Wednesday, December 31, 2014

What Were You Thinking?

Most parents of a teenager have asked the question at one time or another, "What were you thinking?"  In a recent study conducted by psychological scientists Laurence Steinberg & Jason Chein of Temple University and Dustin Albert of Duke University, they argue the significant influence peers have over their adolescent friends risky behaviors.  This study shows an increase in risky behaviors by these teenagers when directly observed by their peers. They report greater activation of brain structures, such as the ventral striatum and orbitofrontal cortex, which are involved in evaluating rewards.

If we are to accept the relationship between peer influence and risky behaviors, we must also consider the influence these teens hold over each other based upon the amount of time these teens spend with each other.  By spending large amounts of time with their peers, these scientists claim the feedback may overtime tune the brain's reward system to be more sensitive to the reward value of risky behavior.  They go on to say, "This sensitivity leads teens to focus on the short-term benefits of risky choices over the long-term value of safe alternatives."

Knowing that teenagers will spend a great deal of time with each other, it becomes important to shape that reward system into something positive rather than seeking acceptance through risky behaviors. At Cedar Ridge Academy, we are huge advocates of utilizing the powerful influence of peers in helping our students to achieve a healthier lifestyle.  Our students participate in seven hours of group therapy each week in conjunction to their individual and family therapy sessions.  Group therapy includes specialized small groups to target specific issues appropriate for our current student body.

In a positive milieu environment, such as ours, students are encouraged, supported, and accountable to each other. We use a strong message of..."you have what it takes to be successful, you matter, and we care about you." This environment is ideal for creating a safe, structured, positive peer community where the students feel connected and accepted.  We teach our students about empathy to help them focus on building that positive peer culture while challenging the negative sub-culture that is prevalent in today's society. Utilizing these different tools enable Cedar Ridge students to dismiss typical peer stimuli and apply healthier internal motivators to determine their choice.  By focusing in on long-term benefits derived from choices, our graduates are training their brain's reward system to respond more sensitively to mature, healthy stimuli.

Association for Psychological Science April 2013

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

New Special Education Teacher

Denise working with student
Cedar Ridge Academy has found a great fit with the addition of Denise Mooney to our academic team.  Denise adds a number of wonderful credentials to our school beyond her endorsements in both English and History; she also completed her Master’s degree in Special Education at the University of Alaska.  With over thirteen years’ experience under her belt, Denise offers experience working with a wide range of students with varying degrees of learning disabilities. She utilizes her expertise in this field to design Individual Educational Plans (IEP) and 504 plans to aid teachers, staff, and parents working together for a rich learning environment. 

Denise Mooney
Denise is very excited to live on our beautiful campus where she can easily indulge in some of her hobbies which include reading, playing on the computer, and exploration in nature.  Being an avid animal lover; she also enjoys living on an animal friendly campus where students are encouraged to help care for others. 

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Improving Student Comprehension & Productivity

The quieter you become, the more you can hear.  ~Zen Proverb

Over the past twenty years I have observed an interesting phenomenon in many students who have attended my therapeutic boarding school--a sudden and somewhat dramatic shift in both comprehension and productivity. This shift usually occurs just prior to the student attaining level 800.  Instead of staff and therapist symbolically “pushing”the student along, the student starts leading the way.  Instead of struggling with subjects in school, the student’s productivity jumps ahead, not only to the surprise of teachers and therapists, but to the surprise of the students themselves.  
Level 800 Students
Learning disabilities that these students have struggled with often become more manageable or seem to disappear.

Two additional important developmental tasks happen around the time of reaching level 800:  1) The student has meaningful goals for themselves; and 2) They are finding it much easier to distance themselves from past loyalties or problematic peer relationships.  Typically, students coming into Cedar Ridge lack meaningful future plans and are unwilling to separate themselves from the past friendships that supported their problematic behaviors.  This shift to making future plans and distancing themselves from unhealthy peer relationships are two critical milestones seen by students working for future success.

These students clearly demonstrate a marked reduction in anxiety along with a distinct positive shift in emotional maturity and confidence.  This reduction of anxiety seems to be the biggest factor in the accelerated productivity that I have witnessed.  In a DVD series called, Social Anxiety: The Untold Story, Jonathan Berent talks about how anxiety contributes to learning problems.  He mentions that problems diminish as anxiety is managed and an improvement in learning tasks ensues. 

Often what gets construed as learning deficits or attention issues are actually habits of detachment from uncomfortable stimuli.  This detachment is almost always automatic and unconscious to those who do it.  It is important to understand that detachment is a form of avoidance, which is dissociative in nature. Reflexively, detachment serves to provide relief from the source of discomfort.  Unbeknownst to many, this strategy of avoidance only serves to reinforce the discomfort that triggered the detachment in the first place.

When anxiety  is reduced, the mind becomes calmer (quieter).  When the mind is quieter, creative processes re-engage.  The constant regressions to past feelings subside and the normal process of maturation resumes.  The mind will tune into the rhythms of life in a more natural, developmental way both automatically and unconsciously.

