Executive Director Changes at La Europa Academy

La Europa Wishes Fond Farewell to Robbi O’Kelley

La Europa Academy wishes a fond farewell to Executive Director, Robbi O’Kelley. She is moving onto her next adventure and we wish her all of the very best. Robbi has done incredible work and provided amazing service to La Europa Academy for the past ten years.  During her tenure, La Europa grew from a little program with some artsy creative healers, to arguably the best Arts-Centered Residential Treatment Center for teens in the country.  Robbi has not only helped develop a robust and intense clinical program that is rife with art, theater, dance, and music, and diversity, but she has also helped build our stunning campus and new facilities.  Robbi took La Europa from a funny little B&B house with offices down the street to a multi-building campus with a stunning home, dance studios, art rooms, music spaces, gorgeous therapy offices, state of the art academics, and a transition program.  

All of those things are impressive and important, but Robbi’s true shining contribution has been the culture of care, compassion, and connection that she has cemented in our milieu and within the teams of healers at LaEuropa.  Hundreds of students and families, and even employees, have been directly blessed by who Robbi is and what she realized for us.

Announcing Amanda Kesler as Executive Director

Amanda  is certainly not new to working in the treatment world, finding her way to the La Europa Clinical Team over 5 years ago.  Since then Amanda has steadily shown herself to be a natural leader. She has become involved in all aspects of La Europa, including co-leading the clinical team, training staff, managing Parent Days, taking a large role in our recent Joint Commission Accreditation, implementing program improvements, helping manage our Covid pandemic responses, and working closely with students and families.   Amanda’s intuitive skills as a therapist have not only served the families she has worked directly with, but also the team at La Europa.  Amanda was the originator of our voluntary Employee Support Groups, helping any participant in managing  the stress of a challenging job during the very challenging time of Covid and beyond.   Prior to coming to La Europa, Amanda worked her way up from being a residential staff to becoming a licensed clinician and then managing two programs simultaneously.  Amanda eventually left for the opportunity to join La Europa and be part of the highest level of teen treatment that can be found.

Amanda has had the fortune to work closely with Robbi O’Kelley, our departing Executive Director of 10 years.  Due to this close relationship, Amanda has witnessed and been trained first-hand on effective leadership and what really makes La Europa special and unique.  The entire leadership team at La Europa has been unanimously in favor of Amanda stepping into the role of Executive Director and continuing La Europa’s privileged opportunity to serve teens and families. 

Exciting Changes and Growth at the CERTS Group

The CERTS Group leadership is shifting in ways that will only
make us more effective in helping with our student’s healing journeys.

Majority Owner, Kent Tasso founded CERTS in 2002, opening Kolob Canyon Residential, and slowly adding Mountain Springs Preparatory Academy, Moonridge Academy and La Europa Academy over the next few years.  We have built small, sincere, effective and loving programs with intensive therapy and top level programming provided by the best in the field!  To improve the operations of the CERTS Group, Kent has promoted Tawny Thomas to the role of CERTS Chief Operating Officer. 

Tawny joined CERTS in 2008 as Executive Director of Kolob Canyon and Moonridge Academy and more recently has served as CERTS Outreach and Program Development.  As COO, she will continue to support the leadership of our programs and take a more primary role in ensuring we are providing the best care to our clients at each program.  As Tawny takes over the day to day program oversight, Kent will still stay involved in CERTS, and particularly in manning the CERTS Foundation, our nonprofit fundraising organization that provides needed scholarships to families.

With Tawny’s stepping in as COO, there’s another exciting announcement! 

Kris Archer has joined our team as the CERTS Marketing and Outreach Director.  Everyone knows Kris, she has been a light and force for good in so many ways within the treatment community – and we’re so happy to have her hitting the road, educating others and sharing the good work happening at Kolob, Moonridge, La Europa, and Mountain Springs!  

