Jamie Young joins Lava Heights Academy after a 19 year career as a musical theater professor at Western Wyoming College. What began as an opportunity to share his ideas with administration turned into being welcomed on board as our Artistic Director. During his teaching career, Jamie began to see how beneficial artistic training was not only for improving technique and performance, but for helping individuals better their everyday lives.
Lava Heights Academy is striving to “merge the worlds of academics, therapy, and artistic training,” says Jamie. “We want to get those three areas co-existing. As our students become better artists (through training and instruction), art therapy can work better for them; they can express themselves more effectively.” Jamie’s vision coming into the program was to transform artisitic enrichment into an actual artistic curriculum.
Jamie directs some of the theatrical productions that take place on campus, teaches rotating arts classes, teaches private lessons, and oversees the fine arts department as a whole. He is also co-owner of Brigham’s Playhouse in Washington, UT, the actualization of a 20 year goal to establish a community theater.
Students at Mount Pleasant Academy, with parent permission, had the opportunity to participate in a sweat lodge ceremony earlier this month. Officiated by Native Spiritual Leader Jim P., the ceremonies are formal but friendly, and can be as powerful as one allows them to be. “It just feels really spiritual, special; it feels like I’m closer to God in there,” one student says of his experience in the sweat lodge.
The sweat lodge frame, a dome made of woven branches, stands semi-permanently in the spirit circle on Mount Pleasant’s campus. Preparations for a ceremony begin in the morning, and the frame is covered with heavy blankets and tent canvas. Students help cut wood for the main fire, which will heat the stones to be taken into the lodge.
Inside the womb-like lodge, students find insight and healing. They are given the opportunity to let go and leave behind those things they carry with them that are burdensome and harmful. Upon emerging from the sweat lodge after the ceremony, students find themselves feeling lighter, refreshed; reborn. They have shared a deep and meaningful experience inside the lodge, amidst the sweat and steam.
The sweat lodge ceremonies are open to all students, as long as they have parental consent, and strive to be inclusive of all spiritual belief systems. Students are encouraged to develop a deeper relationship with their higher powers, in whatever form or concept feels most comfortable to them.
At Falcon Ridge Ranch, the equine experience is not just an enrichment activity, it is the backbone of the program. The horses, who kept on site at the ranch, provide the girls with opportunities to learn how to care for others, develop boundaries, and build relationships. Caring for and interacting with the horses is part of the daily schedule and routine for the girls at the ranch.
The horses can help provide a bridge that serves to reach the girls that might be temporarily unreachable by traditional therapeutic means. The girls participate in both individual and group equine therapy sessions. The girls also participate in other equine assisted learning activities, both individually and in groups, which may be inherently therapeutic, but are not necessarily done as therapy sessions. Falcon Ridge Ranch also teaches basic horsemanship skills, so the girls get some time in the saddle.
By working with the horses and learning to tune into the subtle, or sometimes not so subtle, messages they send through body language and demeanor, the girls can learn to do the same with family and peers. Developing trust and boundaries with the horses helps the girls learn to practice these things with other people. One young lady says of the horse she worked with at Falcon Ridge Ranch, “I’ll never forget the things we went through together.”
Clinical Director & Director of Equine Services at
Falcon Ridge Ranch
“Equine therapy can help girls to reach inside themselves when they may be unable to do so in the office. Working with horses helps them to build relationships, develop boundaries, learn problem solving, and identify success. It can be a powerful tool for helping therapy to move along.”
Carolle Bell has been the Equine Director at Falcon Ridge Ranch for the last 12 years, and the Clinical Director for the last six. She is a licensed clinical social worker, holding an MSW from the University of Texas and a PhD in special education from Utah State University. Carolle is one of 26 mental health mentors certified by EAGALA (Equine Assisted Growth and Learning Association) to train and mentor other mental health professionals seeking to obtain advanced certification in equine therapy.
Carolle is patient and compassionate with her clients. Her previous work in adoptions lends itself to working well with the students at Falcon Ridge Ranch, many of whom are adopted and/or dealing with attachment disorders and trauma. With a strong background in family therapy, Carolle believes it necessary to seek to heal the whole family, not just the child.
Carolle will be presenting at this year’s EAGALA conference in March 2015.
“Every portrait that is painted with feeling is a portrait of the artist, not of the sitter.”
– Oscar Wilde
At Lava Heights Academy, the fine arts are a venue for self- expression and self-exploration. We teach our students skills and techniques in theater, music, dance, and visual arts with the intent that our students will be able to explore and express themselves more deeply and more accurately. We tend to see that our students’ artistic progress is often paralled therapeutically; as our students become more expressive artistically, they become more open therapeutically; or perhaps we see they can express themselves artistically when they cannot express themselves in therapy.
The fine arts curriculum at Lava Heights includes classes, private lessons, and group collaborations across the four art content areas. Therapists may be present at private lessons to gain further insight into where our students are at as they explore and express themselves. While we provide our students with technical artistic training, our main focus is the development of the person through the arts, and we focus on three main objectives toward this end:
Expresssion – that our students are able to convey their inner ideas, thoughts, and feelings through the arts
Evaluation & Exploration – that our students can look at their means of expression and work towards clarifying what they hope to convey
Integration – that our students feel their expression has become unified and that they area ready to share it with others.
At Red Rock Canyon School our students have the opportunity to make their musical dreams a reality. In our on-campus recording studio, students go through the process of writing, recording, and publishing their own music under the guidance of our producer Alan Shalby. “For most people, picking up an instrument and playing it releases a lot of tension and anxiety, it relaxes them. It gives you a sense of self worth if you’re a song writer.”
Through two courses offered at Red Rock, Recording Engineering and Songwriting, students have access to instruments, recording equipment, a sound board, and a mixing board. They are given the tools to find their voices and shape their vision throughout the creative process. Some of our students even opt to create their own music videos! As a final product, students lay down their tracks on compilation CDs which come out about every three months.
Mount Pleasant Academy has revamped its schedule to include a number of new clubs for students to participate in, including photography, music, art, and game clubs. Most recently, the guys had a chance to do some studies with darkness and light for photography club.
“We are really striving to keep the kids busy and focused on experiential activities, while at the same time giving them tools and hobbies to take with them in the future,” says Matt Kiefer, Program Director. As the weather begins to warm up this spring, some of the club offerings will shift to incorporate more time outdoors, including sports, hiking, and wood working.
Mount Pleasant Academy continues to provide students with opportunities to engage in equine activities as part of their daily schedules. Weekend activities include community service projects as well as recreational outings. Students will have the chance to participate in a sweat lodge ceremony on campus later this week.
What once started as an idea, a camera, and some computer software has turned into a multimedia studio at Red Rock Canyon School. Under the guidance of George Manu, students have the opportunity to learn photography, artistic composition, film production including filming and editing, music editing, and the use of the editing program Final Cut Pro.
Students learn to work as a team as they take their project from the planning stage, through production, and into post production editing. They develop responsibility and discipline through learning proper equipment etiquette and care. By preparing the skits and music performed for each Red Rock parent weekend, students learn the value of patience and hard work; it can take about two months two create a 15 minute performance.
“The main goal is to get the creative juices flowing,” says George. “I want the kids to not be afraid to attempt something. If it’s challenging then let’s do it.” Students learn the value of having an idea, pursuing it, and seeing it succeed. They also learn the value of seeing their ideas fail. They learn that ideas and projects often change and evolve, and that just because one idea may not succeed, it does not mean they should fear pursuing their other ideas.