Friday, September 26, 2014

Supporting the Level System

"Being deeply loved by someone gives you strength, while loving someone deeply gives you courage." Lao Tzu
The biggest single factor responsible for success at Cedar Ridge is a consistently clear message from the parents that their son or daughter (the student) must accomplish the goal of working through the issues that brought them here. Usually not what the student wants to hear from the parents, the message is based on the love that parents have for their student. This form of love is called "tough love" and, yes, it does require courage.teens talking their way home cedar ridge academy private international therapeutic boarding school
The best objective way to measure the student's attitude and acceptance is how they engage in the process of change. The "Trust Levels" provide an excellent gauge for measuring this determination. The student's willingness to comply with rules and expectations is crucial for developing rapport with the student. Willing compliance does wonders for building the all-important therapeutic relationships that empower the healing process. Compliance develops a response pattern and acceptance of adult leadership in students who have become defiant, evidenced by their need to come to Cedar Ridge in the first place.
When we feel we are starting to have reasonable compliance, we say the student is "getting on board." That is when the student can achieve level 600. When a parent hears that their student has achieved level 600, it indicates that he/she is taking the first steps on the journey of change.
It is at this level that students begin dealing with the underlying issues that they have been seeking relief from by various strategies of pushing away. Yes, this does require courage! New students typically demonstrate old instinct and habitual response patterns through resistance to change. Despite good rationales for making changes, the perceived payoff for the presenting behaviors results in innate resistance.
This is when students start negotiating for concessions from the parents, trying to work a deal. How successful the student has been with these negotiations in the past usually determines how persistent the student will be in attempting to get parents to pull him/her out of the program. Children know their parents' weak spots and will likely try to split their parents from the program by taking advantage of these weaknesses.
The quickest way for a student to move past this stage is by parents consistently and energetically insisting that their child work through the levels and graduate the program. Even when circumstances lead to a shorter stay, the student will have moved the farthest if they believe completion is the only option on the table. Every dollar invested will go farther if the student believes their parents are committed to program graduation. When parents form a united front and communicate a consistent message about program completion, they are helping all the other parents. The fewer anomalies that occur with this message the more engaged the students are as a whole, thus benefiting everyone.
Success in progressing through the levels creates students who are deeply appreciative of the Cedar Ridge experience and deeply appreciative of the parents who held firm during their time here. These are the outcomes that make it all worthwhile for the staff who work here.
Here are some guidelines to follow during the time your child is with us.

1. Never let the student lead you into a conversation that indicates to them an alternate time frame for going home. Students usually probe about getting back into school at some specified date or ask if completing a certain number of school courses can be the criterion for leaving. The student then uses the alternate criteria as means of getting around the therapeutic expectations. The parent Mantra in response to any probing questions is, "You need to work on graduating the program first."

2. Keep stating that all decisions regarding future time lines are between the parents and the therapist, and that you are going to follow the therapist's advice. Although the student's discharge is ultimately the parent's decision, parents and therapist should maintain an ongoing dialogue about what i best for the student and family. We work for you, but putting the responsibility on the therapist takes the pressure off the parents and empowers the therapist.

Friday, August 29, 2014

Starting in the Classroom

Sending a teenager away from home to attend a prestigious boarding school in preparation for their college career requires a great deal of sacrifice from families.   International families often struggle with the same issues in addition to complications that cross-cultural education will encounter.
At Cedar Ridge Academy we understand the complex nature of cultural divide and work at breaking down the walls that separate foreign students from American culture.

We are proud of our uniquely large population of professionals who have lived abroad resulting in a broad range of staff who have bilingual proficiencies.  Our academic team uses their firsthand knowledge when working with our international students in an effort to eliminate any cultural barriers that would otherwise impede educational goals.  One way in which Cedar Ridge Academy prepares our international students for future successes in their American educational experience is by enrolling our students in a course designed for the development of educational and professional skills. 

This course is designed around the objective of preparing students beyond the classroom and to compete in today’s modern world.  The course emphasizes the importance of good communication and identifies
methods for improving that vital skill. Application of these skills will be used in collaborative projects and used in peer group discussions where they can further develop the speaking and listening skills to succeed in college.  By the end of the course students are well versed in crafting professional documents which may be used in the admission process for universities or may be used in career portfolios.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Perfectly Set Apart for International Students

Cedar Ridge Academy sets itself apart from other private schools to international students by offering a flexible but rigorous curriculum designed specifically to enhance academic pursuits whether that comes in the form of accelerated learning or personal life skills which include: increased motivation, confidence, autonomy, physical fitness and hard work. Our learning environment allows the academic team to tailor a specific learning plan to meet the needs of each individual student.

The entire Cedar Ridge experience is dedicated to encouraging and supporting students along their own path to academic mastery and the personal insight required for future success. Our goal is to prepare students to be proactive and successful in their transition from home to college. Some of the ways we approach these goals are the following:

1) Blended Learning and self-paced academics - Students at Cedar Ridge Academy have a blend of academic experiences including: traditional teacher lead instruction, one on one teacher tutoring, and "online" class instruction that can be watched repeatedly and or paused so the student can ask questions, or look up information.