Adventure Therapy and Experiential Treks

Adventure Therapy and Experiential Treks are a big component of many programs within the CERTS Group. In fact this is an integral part of our Southern Utah Programs including Kolob Canyon, Moonridge Academy and Mountain Springs Preparatory Academy. These programs are perfectly situated for almost all types of outdoor adventures and experiential activities. Our students are within an easy driving distance of numerous National Parks including Zion, the Grand Canyon, Bryce Canyon, Arches, Capitol Reef and Cedar Breaks National Monument. There are countless horse trails, lakes for kayaking, deserts to explore and mountains to hike.  Playing hard is necessary to balance the intense therapy that occurs each day.  We believe that the more a student plays, explores, builds mastery, connects with nature and others – the more open they will be to making those adjustments towards a healthier, more balanced life. 

True Moments of Change

Both Kolob Canyon and Moonridge Academy have Adventure Therapy and Experiential Treks as integral components to their programs. Each Wednesday includes an Adventure Therapy activity and once per month both programs go on an Adventure Trip. Just this Spring along, Kolob Canyon adventured in Joshua Tree in April, Mead Lake and at Canyonlands National Park. Moonridge Academy experienced the beauty of the Valley of Fire, Arches National Park and Cathedral Gorge. At Kolob Canyon and Moonridge Academy, our therapists have said more than a once, that the best breakthroughs, the best therapy rarely happens on a couch. The true moments of change have been seen with our students while hiking in the rain, laughing with friends in a raft or facing their fears as they rock climb higher than they’ve ever gone before.  

At Mountain Springs Preparatory Academy, we believe that travel is the great teacher. Our outstanding, formal classroom education is complimented by regular trips outside of the classroom to study in nature’s classroom. We call these education-led, field trips Experiential Treks! Students describe these treks as powerful, fun and life-changing. They live and experience what they are studying rather than just reading about it. Because many of our students are “hands-on” learners, this unique approach works well for them. For all of our students, these special treks provide memories and learning experiences they will never forget.

Scuba Trek at Mountain Springs Prep

Mountain Springs Scuba Trek

Why a Scuba Trek? Well, who doesn’t want to live on a boat for 7 days with amazing catered meals, a sun deck to lounge on, and all the water play toys you can imagine?  Not to mention literally playing with the sea lions in the water, seeing the incredible marine life 40 feet underwater, whale watching, and parasailing 600 feet in the air?  All with your friends.  It’s a no brainer!

But it goes beyond that.  Training our Mountain Springs students in scuba diving is some pretty clever back door therapy, that includes deep dives into the skills of:

  • Emotional and physical regulation
  • Breathing techniques
  • Commitment to safety 
  • Planning and preparedness for “what if’s”
  • Using relationships for connection and enjoyment as well as safety
  • Appreciation for nature and the environment

To certify in scuba diving, our students participate in weeks of classes, then pool training and finally open water tests to make sure they can safely employ what they have learned.  

What a concept.  Deep learning, lots of practice, a team helping you, and then finally launching into the ocean (but still with buddies and support)!  Much like student’s transitioning from wilderness or RTC (deep learning) into Mountain Springs (practice and team), and then truly being prepared to launch home or to college.  

See?  We’ve thought this through. 

La Europa Academy and Mosaic House Earn Joint Commission Accreditation

In March, La Europa Academy and Mosaic House earned accreditation from the Joint Commission. This national accreditation demonstrates that your clinical program emphasizes a consistent approach to care and a culture of excellence. The Joint Commission, also known as TJC, is a United States-based nonprofit tax-exempt 501 organization that accredits more than 22,000 US health care organizations and programs. 

Joint Commission accreditation and certification means your organization complies with the highest national standards for safety and quality of care and is committed to continually improving patient care. Accreditation and certification require an on-site evaluation by the Joint Commission. The evaluation assesses compliance with Joint Commission standards and verifies improvement activities. After earning accreditation or certification, organizations receive The Gold Seal of Approval® from The Joint Commission.

