ students are involved in their community.  Sophie volunteers at an emergency shelter for women and children escaping domestic violence. She recently helped with their “Dine Out For Shelter” event.  Kelsi volunteers at the Utah Shakespeare Festival, Ethan volunteers at a veterinary clinic, and Bryson helps coach a youth soccer team.

Working

Mountains Springs’ students gain independence earning and budgeting their own money.  Toma has a job at Culver’s and was recently promoted!  Maeve has been working at a local Kroger grocery store and will be transferring to a store near her home when she graduates from MSPA.  Tess is working at McDonald’s, Kelsi is a barista, Caitlin recently got a job at Dairy Queen….and the list goes on!

College Classes and Extracurricular Activities

Mountain Springs’ students can take college classes at Southern Utah University which proves to be a highlight for many.  Other students participate in extracurricular sports at local high schools.  Max is practicing with the wrestling team at a local high school, while Wayne plays on the hockey team.  Matt is the star running back on the Cedar High School freshman football team.  And let’s not forget our co-ed softball team that just won the city championship!

CERTS Hosts Southern Utah Teacher Summit

What happens when teachers get together for a Teacher Summit?  Well, lots of learning, laughter, and collaboration takes place.  Academic relationships are forged and insights gained.

On Wednesday July 10th, Mountain Springs Preparatory Academy and Kolob Canyon hosted the first annual Southern Utah Teacher Summit.  The concept of uniting the Southern Utah Programs together for a Teacher Summit was originally discussed many months ago by the academic teams at Kolob Canyon and Mountain Springs.  It seemed like a huge undertaking, but ultimately it was decided that it was invaluable and would provide much needed collaboration.

Planned and organized by Kolob Canyon Academic Director Susan Mackert and MSPA Academic Director Dave Gardiner (both CERTS Programs), this wonderful conference brought teachers and administrators together to discuss the needs of students in therapeutic settings and residential treatment. Keynote Speaker Eric Bonnett, LCSW started off the conference talking about how students with a background of trauma learn. Informative breakout sessions followed throughout the day. Sessions included details about accreditation, authentic assessment, teacher self-care, experiential learning, strategies for managing executive functioning issues, using improvisational comedy to improve retention, mindfulness and validation in the classroom, and student directed learning models. There was also a chance for round table discussions among disciplines.  Teachers were able to brainstorm about more effective teaching methods for students who have emotional, mental health and behavioral struggles.  Since many of the programs who participated in the Summit have smaller academic teams, this collaboration was invaluable.   And of course there was some fantastic food!  We cannot wait until next year’s summit.

    

CERTS Programs Earn Gold Status As Research Designated Programs

Recently two of the CERTS Programs–Kolob Canyon and Moonridge Academy earned Gold Status as a Research Designated Programs. Both programs have over 5 years of data that show the outcomes of treatment.  All of the CERTS Programs have long been affiliated with NATSAP (National Association of Therapeutic Schools and Programs).  Many years ago NATSAP decided that collecting data to monitor the outcomes of treatment was essential.  As explained on the NATSAP Website,  “The Board of Directors of NATSAP has long realized that our profession has the responsibility of providing data that examines the impact and effectiveness of our programs.  To this end the Board of NATSAP  established the status of Research Designated Program to be given to programs that apply and demonstrate they are involved in supplying data that is aimed at evaluating NATSAP program effectiveness and increasing the understanding of our programs impact on youth and their families”.   CERTS Programs Kolob Canyon, La Europa Academy, and Moonridge Academy became some of the first programs to become Research Designated Programs.

Parents often ask, “What is your success rate?” This is a difficult question to answer since each student comes to a CERTS Program with similar but unique issues and at different places in the recovery process.  Our treatment is highly individualized to accommodate these differences, so the “success rate” varies depending on how success is defined.  In spite of each student’s uniqueness, there are commonalities among the students that do allow us to define success and measure students’ progress.  At the CERTS Programs, we have selected the Youth Outcomes Questionnaire (YOQ) as our tool to gauge student progress.  The YOQ is a valid and reliable instrument that is used across the country in a variety of treatment settings.  Using an instrument that has statistical validity and reliability helps insure that our data is consistently and accurately measuring students’ progress.  It helps the CERTS Program determine the effective of residential treatment.