2) Academic Mastery - Students must complete each assignment, quiz, and test with a minimum score of 80% before being allowed to move forward in the curriculum. When a student scores less than 80% they are required to repeat that assignment, quiz, or test.

3) Integrated Therapy - Students at Cedar Ridge Academy have the advantage of onsite professional Therapists to help students explore success beyond the classroom.

4) Diet and Exercise - Cedar Ridge Academy integrates dietitian planned meals and snacks helping to ensure your students nutritional needs are being met. Cedar Ridge Academy students have weekly Shotokan Karate classes and scheduled Physical Education classes during the school day. The students also have a variety of extracurricular sports they can participate in including basketball, golf, volleyball, and fast pitch softball.

Discoveries about how the brain can be stimulated to create new neurons (neurogenesis) indicate that exercise is highly beneficial for such development. In order for this neurogenesis to occur, one or more of three conditions must be present; and here at Cedar Ridge Academy we focus on providing all three requirements daily. The first of these conditions is "exercise," not just a few minutes of exercise, but a sustained level of exercise. The second of these conditions is "novelty." When the brain is presented with novelty for a sustained length of time, new brain cells can be triggered to form. Lastly, the condition of "enrichment" can stimulate neurogenesis.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Raising Energy Levels from Fear to Love

Written by: Rob Nielson, LMFT

In my younger years teaching karate I contemplated the meaning of “Master”, a title given to martial artists for their skills and knowledge. Deciding I would be involved in the discipline of karate throughout my life, becoming a “Master” for me would mean that I master my emotions. I would strive throughout my involvement with karate to continually live as stress free as possible and endeavor to stay positive. Though I don’t consider myself a master yet, I am certainly a lot closer by actively working on this goal.

As a hypnotherapist working with clients, I concluded that “Love’ was the most positive emotion and “Fear” was the most negative. (This marked the beginning of me developing the “Fears Chart” used at Cedar Ridge Academy.) Certainly, there are no limits to the magnitude one can feel love or the intensity of feeling fear. The goal of moving away from fear to love would focus on reducing the intensity of fear (anger is a form of fear) and increasing the levels of positive emotions in the people I work with.

We conducted a student workshop during the month of July which focused on raising energy levels (from fear to love) and I am again confronted with the power that our fears have over us. For many of the students, we adults as well, endeavoring to feel more gratitude will trigger discomfort stemming from past experience. An example would be someone trying to be nice hoping to be liked and then having to deal with someone else’s anger resulting in feeling hurt. They then use anger as a way not to feel hurt. Indeed, my observations are that many students responded to wanting to raise their energy levels will become vulnerable, get triggered and then act out in various ways. I believe I noticed this somewhat after my goal of raising awareness and hopefully motivation to work on more positive emotional energy.

One of the assignments during the workshop was for parents and students to focus on emotions and the effects emotions have on one’s mind and health. Through the use of a few YouTube videos, discussion and written assignments an exploration of openness and attitudes of the students was conducted. Likewise we asked parents to give input about how they felt regarding the pursuit of the emotional health of their son or daughter respectively.

The two YouTube videos are Water Consciousness & Intent and Rice Consciousness experiment.
One video watched during the workshop showcased how emotions will affect water crystal formation. This concept is still controversial and the discussions among students and parents were rich with content. The other YouTube video(s) were on the experiment of how thoughts affect rice. We conducted our own experiment with rice to test the theory but found our replication lacked the controlled environment.

Student workshop week was a great success in exploring the emotions and how they may be affecting other aspects of our lives consciously or unconsciously.

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Cedar Ridge Academy International Boarding School | Introducing Matthew Call

Matthew earned his B.S. in Marriage and Family Studies and his M.S. in Marriage and Family Therapy at Brigham Young University. After graduate school, Matt worked for about six months as a therapist in residential treatment with adolescent boys, before joining the clinical team at Cedar Ridge Academy.  Matthew’s research interests include attachment processes and family therapy with emerging adults. He primarily uses cognitive behavioral therapy, motivational interviewing, and strengths-based therapy approaches in his clinical work.  He works closely with our highly experienced clinical staff in order to understand and integrate the therapeutic approach of Cedar Ridge Academy.
Newest Therapist, Matthew Call

Matthew is a native of Utah and with his free time enjoys cooking Thai food, mountain biking, racquetball, camping, and taking pictures all over Utah with his new wife.  Already accustomed to the Uintah Basin region, Matt is settling in quickly.

Cedar Ridge Academy Therapeutic Boarding School therapists are specifically trained and equipped to work with troubled teens, both boys and girls.  Our therapists have a combined experience of over 50 years. They are the respected leaders of the overall Cedar Ridge team and are dedicated to our students’ academic excellence.  Cedar Ridge Academy therapeutic boarding school integrates education and therapy in a comprehensive, collaborative manner in order to promote the most beneficial results for our students.

Through modeling and teaching we guide youth in a process of positive behavioral change as they acquire the skills and self-knowledge needed to form healthy relationships with others and utilize their individual inner strengths to become mature, well-balanced, productive persons.

