Graduation and Family Reunion

Family reuniting in the desertWhen a student is ready to move to the next stage beyond Open Sky, they will be honored and supported in this transition with a graduation ceremony and family reunion at the Open Sky base camp. During graduation's two-day, one-night wilderness stay, the family will be provided with a chance to reconnect within the supportive confines of Open Sky’s graduation team and therapists.  In process groups and through ceremony, the family will share safely and openly with one another, rekindle strong bonds, and enjoy being in nature together.  Also, the greater Open Sky community of students and staff will lead a celebratory graduation council to honor the student’s accomplishments and wish them well.

Learn more about Graduation and Family Reunion:

Importance of the Graduation and Family Reunion

The graduation experience at Open Sky is important for several reasons:

Get Support and Learn From Other Families

Starting with the Graduation Parent Workshop, and continued throughout the Graduation and Family Reunion process, families learn what similarities exist between their experiences. With that knowledge, families are given the opportunity to offer support for each other as well giving feedback and sharing ideas. Families will have time to interact with each other in both formal and informal activities.

Mom and daughter reuniteConnect and Relate With Your Loved One

The process is a chance for you as a parent to step out of your comfort zone and take risks. Your willingness to experience a small part of what your child has been through will be fundamental in your capability to gain accurate empathy and appreciation for your loved one as a student at Open Sky.  Another benefit is the bonding many students and parents experience when the parents share in the wilderness experience undertaken over the past weeks or months by the students.

Reunite as a Family

Foremost, the graduation process serves the function of reintegrating families. Students and families will be involved in activities that promote the building of trust and the developing of models of communication that encourage respect, understanding and honesty while establishing clear and appropriate boundaries for the student upon returning home or transitioning to another school or program.

CelebrateStudent celebrating!

The Open Sky experience emulates the rites-of-passage that were fundamental to all aboriginal cultures world-wide.  For our adolescents and young adults, this uniquely powerful and challenging experience is the beginning of their transition into adulthood as healthy, functional members of their community.   As well, very few people this day-in-age have lived in the wilderness without modern conveniences for more than a handful of days.  The average Open Sky student upon graduation will have been living in the wilderness for more than 60 days.  This is a remarkable feat!  Celebrating this with your son or daughter will be a memory you will share forever.

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Parents and Caregivers

Except for special cases, all parents actively involved in their child’s treatment at Open Sky are expected to attend the Graduation and the Family Reunion.  This may include step-parents and/or divorced parents.


A sibling’s appropriateness to attend is evaluated on an individual basis by the student’s therapist.  No siblings under the age of 12 are permitted. We generally consider including only siblings who are actively involved throughout his/her sibling’s stay at Open Sky.

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Typical Schedule


  • 3:00 pm: Meet Open Sky Graduation Coordinator at Open Sky main office in Durango
  • 3:15: Meet other families attending graduation, practice communication skills, receive briefing on base camp stay and reuniting as a family
  • 6:00: Dinner on parents' own


  • 9:00 am: Meet at Open Sky main office and prepare for leaving for base camp
  • 10:00: Drive to base campParent and child embrace
  • 12:30 pm: Arrive at Open Sky base camp
  • 1:00: Family reunites
  • 1:00: Lunch and reconnecting as a family
  • 3:00: Prepare camp together
  • 4:00:  Family communication activities
  • 5:00: Graduation Council
  • 7:00: Dinner as a family
  • 10:00: Bed time


  • 8:00 am: Wake up and breakfast
  • 9:00: Yoga and meditation
  • 10:00: Family therapy session
  • 12:00 pm: Open Sky community meditation
  • 1:00: Graduation Ceremony
  • 2:00: Return to Durango
  • Free evening to enjoy dinner and time as a family
  • We recommend leaving Durango no earlier than Wednesday morning.

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