       

       

So, what do these outcome graphs show?  Parents and students are asked to fill out the Youth Outcome Questionaire upon admission, discharge, 180 days after treatment and again 365 days after treatment.  The dotted line that runs through the graph is indicative of a typical teen who is not receiving therapeutic intervention.  The first bar of the graph indicates the degree of clinical significance at student has upon admission to Kolob Canyon and Moonridge Academy.  Most students admitting to Kolob and Moonridge are having clinically significant issues.  The second bar of the graph demonstrates how parents and students are rating the student upon discharge.  The third bar of the graph shows how students are doing 180 days after treatment.  The fourth bar shows how a student is doing at 365 days from treatment.

The first graph shows how students themselves have responded to the Youth Outcome Questionnaire upon admission to Kolob Canyon and Moonridge Academy.  Students tend to view themselves favorably.  Their outcome questionnaires indicate that potential students don’t feel that they are experiencing many behavioral, relationship or mental health issues.  The second graph shows how the parents of Kolob Canyon  and Moonridge Academy students have responded to the same questionnaire regarding their daughters.  This means that parents view their daughters to be experiencing a high degree of behavioral, relationship and mental health issues.  The next bar of the graph shows how our parents score their daughters upon discharge from Kolob and Moonridge.  As you can see, there is significant progress made from admission to discharge, with parents scoring their daughters below that of the “typical teenager”.  We expect this to happen because a girl has just completed extensive treatment in the time she is at Kolob Canyon and Moonridge Academy. The third bar shows how parents view their daughters 6 months post graduation or following treatment.  We actually expect this slight increase to occur as a girl is back in her regular day-to-day life.  At a year following treatment, we see that the majority of the girls who have graduated from the Kolob and Moonridge programs level out, scoring very similar to the “typical teenager”.  Our data then shows that girls maintain this same level of behavior for the next 5 years.  We have been monitoring many of our students up to 5 years following discharge.

CERTS remains highly committed to the research process and the assistance research provides us in providing successful treatment to our students and their families.

 

CERTS Academics Fosters Success

Each CERTS Program includes an excellent academic program that fosters success in our students.   Kolob Canyon, La Europa Academy and Mountain Springs Preparatory Academy provide a high school program for students grades 9-12.  Moonridge Academy provides a middle school academic program for students in grades 6-9.  Parents make the important decision to enroll their daughter at a CERTS Program primarily because of therapeutic challenges they are facing.  However, many are also experiencing either academic challenges or academic consequences as a result of their emotional struggles.  Many residential programs minimize the academic component and use online coursework or learning packets with an instructor teaching multiple subjects or levels at the same time.  Our students attend classes with highly qualified, full-time, licensed teachers.  All CERTS Programs are accredited through the AdvancED accrediting agency. All credits are fully transferable to home school districts.  Students who are completing their high school credits at a CERTS Program, can earn a high school diploma by filling the Utah State Office of Education graduation requirements.

CERTS believes that a challenging, stimulating academic program is an important key to restoring balance and health to our students. Success in the classroom has far-reaching effects into other areas of life. As a result, we provide a high quality, fully accredited educational program.  Special attention is paid to meeting the needs of each individual student. Our goal is to develop positive self-esteem in a climate that stimulates creativity and individuality. Our philosophy is based on the belief that each child has unique capabilities and talents.  We feel that a wide variety of experiences are needed to help students discover and enhance their talents. We help each student to experience success that can be applied to all aspects of our education and clinical programs. Academic expectations are high and with the guidance of a highly trained and caring academic team, students learn to master the necessary skills to prepare them for their future.  Students who enter our program academically behind, are often able to catch up with their class work while receiving the therapeutic care that is required.  At CERTS, our belief is that a strong and challenging academic program is an important component of helping our students heal, develop resiliency, competency and establish future direction.  The academic component compliments the therapeutic program by:

  • Allowing students to practice skills in a traditional academic classroom setting
  • Helping students develop or strengthen their academic abilities
  • Allowing students to recoup lost credits, and/or helping them to move forward with their academic credits and goals
  • Superb teacher to student ratios (average 1:6 teacher to student ratio) that provide the one-on-one best suited for this type of student
  • Outstanding college-prep curriculum that is taught through learning and teaching techniques best suited for this type of student (direct instruction from a certified teacher with lots of opportunity for “hands-on” learning)
  • A customized education plan
  • Classes take place on campus with access to the teachers during regular study hall hours
  • Specialized teachers who are passionate about what they teach and, therefore, who produce students who say things like, “I’ve never liked math before now!”
  • SAT/ACT preparation and testing
  • Opportunities to accelerate students’ coursework to help them get caught up or graduate on time. In addition, opportunities exist to make up deficient grades
  • College entrance preparation and application assistance
  • Career exploration and vocational internships