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Shotokan Karate - Black Belt Challenge

By Rob Nielson, Clinical Director & Chief Instructor

        "The Ultimate Aim of the Art of Karate lies not in Victory or Defeat but in the                 Perfection of the Character of its Participants." - Gichin Funakoshi.

Cedar Ridge Academy offers a karate training program that I call the "Black Belt Challenge."  From its inception, Cedar Ridge Academy has promoted training in Karate as a means of assisting our students' growth. I have long felt a strong motivation to utilize Karate as a means of helping further the physical emotional and spiritual growth of those who participated in the discipline of Karate.  For those who wish to train intensively, the Black Belt Challenge offers a greater developmental opportunity. 

Any student who regularly trains in karate develops increased self-discipline, heightened self-confidence, respect, and an increase in self-control. In addition, exercise in the morning prior to school calms the students and improves their mood. Vigorous exercise is known to increase both serotonin and norepinephrine in the brain, neurotransmitters associated with feeling better. 

Exercise actually creates brain derived neurotropic factors that promote the creation of new nerve and brain cells (neurogenesis). We all are capable of growing new brain cells when the conditions are right.
Cedar Ridge Academy therapeutic boarding school Karate
Rob Nielson instructing a karate class.
Sustained exercise, one producing a light sweat is appropriate for stimulating neurogenesis. Ideally, the workout should last a minimum of an hour and a half, or one ultradian rhythm cycle. All three of these conditions are present in a properly conducted Karate class creating an enriched environment that generates team spirit (Ki) and a positive peer culture.  Combining these characteristics with the "novelty" of learning new motor skills, presents optimum conditions for neurogenesis to occur.  Traditional Karate training stands out as being uniquely designed for this type of neuronal growth. 

Recent research now connects aerobic exercise with neurogenesis in the hippocampus region of the brain dealing with spatial memory, navigation and the ability to stay on task, resulting in improved memory and cognitive processing skills.  Karate is specifically good for stimulating development in the cerebellum. The cerebellum is responsible for voluntary motor movement, balance, equilibrium, and muscle tone. Also known as the "Little Brain," the cerebellum plays a role in cognitive functions such as attention and language and in some emotional functions such as regulating fear and pleasure responses. Karate specifically benefits students in treatment by helping them function better neurologically.
         "To search for the old is to understand the new." - Funakoshi Gichin  
The legacy of mindfulness in Karate training is very deep and much of what seems like formality in Karate has deep underpinnings in Zen concepts. Due to lack of understanding, many contemporary martial arts schools overlook the value of Karate-do or the way of Karate and how it incorporates mindfulness extensively in the form "Mushin Mind."  Mushin Mind, sometimes referred to as “mind/no mind”, refers to a state of mind that is free from thoughts of anger, fear, or ego. Developing Mushin Mind involves conditioning the mind to attain a non-judgemental state.  
Therapeutic Boarding school Cedar Ridge Academy Karate Class
Beyond the physical activity, our students learn the bigger lessons involved in the art of karate.
"As a mirror's polished surface reflects whatever stands before it and a quiet valley carries even small sounds, so must the student of Karate render its mind empty of selfishness and wickedness in an effort to react appropriately toward anything he might encounter.  - Master Funakoshi



Thursday, July 10, 2014


Written by Robert Nielson, LMFT, Clinical Director at Cedar Ridge Academy

Sexually active/promiscuous girls should have proximity to members of the opposite sex when attending a therapeutic program!
To some, this statement will seem a little counter-intuitive.  When considering placing a daughter with promiscuity issues into a treatment program, many parents might disagree with my opening statement.  People may ask, why send a daughter to a place where problems with boys is one of the primary presenting issues among the girls?  Why should boys be anywhere close to a daughter who doesn't seem to be able to use good judgement when it comes to the opposite sex?  Actually, without boys around, girls struggle to resolve their issues and have no opportunity to acquire and practice a new skill set for relating to boys.

I have over twenty years of experience working with girls in a therapeutic setting.  During the first few years of my career in this field, I worked at an all-girls program.  More times than I could count, I strongly wished that I could find some boys to attend the group meetings.  I was working with a population of girls who mostly had been involved with one or more "bad" boys.  Despite the fact that they had been cheated on and deeply hurt these girls still seemed attracted to the boys who would cause most parents to cringe.  It would seem that after being deeply hurt and mistreated, a girl would readily come to the conclusion that certain kinds of boys are not capable of sustaining a healthy relationship. More often, girls recovering from unhealthy opposite sex relationships have a difficult time with this concept.  Helping girls recover from unhealthy relationships and directing them towards boys who are capable of empathy and caring becomes a central focus on therapy.