La Europa and Mosaic House are pleased to provide a level of care that meets the standards outlined by the Joint Commission. La Europa is also pleased to be affiliated with the National Association of Schools and Programs (NATSAP). At CERTS we are always seeking ways to improve the services we provide to our students and their families.

Moonridge Academy Celebrates 18 Years

Sometimes you just need something to cheer about!  We are excited for this chance to celebrate 18 incredible years of service supporting teens and their families. Moonridge Academy welcomed their first student in February 2003.  In the years since, we have seen so many amazing students find joy in their journey as they have matured, healed, gained skills, and accomplished hard things at Moonridge Academy.  We have loved watching students hike higher than ever before, connect with horses, and learn more about themselves than they thought possible through tough clinical work.  Honestly, we couldn’t be more proud of our students.

Watch this short video featuring members of our team sharing their favorite things about Moonridge Academy

One of the core values of Moonridge Academy is adventure. Adventure Therapy is an essential aspect of everyday life at Moonridge. Students spend each Wednesday involved in adventure activities including hiking, skiing, paddle boarding, canyoneering, and the list just goes on and on. Each month students also participate in a 3-day adventure trip that most often includes camping and exploring the majestic scenery of Utah. Students hike, climb and explore places like Zion National Park, Bryce Canyon National Park and Valley of Fire. The therapists often feel that the best therapy they do with students is the therapy that happens outside while they are hiking, rappelling, kayaking or skiing alongside a student. Check out this short video that highlights some of the wonderful adventures our students and therapists experienced in 2020.

To learn more about Moonridge Academy, visit their website at http://moonridgeacademy.com/. You can also contact Admissions Director Wendy Penrod at wendy@moonridgeacademy.com.

Covid-19 Updates

“We are in this together–And we will get through this together”

 – Antonio Guterros
 Secretary-General of the United Nations

The CERTS Programs are excited to announce that we have started the process of Covid-19 vaccination!  Most of our clinical, advising and academic team members have received the first of two vaccinations.  Our mentoring staff has also been able to start with vaccinations as well.  This process will continue in a few weeks when many will receive their second vaccination.  We feel so fortunate that the state of Utah has considered our staff to be essential workers who have a higher priority to receive the vaccine.  We are happy to be contributing to a healthy, safe and hopefully more “normal” 2021.   

In the meantime, we will continue with the Covid-19 guidelines that we have successfully had in place at our programs throughout the pandemic:

Covid-19 Guidelines

  • All students are encouraged to wear masks in the classrooms and when not in their bedrooms.  All employees are required to wear masks.
  • Social distancing is always encouraged. 
  • Frequent handwashing and disinfecting surfaces is just a way of life now.
  • Newly admitting students are tested for Covid-19.
  • Symptomatic and positive Covid-19 students are immediately quarantined as per CDC guidelines.
  • Frequent tests are administered on all students and employees whenever we have encountered a positive case to quickly reduce further spread.
  • If an employee tests positive, they immediately quarantine at home for the recommended 10-14 days before being cleared to return to work.
  • Students have been able to seamlessly continue with their schooling and therapy through online platforms, even when in quarantine. 
  • Our off-campus activity options are always being adjusted as necessary, as dictated by local levels of outbreak and CDC recommendations.  We have been able to continue with many of our adventure and recreation activities.  
  • Parent visits and home visits have enhanced testing and quarantining requirements to help increase the safety of everyone.   

And With All of This….

The CERTS Programs–Kolob Canyon, La Europa Academy, Moonridge Academy and Mountain Springs Preparatory Academy–have been able to continue safely admitting new students, and we have had overwhelmingly positive feedback from our parents.  None of us could have ever predicted the curve balls of Covid-19.  We are excited for a healthier 2021!  