Graduates are Successful

Students at La Europa Academy have been accepted to some phenomenal colleges and universities including the Art Institute of New York, Parson Institute of Fashion Design, California College of Arts, Loyola College, Drexel University, Fordham University and many state colleges such as Colorado State University, Florida State University and many of the California State University Campuses.  Students at Kolob Canyon have been accepted to Lawrence University, Southern Utah University, Sarah Lawrence and various state universities.  Over the years students at all of our programs have received scholarships as well to some of the universities listed above.

On Friday May 17, 2019 Mountain Springs held its Spring Commencement Exercises at Southern Utah State University.  A total of five students graduated with high school diplomas and six students graduated from the program at Mountain Springs Preparatory Academy with three students accomplishing both.  Principal John Dobbs from Cedar High School was the graduation Guest Speaker.  High school dipolmas were handed out by Academic Director Dave Gardiner.  Each program graduate was honored by their student advisor. Each year we are excited when our graduating students are accepted to colleges and universities they have applied to.  It is wonderful to see them advance to campuses of higher education with the academic and life skills learned at Mountain Springs Prep.  Students graduating with the Class of 2019 were accepted to a number of different colleges and universities including Oregon State University, Arizona State University, Whitman College, Colorado State University, and a number of California State University campuses–California State University Chico, California State University Fullerton, California State University Montery Bay, California State University Northridge, and California State University Sonoma. One of our students earned scholarships to Evergreen State College, Oregon State University, University of Pudget Sound and Whitworth University. We are so proud of our graduates and all that they have achieved.

 

 

International Trek Helps Students Learn About Different Cultures

Not all education can and should happen within the classroom. Sometimes, traveling is the best form of education, as students can get a number of personal and educational benefits from travel. From learning about other cultures first-hand to seeing where historical events took place with their own eyes, educational travel gives students the opportunity to deepen their understanding of art, science, history, and culture in ways they never have before. But the benefits of student travel go far beyond the actual subjects taught during the trip. When students can see how other people live their lives, they learn so much about being able to see through another’s perspective, building their capabilities for compassion and empathy. After all, as previously mentioned, traveling students learn that cultures may have several differences, but they also learn that people from other cultures aren’t so entirely different. When they travel, they learn so much about other people and the world is no longer full of “other” people, but just people, and the world starts to feel like it, as a whole, is home.

Each year Mountain Springs provides an International Trek–an amazing way to experience new cultures, see fantastic sights, eat amazing food and take the learning outside the classroom. This year our adventure took us to Portugal and Spain.  We discovered Lisbon exploring through downtown and the viewpoints and waterfront, navigating the subways and buses, Rossio Square, the Arch of Rua Augusta, San Jorge’s Castle, Alfama, The Lisbon Cathedral, the Oceanario (Aquarium), incredible food, even better gelato, the Monument to the Explorers, Belém Tower.  And stairs, lots and lots of stairs.  Getting out of the big city and into the countryside and Sintra, Portugal just grew more and more beautiful with each passing mile.  We loved Quinta Da Regaleira, an awe-inspiring estate complete with a castle, chapel, towers, spiraling wells to descend – and ascend,mini castles and an entire park of lush gardens and underground labyrinths.

Spain was next!  Seville during Holy Week is quite an experience.  We toured the Seville Cathedral, with a tour of the rooftop and city views, to the Plaza de España where some of us rented the small rowboats in the canal circling the front of the grand edifice.  The Plaza’s ornate style and bright tiled lampposts were truly iconic. A day in Malaga was next where we dipped our toes (or crazily for a few, their entire bodies) into the frigid Mediterranean Sea.  The final days of the Trek were spent in Madrid and Granada, a beautiful sprawling town, mixing old with new on every block.

For many of our students this was a once in a lifetime experience.  Many thanks to Jon Larsen, Executive Director who planned this amazing adventure.  We can’t wait to see what next year brings!