What drives girls to be prematurely sexually active is rarely a high libido.  They are looking to feel accepted and valued.  Loneliness and low self-esteem are common underlying features in girls who become promiscuous.  A common recurring theme with these girls is that they have an impoverished support network. They have few, if any close girlfriends.  the vast majority will say that they feel more comfortable with boys rather than girls.  What they are really saying is that there is a sense of uneasiness toward other girls.  Many grew up without a father figure.  When I ask most of the girls to list the kind of qualities they they want to see in a boyfriend, they struggle to identify any and, in fact many of these girls have never learned to discriminate good and bad qualities in the opposite sex.  They lack the social enrichment that comes from a variety of positive interpersonal contacts.  It is this lack that needs to be addressed if these girls are to develop the confidence in themselves that they need in order to seek out a positive opposite sex partner.

The more these girls can experience enriched interpersonal relationships with both genders, the more likely they are to expect good qualities in an opposite gender relationship.  Developing a rich experience of healthy friendship is one of the best assurances that these girls will choose wisely in seeking out a boyfriend.  Having a good peer support system helps mitigate the need for a boyfriend as a means of staving off loneliness.  That's why a structured, well-supervised co-ed program meets the needs of sexually active/promiscuous girls better than an all-girl program can.

Girls thrive in an enriched environment of healthy interpersonal relationships.  Girls who avoid developing healthy relationships are almost always avoiding some discomfort or insecurity.  Perhaps they haven't developed the skills necessary for positive peer interactions.  Helping these girls develop positive peer skills requires that they interact with boys.  The sagest environment in which they can develop positive peer skills requires that they interact with boys.  The safest environment in which they can develop these skills is one in which they are well-supervised and taught how to relate more positively to their peers of both genders.

These girls need to learn how to notice qualities and traits in the opposite sex in order to better predict the possibility for a healthy relationship with a boy.  They need to learn how to discriminate between a good prospect and a bad prospect for a positive relationship.  A structured environment provides opportunities for practice in honing skills of perception and judgment without the risk of a negative outcome.  Cedar Ridge has worked successfully with this type of girls' issue for eighteen years, keeping girls safe and helping them grow in their relationship skills. 

Friday, May 9, 2014

Reflecting back on April's A to Z Challenge at Cedar Ridge Academy Private International Therapeutic Boarding School

Reflecting back on April, both my co-writer and I can agree it was a busy, eventful, and fun-packed adventure.  We split up our writing crew into two committees being lead by my co-writer and I.  My co-writer had three others along with her on the committee writing four blogs per person. My committee consisted of two others and I enjoyed writing some of my own blog posts for the challenge. She and I both agree that writing our own along with editing others took up much more time and effort than expected. However, the outcome was worth it in the end. We were able to learn more about the blogging community and relate and interact with people all over the world via the Internet. The blogs also taught each of us that everyone has their own writing style and semantics, making each blog written very unique. Some slackers, scattered in both committees, made the blogging experience a little more complicated than necessary. But, it gave us room (as a group ) to grow and learn from one another and gain patience and discussions.  Each time a blog was posted, the person who wrote it was more than ecstatic to read the feedback written by other bloggers.  We were able to gain more insight and see different perspectives from bloggers all around the world. We were also able to voice our own opinions and perspectives about other topics written by other authors and about our very own school. It was a neat experience to see the differences amongst people and what they were passionate about.  In our Social Studies classes, each class wrote their own set of A-Z blogs, which also added to the mix of things.  Due to the fact the blogs were related to the class the students were enrolled in, they had to pick a topic related to that class.  It was entertaining to see each student go a little wild in their ideas and how they were going to get their point across in 350 words.

In summary, we were both new to the blogging community but we were quickly welcomed by everyone and immediately felt like we belonged. Thank you all for making our first blogging experience (possibly our last) a memorable one!

Yay we did it!

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Z is for Zoom...TIME FLIES

Z is for Zoom
Here at Cedar Ridge Academy Private International Therapeutic Boarding School, the days blur together and (like April has) time flies by. We are constantly on the move, whether it is outside working in the garden or tending to llamas, or working on school. Many factors play into time here including seasons, school, workload, schedule, and the number of students on campus.

Seasons are a huge factor because a majority of the projects we take on are outside. In the winter here in Utah, it gets cold, windy, and snowy which prevent us from outdoor time. In the springtime, we turn the garden and add some of the oh-too-fresh compost to fertilize the soil and then we plant veggies and a combination of beautiful flowers. This spring, on the girls’ side of campus, we are working on building a fence due to the fact that the local deer feel entitled to our veggies. In the summer time, most of our downtime is spent outside working in the garden, playing with the animals, and trying to stay cool in this hot, dry climate. We also enjoy eating outside with campus-wide BBQ’s and playing sports in the ball field. Fall is spent preparing for the winter months. We turn the garden a few times and rake up all the fallen leaves. In the winter time, we spend a majority of the time bonding and growing together as homes and a campus. Ombu, the girls’ home, plays cards and board games with any free time or pile together on the couches for a girly night.
The girls also spend time in the colder months doing crafts

Seasons aren’t the only influence on our activities here though. School is another big part of our time. We are in school from 8-3 PM and then again from 6-7 in the afternoons during the week. Because every student works at their own pace, the blended learning style allows each individual to take the time needed to really learn the material. This allows students to graduate year round and sometimes even graduate ahead of their expected class.