2021 Anne Sullivan Award Recipient

Each year the CERTS Group of Programs honors a chosen few of their mentoring staff with the Anne Sullivan Award. This award for a mentoring staff’s dedication to the students and their fellow peers is named after Helen Keller’s lifelong teacher Anne Sullivan. Anne showed complete commitment and dedication to her pupil. She improved Helen Keller’s quality of life by teaching her new skills. This is what each Anne Sullivan Award Recipient does for students at the CERTS Programs–improves their life through teaching them new skills. These skills help our students learn to have a life worth living finding joy in their journey. This year the two recipients of this tremendous 2021 Anne Sullivan Award are Eddie Calamity at Moonridge Academy an  Brianna “Bri” Corliss at Kolob Canyon.

Eddie Calamity Moonridge Academy Anne Sullivan Award Recipient https://www.moonridgeacademy.com/news

Eddie is such a talented leader on the Moonridge Academy campus.  His fellow staff look up to him with respect often following his direction and example.  Eddie is the true definition of calm.  Students and staff alike routinely turn to Eddie for advice, validation, support and understanding.  Eddie helps our students both in challenging times and also at times of great fun.  We feel so grateful that Eddie is part of our team.  Thank you Eddie!  We love you!

Brianna “Bri” Corliss Kolob Canyon Anne Sullivan Award Recipient https://www.kolobcanyonrtc.com/Newsletter

We asked our students and staff, “What is it that you love and admire about Bri?”  There answers will easily help you see why she is so exemplary in her role as a mentor staff.  

“I appreciate her balance betwen firm boundaries and expectation and kindness and connection.”

“I love hearing from students how Bri is able to be a good role model for all of the students.”

“Bri isn’t afraid to try and do new things.”

“I have enjoyued here quiet and gentle pressence on shift.”

“Even when Bri is freezing at the barn, she has a smile and positive attitude.”

“Bri is so willing to help out in any way and she does it with a smile.”

“She is so great with all of the students and all of the staff.”

“Bri is direct and compassionate at the same time.”

“Bri makes the people working with her better.”

“Bri’s calm yet assertive pressencee is so nice to be around.”

“Bri is able to smile and have a positive attitude even when things are difficult.”

“Bri has a remarkable balance of holding limits and showing care to our students.”

Thank you Eddie and Bri for you dedication to our students. Thank you for being all in, every day, for every students. We are so grateful for you and that you are on our team.

CERTS Programs Honor Veterans

In honor of Veterans Day, retired Air Force 2-Star General Kathy Thomas, Vietnam Veteran and the first female general officer in the Air Force Space Command spoke to students at the CERTS Programs, Kolob Canyon and Moonridge Academy.

General Thomas shared with the students her stories of serving throughout the world, aiding in diplomacy missions, mobilizing troops following the 9/11 attacks, and – in her opinion, most importantly – helping change the rules and removing the obstacles for women in the armed forces.  General Thomas shared funny stories about having to wear skirts in negative 75 degree weather on base in Minot, North Dakota, and how she helped convince the Air Force of the folly of that gender-based rule.  She shared touching stories of supporting struggling troops, and how leadership is not in the speeches you make, or the ribbons on your lapel, but in the moments of service and true connection you give to others.  The students were enthralled with how many places she has been to, and served in the world, as well as how many Presidents of the United States she had personally met.

General Thomas focused on the 3 Core Values of the Air Force:
1) Excellence in Everything You Do
2) Service to Others
3) Integrity, Always Be Honest  

She shared how these values will lead to a successful, happy life, regardless of being in the military or not.  The students showed great interest in what General Thomas had to share.  Many asked for her autograph after she spoke.  General Thomas now spends her retirement in Southern Utah, mentoring teens and young adults pursuing higher education and/or military service.  We are grateful to have had General Thomas share her life service with us.


CERTS Outcome Data Looks Impressive

Parents often ask, “What is your success rate?”  This is a difficult question to answer since each student comes to a CERTS Program with unique challenges and at different places in the treatment process.  CERTS knows that outcome research is important – being able to qualify and prove that treatment works, as well as receiving constant feedback and indicators for improvement, helps us assure families that their work and investment is well placed.  Two of our programs–Kolob Canyon and Moonridge Academy are designated as Gold Research Programs through NATSAP.

