Culture and Community at Open Sky

Wednesday, February 15th, 2017

By

Susanna-Shakespeare

In 2015, Open Sky’s leadership team unveiled a document which outlines the values of our program. We call this document Open Sky’s “Culture Pathway” in a nod to the Student Pathway and Family Pathway, which are instruments designed to guide students and their families through the program. The Culture Pathway encompasses Open Sky’s mission, our core purpose, our vision, and our values – and each employee at Open Sky has signed on to the Culture Pathway, agreeing to uphold these values as preeminent in our work with each other and with our families. One of our values at Open Sky is community, and we regularly demonstrate the importance of community in numerous ways.

As an admissions professional at Open Sky, I have the privilege of working with a wide variety of folks, both within our program and in the broader community outside of Open Sky. Whether I am attending a conference with other professionals in our field or speaking with prospective families on the phone about what we do, I feel fortunate to be able to build Open Sky’s community from the very beginning of the process. By building a larger community of professionals and families, we also build trust and strengthen relationships that can in turn help facilitate long-term change in the families we serve.

When we work with prospective families to determine if Open Sky is a good fit for their student, we don’t do so in an isolated bubble but instead incorporate the idea of community into applicant reviews. In addition to compiling information from the family in a student’s application, we seek input from home therapists, educational consultants, psychological testers, school counselors, and other relevant professionals. We also include various members of our Open Sky team in reviewing applications, from our Clinical Director to our medical department, and in some cases our Program Director and those who will be working closely with student in the field. By utilizing our external and internal communities in the admissions process, we ensure an appropriate fit for the student and ultimately a more successful long-term outcome for both the student and their family.

Within Open Sky, we facilitate a sense of community in a number of ways, including our weekly All Hands meeting. Each Thursday morning, we take an hour out of our busy schedules and come together to check in at our All Hands meeting, which – true to its name – includes staff from all areas of the program. We hear updates from all levels of Open Sky, including leadership, field guides, our medical team, administration, therapists, and those of us in admissions and outreach. By prioritizing this time each week to connect with one another, we build trust and respect and strengthen the community necessary to work together and give one another the benefit of the doubt when challenging situations arise. By hearing from one another each week, we also gain an appreciation for each unique role within the Open Sky program.

Developing a strong sense of community is integral for supporting our staff and for supporting our families. After all, our mission statement itself says, “We inspire people to learn and live in a way that honors values and strengthens relationships.” Strengthening relationships internally and externally through communication, trust, and consistency has helped Open Sky develop the community we benefit from today.

Susanna Shakespeare, MA | Associate Director of Admissions

After teaching in a traditional classroom for several years, Susanna discovered her passion for admissions in 2012, when she began working at a therapeutic boarding school. Informed by her background in education, Susanna approaches admissions with a recognition of each student’s unique needs and is able to compassionately guide families through what can be an emotional and challenging process. LEARN MORE about Susanna and Open Sky.