We appreciate the time you have taken to read about our lives here at Cedar Ridge, and hope that we have answered a majority of the questions you might have!


Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Y is for You Only Live Once

Y is for You Only Live Once
Y is for YOLO which stands for You Only Live Once and here at Cedar Ridge Private Therapeutic International Boarding School we are taught the value and meaning of the short amount of time that we truly have in and throughout lifetime. Here students are able to reflect on our lives and the issues we have as students at Cedar Ridge through our daily activities such as karate, yoga, and even basketball. We are encouraged by our therapists to think about what we want and who we want to be. Our therapists do this not through a religious purpose, or any other purpose, but more on what WE as students think our purpose in life is. I have had the amazing opportunity to be here and attend Cedar Ridge to learn about the opportunities of life. I have learned the opportunities that life holds as well as the surprises, disappointments, and most of all life’s happiness.

Although this phrase is over used in today’s generation it applies very much to the lives of many of the kids that attend Cedar Ridge. Because no matter what, we are here as students to learn, to understand, and appreciate the value that life has to offer us. As far as I know and understand it, we have only a one way ticket on this crazy ride. In life you only get one shot to do what you want to do, to make your mark, to create your legacy…… Looking at life’s road and mountain of trials and tribulations that may be ahead can be a very daunting and hard task to understand for those who wish not to work, but for the kids I have encountered here we all want something better in our lives. We will have something better for ourselves and our futures.

Living once and having this opportunity now to fix our problems, struggles, and issues is a privileged opportunity. No matter where you come from, where you’ve been, it’s not about that; it’s about who you are now and where you are going. You’ve got one shot to make the difference to go for gold and reach for the stars. I feel that all of the young ladies and gentlemen here have truly come to understand this idea. Some of us are going to college, some to the military, and others straight into life and to the work force. At the end of the day, we all know and understand the phrase YOLO, and we will go to be the best we can be. We will fight to accomplish our dreams, and our goals no matter what others say or what life throws at us. That is the meaning of YOLO to the students here at Cedar Ridge Private Therapeutic International Boarding School.

A student at Cedar Ridge enjoying one of the many opportunities to see petroglyphs in Utah.

Monday, April 28, 2014

X is for Xtreme

X is for Xtreme
Is it extreme to send your son or daughter away? How do you know whether or not they will outgrow their childish behaviors?  Honestly, it’s pretty hard to tell. The good news being, anyone is capable of benefiting from what we learn here at Cedar Ridge Academy Private International Therapeutic Boarding School. The staff is trained to deal with anything from anxiety to promiscuous behaviors. The program is set up so that regardless of what your child is struggling with, being here will allow them to improve tremendously in life. If nothing else, the boy or girl is given the opportunity to get ahead or get credit recovery because we are a blended learning model allowing each student to work at their own pace. The concerns most parents have when they are feeling like they need to send their child away are called presenting problems here. They are defined as the behaviors that are showing up that usually are covering up a vulnerable fear or feeling. The director, Rob Nielson, created the fears chart that basically sums up all the irrational fears we (as human beings) tend to have. He created it so that when you come to Cedar Ridge you can learn to identify what it is you are scared of, what you would do at home to avoid feeling the “uncomfortable feelings” (avoiding behaviors are usually what gets students sent here) and how you can approach the uncomfortable feelings so that the intensity of the fear is lowered immensely.  The major fears include fear of abandonment, not being good enough, failing, being successful, not being in control, having responsibility, being rejected, trusting others, and getting close to people.

A boy works on his therapy packet. Down time and alone time
help the students figure out their own fears
We are taught that there are many layers to the fears that cover up what is really going on. A good example to illustrate how we learn is this: a young boy is told by his father to mow the lawn and get an allowance. He mows the lawn and is extremely excited to run in and tell his father that he did it, expecting approval. Instead, his father unintentionally crushes his spirit by telling him he needs to do it again because it is not good enough (or up to his standards). The boy takes this as he is not good enough for his father and begins to avoid. He tells his father he can’t mow it again and makes up excuses. His father thinks he is just being lazy and yells at him. The boy then starts hanging out with his friends more often and getting involved in the wrong crowd. He sees them doing drugs and they tell him it helps to calm the nerves. The boy is nerve driven because he feels like he is incapable. He starts to do drugs to calm down and avoid feeling uncomfortable and unhappy. His dad and mom then think he is being oppositional and send him away for his drug use when really he is just a scared, hurt boy that feels incapable of being good enough. Here at Cedar Ridge, the staff works with the students to get to the fears beneath all the presenting problems.

So to answer my own question, we all have fears, so no, no case needs to be extreme because everyone can benefit from being here.

