Communication, connection, and community…these are the themes in this month’s issue of SKYlights! As we venture into summer, we celebrate connection with our students, families, and alumni; we honor our dedicated staff; and we anticipate exciting events in the weeks to come!

From Distant to Connected: Effective Communication Strategies to Improve Parent-Child Relationships 

Sierra Williams, MA, NCC, LPC - Clinical Therapist (Adolescent Girls)

It is common knowledge that adolescent boys and girls face many challenges during their exciting and trying developmental years. And it’s no surprise that those challenges can often persist into young adulthood. Many parents struggle to reach out, connect to, and partner with their child throughout this phase of life. Most of the students and families that I work with describe the parent-child relationship as significantly strained, damaged, and/or disconnected. Parents often remark that their child has... 


Finding Connection Beyond The Screen

Kristen Bolt, MEd, LMFT - Clinical Therapist (Adolescent Girls)

Over the past few years, I’ve been struck by the increasing number of Open Sky parents who report feeling exasperated regarding their child’s “excessive use of social media” and “cell phone addiction.” Though students at Open Sky live outside without access to electronic devices and social media, I witness its impact on the students’ relationships to themselves and to their peers and loved ones. Social media use is not inherently problematic, but it is an important topic to discuss and...

Enhanced Family Services (Part 1): Parent Coaching

Jessica Chacon, MA, NCC, LPCC

At Open Sky, we live with the core purpose of activating the potential of the human spirit and by the belief that all people have the capacity to thrive. We apply this purpose and belief to our work with not only students, but families as well. Parent Coaching is a service through which families at Open Sky can more effectively activate their potential and thrive. By signing up for Parent Coaching, parents will enhance their own Open Sky experience through weekly 50-minute therapeutic sessions with a...

To Inspire and Be Inspired: A Conversation with Mariah Loftin, MA, LPC

Clinical Therapist (Young Adults)

Why did you choose Wilderness Therapy, as opposed to practicing therapy in more traditional settings?

I am passionate about helping young adults heal, reconnect with themselves, and reach their goals. I’ve found that wilderness therapy is the most effective way for people to do that. My experience in outpatient and inpatient settings highlighted that people frequently need more support. At Open Sky, I am able to blend my background as a behavior...

At a Crossroads: A Conversation with Transition Age Young Adults Therapist, Chris Blankenship, LSW

Clinical Therapist (Transition Age Young Adults)

Why did you choose Wilderness Therapy, as opposed to practicing therapy in more traditional settings?

​​​​​I had the goal of becoming a therapist from a very young age. When I was five or six years old, I had a friend with cystic fibrosis. I loved nothing more than sitting with him, listening to him, and being there for him. Since then, I’ve had the desire to help people. I have always been a good listener. I grew up being fascinated by people’s different reactions to the experiences they were having – the similarities and differences between...

Alumni Corner: Open Sky Reconnects with 55 Alumni Students and Parents in Chicago

We had an incredible time reconnecting with 55 alumni students and parents at our most recent alumni reunion event held in Chicago on May 16. It was wonderful to hear how our alumni students and families are applying all that they learned at Open Sky to their lives today, whether six years or six months later. Our alumni community continues to inspire!

Alumni Spotlight: Where are They Now?

Quinn B. (Open Sky Alumni Student, 2017)

“Earlier this month, I celebrated my 19th birthday and my one year of being home since graduating from Open Sky. The skills I gained at Open Sky have helped me obtain new leadership positions here at home. I was recently elected Student Body President of my college, Vice President of Communications for Greener Truman, and was chosen for an assistant position to our Director of Student Services.  
The experiences and relationships I have gained through extracurriculars over this past year, and will continue to gain, are absolutely incredible. There aren’t enough words to describe how grateful I am for Open Sky and for the way it was able to transform my life.” 



Celebrating 10 Years at Open Sky

Jim Silvestri, Operations Assistant

"Jim has grown so much personally and professionally during his time here. He is like the Animas River that runs through town - a great and broad volume of water, with a harnessed power that other people can be swept up in and enjoy." - Greg Ooley, Operations Director

Celebrating 5 Years at Open Sky

Matthew Krugh, Assistant Family Services Director

"Matthew is an embodiment of the core values at Open Sky. He brings integrity to every part of his job and this is contagious to everyone around him. We're proud to have him on the team." - Dr. Tony Issenman, Clinical & Family Services Director

Celebrating 2 Years at Open Sky

Mary Burchard, Senior Guide
“Mary cares deeply about her students and co-guides. Her peers describe her as authentic, collaborative, playful, patient, and inspiring.” - Sam Johnson, Assistant Field Director


Honoring Office Staff

Every day, our dedicated office team helps Open Sky to run as smoothly, safely, and effectively as possible. Field Guides recently surprised those who work in the office with a ceremony to honor their behind-the-scenes work. The ceremony ended with a gratitude circle that brought both “worlds” together. Support!

Increased Accessibility

Family Quest(TM) and Graduation Sites are now completely wheelchair accessible! We are committed to including all Open Sky families in the wilderness therapy experience.

Gratitude to Firefighters

As you may have heard, a wildfire is burning north of Durango. The fire is over 40 miles from our field area, on the other side of a large mountain range, and upwind (to the east) of our program. The fire poses no threat to our students/staff, nor to any of our facilities or operations. Our thoughts continue to be with families affected by the wildfire and our gratitude to the firefighters. 

Open Sky Welcomes
Amy Hartline

Amy joined Open Sky in April, 2018 as a Transition Mentor on the Family Services Team. Amy has a Bachelor’s degree in Wilderness Therapy from Prescott College and a Master’s degree in Transformative Leadership from the California Institute of Integral Studies. Her 20 years of experience in the wilderness therapy field have prepared her to lead our families through the transition immediately following graduation with clarity, warmth, and expertise. Welcome!


Open Sky Honors New Guides

Welcome, new Field Guides! Fifteen new Field Guides joined the team at the end of May. In Open Sky tradition, the transition to joining the guide community was honored through song and ceremony. One of our new guides graduated from Open Sky eight years ago and is looking forward to giving back and supporting students in this critical capacity.


See You There!

Open Sky is excited to attend the Adolescent + Young Adult Collective July 26-27 in Malibu, CA. The Adolescent + Young Adult Collective is a gathering of dedicated professionals passionate about working with teens and emerging young adults. This two-day educational event will offer dynamic breakout sessions on effective treatments within the therapeutic community. Click HERE to learn more or to register.