To help monitor our student’s progress, CERTS has utilized the Youth Outcome Questionnaire (YOQ) to track outcome data for over 8 years.  Every October we summarize that data for each CERTS program and provide this information on our websites, to parents and education consultants to document our outcomes.   CERTS outcome data continues to be very impressive!

These graphs can help you track our outcomes.  Each graph starts with an indication of how much distress a student was in when they admitted to a CERTS program.  On the YOQ tool the higher the number, the more distress the student is experiencing compared to typical same aged teens.  Following intensive treatment and family work,  our students at discharge demonstrate a significant decrease in their distress level. In fact, our students leave treatment well below the average teen, and maintain progress throughout the next year – even with the anticipated transition challenges and reintroduction of “normal life” stressors.  The data for Mountain Springs is slightly different.  This is because students enrolling at Mountain Springs Prep have most often completed both a wilderness and residential treatment program.  We are tracing their maintenance of skills they have learned.  It is encouraging to see that they are able to maintain and succeed at Mountain Springs as well as afterwards when they return home.

Click on each graph below to go to the program’s website to learn more.

La Europa Academy Outcome Data


Moonridge Academy Outcome Data


Mountain Springs Preparatory Academy Outcome Data


Kolob Canyon Outcome Data


Mosaic House Outcome Data


Carrying On With Covid-19: What We Have Learned

By this time there are probably very few treatment programs that haven’t been directly touched by Covid-19, whether in students or employees.  And it’s a situation we’ve all had to quickly learn to prevent, address, respond to, and manage.  The collaboration and support between NATSAP programs has been inspiring as everyone is navigating this together.  Even at the CERTS Group Programs–Mountain Springs, La Europa Academy, Kolob Canyon and Moonridge Academy– we’ve encountered some students and staff contracting the virus, despite high levels of precautions – and we’re so thankful that each incident has cleared quickly and without issue.

Here is what we have learned and what we’ve done with Covid-19 Guidelines…

  1. In most instances, positive cases were completely asymptomatic or at most had very mild cold symptoms for 1-2 days, so detection can be challenging.
  2. All students are required to wear masks, when outside of the dorms.  All employees are required to wear masks.
  3. Social distancing is always encouraged.
  4. Frequent handwashing and disinfecting surfaces is just a way of life now.
  5. Symptomatic and positive Covid students are immediately quarantined as per CDC guidelines.
  6. We have been able to section off areas of the dorms for safe quarantining with good ventilation, meal deliveries, etc.
  7. Frequent tests area administered on all students and employees whenever we have encountered a positive case to quickly reduce further spread.
  8. If an employee tests positive, they immediately quarantine at home for the recommended 10-14 days before being cleared to return to work.
  9. Student have been able to seamlessly continue with their schooling and therapy through online platforms, even when in quarantine.
  10. Our off-campus activity options are always being adjusted as necessary, as dictated by local levels of outbreak and CDC recommendations.
  11. All new students enrolling, must be tested and have a negative test result before admitting and joining the other students on campus.
  12. We continue to restrict tours on our campus.
  13. Parent visits and home visits have enhanced testing and quarantining requirements to help increase the safety of everyone.  All students returning from a home visit or off-campus visit are tested and remain in quarantine with their parents or in our quarantine house until they receive a negative test result.
  14. We are coordinating the times of home visits and parent visits to ensure that testing can occur with results obtained in a reasonable amount of time.
  15. We are using a private lab in St. George for all of our testing.  This has helped make this process so much easier with results obtained in 24-36 hours in most instances.

   And With All of This During Covid-19….

CERTS Programs have been able to continue safely admitting new students, and we have had overwhelmingly positive feedback from our parents on our handing and communication with the pandemic.  None of us could have ever predicted the curve balls of 2020, but we’re pretty proud of how it’s going!