Saturday, April 26, 2014

W is for Work Project

W is for work project
Cedar Ridge Academy Private International Therapeutic Boarding School teaches their students here many useful life lessons and skills that are applicable to home life. Work project is one of those lessons that are taught here at Cedar Ridge Academy. Work project mainly consists of pulling weeds, mowing lawns, weed whacking, raking leaves, garden care and upkeep, moving rocks, etc. Work project is usually done in the spring, summer, and fall seasons. When I first got here I use to hate doing work project because especially during the summer, the days can get really hot causing me to get extremely sweaty and dirty. At the beginning, I use to dread pulling weeds and raking up the cut up grass left on the lawn mower. But I slowly adjusted and began to actually tolerate work project. Still today, work project isn't my favorite thing to do, as I would rather be lazy and watch a movie or have down time in the home, but I can honestly say that I do appreciate work project. I have learned through work project how to have a good work ethic that can be applied to anything in life. For me, the work ethic applied for cleaning in the home. Personally I'm not ecstatic about cleaning the bathroom I use from top to bottom, but I have learned how to work hard at it and ultimately scrub the bathroom down from ceiling to floor. This is just one area in which I was able to apply the skills and lessons that I've learned from work project into life.

When you visit and see the beauty around you,
the students are responsible for that
I come from a pretty well-off family that lives in San Francisco, CA. At my house, all the landscaping around my house was done by hired professionals. Never in my life did I have to worry about raking up leaves, picking up branches, or mowing the lawn. Personally my whole norm was that the grass was cut and my lawn looked beautiful. Obviously I knew that somebody had to do it, but up until I came to Cedar Ridge Academy, I had never run a lawn mower or weed whacker in my life. Through work project, I have been able to learn many valuable skills so in the future when I have my own family, I can take care of my own lawn. I feel that I was very arrogant and thought of myself as better than those people who were landscapers. Through numerous hours of work project and gallons of sweat, I have been able to appreciate and really value others and their service to me regardless if that was landscaping, therapy, coaching, teaching, etc. I can actually say that I finally don't dread work project and actually enjoy it as a way to exert some physical energy. For me, that is a total paradigm shift from since I first got here. In all honesty, my whole view on life has been a complete 180 degree paradigm shift since my beginning of Cedar Ridge Academy.

The students regularly improve the look of campus

Friday, April 25, 2014

V is for Victory

V is for Victory
This blog post will be about victory and in other words success. I believe that victory is a main part in what can cause you to feel good about yourself and in life in general. Everyone wants to succeed and everyone tries their hardest and puts in their all to achieve victory in things that are important to that person. To me, it’s a very important thing in life. The boys and girls here at Cedar Ridge Academy Private International Therapeutic Boarding School put in their all to achieve victory in a lot of things and most importantly, themselves.

Here at Cedar Ridge Academy, all the students have their own ways of motivating themselves to achieve victory. To me, Cedar Ridge Academy is like a game based on the level systems. You need to follow level requirements, have good behavior, and follow the rules in order to achieve victory. Instead of controlling something else, you are controlling yourself to beat the game. The victory point is to graduate the program or to get to the highest level. Except in this kind of game in benefits you and can change your life if you let it. Not only are you beating the game but you are achieving victory in your personal growth in order to be successful in life and it makes you feel good. Just like in a real game there are many sorts of setbacks that cause you lose your level and basically start from the first level and you don’t give up and you keep on trying and trying to beat the game. There are also points in the game where you can get stuck and you don’t know what to do. You say to yourself “I can’t do this” and stuff like that and if you tell yourself you can or cannot do something, you are right. The main thing is, is to now give up and to keep on pushing and pushing in order to achieve the victory that you want. Sooner or later, you are bound to be victorious no matter what you do if you keep on trying.

Who will win this face off?

Thursday, April 24, 2014

U is for Unity at Cedar Ridge Academy Private International Therapeutic Boarding School

U is for Unity
Here at Cedar Ridge Academy Private International Therapeutic Boarding School, we have many opportunities to learn unity and camaraderie with our peers along with staff. We are able to learn unity through the various activities that we do here such as basketball, karate, softball, along with just our basic every day schedule. We are able to learn camaraderie through basketball because we get to play as a team. It’s not only in the ability to play as a team, but to learn, grow, and function as a team. We learn unity in basketball because as we run plays, we have to learn how to function not only as individuals, but as one solid unit. We get great practice at this through playing games in the local Ute tribe men’s league. Through our blood, sweat, and tears, we all become one solid functioning unit. In practice, we run, play, and do drills together that make us better as a whole. Thanks to basketball and our coach, I have learned to have patience with my teammates, to carry through on all that I do, and to give it my all no matter what the situation. It has taught me how to lead and be led, as well as how to function not only as a person, but as a member of a team and a family. Another team sport we play is softball.  Like basketball, softball helps to build our camaraderie because on the field we all have to work as one whole unit as well being able to function on our own too.

Karate has had many benefits for me, and bringing all of us on Cedar Ridge campus together as one whole group and team. As we work on our katas, we learn how to give effort yet how to receive instruction. We learn to understand that the body, mind, and spirit must work as one to perform at our very best in karate. That to function and be the best we can to have unity within ourselves. All parts and aspects of our lives must work in unison and harmony. Karate also teaches us in our katas to work as a whole, and through the katas, and sparring we learn to respect and work with each other.

The boys practice their unity last summer with a ropes course

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

T is for Tough Times

T is for Tough Times
Here at Cedar Ridge Academy International Private Therapeutic Boarding School our lives aren’t a walk through the park. Yes, the boys and girls here have their fair share of ups but we also have our fair share of hard times. A majority of our stay at Cedar Ridge Academy is based around therapy and working through our core problems. For many it is a day to day struggle for a while, especially if you are really working your program and working on bettering yourself. We are all really different so our problems are just as diverse as we are. Some struggle with stuff that may seem harder than others but no matter how severe someone has to at least at some point face things that are scary, hard, and at times what seem impossible.

A tradition with the girls to get through their tough times,
burning items that remind them of their
past to gain a sense of closure
For me, I have recently been working on learning to work through my previous experiences and core belief that I am unworthy. For most of my life I have always felt like I never deserve to be happy, to have the good things, to be with someone worth being with, to be respected. I didn’t feel I deserved anything. But recently, I went through a tough time. I got involved into sketchy things with a person who wasn’t worth it for me. I wasn’t able to get that through my head at the time though and I didn’t get it till recently. I am worthy of it all. I deserve the good things in life and I deserve to be respected; I shouldn’t settle for less. Now as hard as that experience was for me and still is, because of it I am growing and maturing and learning from my poor choices. I am already stronger. I am getting close to the end of my program and this is a situation that I am truly grateful for because of how much I have gained from it. This is just one example of why I believe that these tough times are necessary. I believe that through hardships and tough times we grow as well as become even more appreciative for the good times we experience. I feel that if you choose to make the best out of the worst that that is exactly the outcome you’ll get. 

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

S is for Students

S is for Students
Here at Cedar Ridge Academy Private International Therapeutic Boarding School, there are three homes for the students to live in. The homes are Redwood, Aspen and Ombu.  The Redwood and the Aspen are the boys’ home and the Ombu is the girl’s home.  This year the Redwood is spending a lot of time in the garden. Here are just some of the things that we will be growing in the Redwoods garden: lettuce, peas, beets, corn, carrots, peppers, tomatoes, zucchini, and squash. The Ombu has some goats and llamas. The Redwood has goats, a llama, and some chickens.

The students go to school from 8:00-12:00 and then from 1:00-3:00. There are lots of activities here at Cedar Ridge. You can join one of the clubs that the school has to offer here. They included boxing, magic (card game), basketball, life time hobbies, and technology club. These are good places to interact with your peers in a fun and positive way. 

We also do lots of karate. Karate is taught by Rob and Wes Nielson. During karate, we focus a lot on respect and having a good attitude, as well as a strong, powerful stance.  We show lots of respect to are senseis as well as our peers. The people that are in Karate group go to Karate after school on Tuesdays and Thursday from 3:00-4:30. Cedar Ridge also goes to Karate tournaments the next on that is coming up is in April in Las Vegas. Only the students that would like to go will be going.

This is a version of Capture the Flag that the students love!
There is a level system here at Cedar Ridge the highest level is 900. A 900 has the most freedom on campus.  If you are on 900, you can graduate the program by maintaining level 900 for 2 months. If you are on 800, you can graduate the program if you stay on 800 for 4 months. At level 700 you can start planning off campus activates to the movies or to the football games and other cool outings that may be in town.

These are some of the things that we do here at Cedar Ridge Academy. 

Monday, April 21, 2014

R is for Responsibility at Cedar Ridge Academy Private International Therapeutic Boarding School

R is for Responsibility
Responsibilities are usually something students lack coming into Cedar Ridge Academy Private International Therapeutic Boarding School. A majority of us blew them off as we made poor decisions and got into new friend groups. Here, we are given a list of chores to do on a daily basis and some are given assertive positions. On top of that, we are also responsible for ourselves and our actions, animals, our schooling, our programs and our general day-to-day behaviors.

Our daily chores might not seem like much, but they all add up. In the home, each student is given a few chores that they need to sign off in the morning and in the afternoon and they are responsible for making sure they are done consistently. In the home, the chores are separated by rooms such as kitchen, laundry room, bedrooms, dining room, and bathroom, and the chore loads are usually broken up by the amount of stuff in each room.

Assertive positions are usually given by the staff in the home in a way to gain trust with the students. The assertive positions include: watering, garden, work project, house leader, assistant house leader, school chore assertive, animal, gym assertive, and kitchen deep clean assertive. Each assertive usually goes into it being insecure and scared. By the time the staff removes you, the student is assertive, confident, and ready to stand up for themselves.

We are also responsible for ourselves, which in reality is one of the biggest responsibilities of all. Our program is entirely on us whither or not we want to work or just sit here until we are 18 and we can walk out on our own.

School is also a top priority for us because at Cedar Ridge we are solely responsible for getting school done. We have online school and can move at our own pace.

Girls working hard in the kitchen
Animals are one of the biggest responsibilities we have here at Cedar Ridge. We have llamas, goats, ducks, a spider, a snake, (a skunk that lives illegally underneath the girls’ home) and many other lone rangers that wonder through our property.

The responsibilities we are given here allow us to grow and learn how to be responsible, independent individuals.

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