Spreading the LOVE!

“Remember to celebrate milestones as you prepare for the road ahead.”
- Nelson Mandela

So far, 2019 has brought many important milestones to students, alumni, and staff at Open Sky! Whether a moment for a student to appreciate the challenge of conquering a long hike, a gathering to recognize an employee’s work anniversary and years of dedication, or a celebration of an alumni student’s achievements at school...it is important to take time to honor each milestone along the way. In addition to news, updates, and recent blog articles, this issue of SKYlights celebrates milestones for our students, staff, and the greater Open Sky community!

Open Sky Welcomes Dr. Melia Snyder as Clinical Therapist and Education Director

Dr. Melia is a Licensed Professional Counselor and Registered Expressive Arts Therapist. Much of her training is in Family Centered Treatment and Trauma-Focused Cognitive Behavioral Therapy. She received a Master of Arts in Clinical Mental Health Counseling and a Certificate in Expressive Arts Therapy from Appalachian State University. She continued her education at the University of North Carolina in Charlotte, where she earned a Ph.D. in Counseling.

Throughout her doctoral research, Dr. Melia studied salutogenesis—the promotion of health—among young adults seeking recovery from substance use disorders. Her research found...

Clinical Spotlight: Dr. Aaron Wallis

Aaron Wallis, PhD, LP Clinical Therapist, Adolescent Boys & Young Adults

My first step when working with a new client or family is to try to break down as much of that therapeutic authority barrier that I can. It’s important that they see me as someone literally on the ground with them, willing to help. I relate to them as a fellow human; someone who is walking the path of healing with them. This is what I truly love about the job—coming alongside each person as they seek to...

Alumni Spotlight: "I am now able to live my life to its fullest potential."

Olivia W, 2017 - Team F  (Adolescent Girls)

"It’s been almost two years since I graduated from Open Sky. I am now a junior in high school. I earned my academic letter for my 4.0 GPA and have taken a leadership role in a club at my school that spreads awareness on the importance of mental health. I continue to use the knowledge that I gained while at Open Sky in my everyday life, not always to the same degree, once in a while I’ll bust an “I feel” statement to a friend when I need to. Next year I will be graduating from high school and starting college in the fall of 2020. I am very excited to start the next chapter in my life. I could never be able to thank my therapist and my field guides enough for helping me through such a dark time in my life. I am now able to live my life to its fullest potential."

Alumni Spotlight: “The most grounding three months of my life..."

Ethan M, 2017 - Team G (Adolescent Boys)

"When I think of Open Sky, I am taken back to the place where I tore down the walls that I had spent so long building up. I think of the guides, and how their adventurous spirits helped me to discover one of my own. Open Sky helped me rediscover my spirituality, as well as my thirst for adventure. I will always be grateful for this. I also think of this as the most grounding three months of my life, and the beginning of almost two years free of addiction. I exercise regularly and ran cross country for the first time as a senior in high school this year. I have begun to teach guitar lessons to younger students so that I might share my knowledge and passion with them."

Team Spotlight: Open Sky Admissions Team

PHOTO (left to right): Admissions Counselor, Tanya Dalebout; Admissions & Professional Relations Director, Tere Snodgrass; Assistant Admissions Director, Shahara Davis; and Associate Admissions Director, Susanna Shakespeare

Collectively, the Open Sky Admissions Team has more than 50 years of admissions experience in wilderness therapy. Each member of this close-knit team can speak insightfully and comprehensively to the entire admissions process: from the initial phone call, to application and enrollment, transport, student programming, the family experience, graduation, and transition. “Each of us is skilled at, and committed to, supporting families in crisis,” says Tere Snodgrass, Admissions and Professional Relations Director. “We strive to be that calm voice of support throughout what we know can be a very difficult time for parents.” Thank you, Admissions Team, for the compassionate and competent ways you support our families!

Congrats Erin Pinkham on
10 YEARS at Open Sky!

Finance Director, Erin Pinkham MBA, MSF, has been part of the Open Sky team for ten years! Tom Holcomb, Chief Operating Officer, shares, “Open Sky is tremendously fortunate to have Erin on our team leading the company’s finance, accounting, and compliance matters. Having served in a range of roles including Finance Director, Human Resources Manager, and Clinical Assistant, she has invaluable organizational knowledge and insights. Beyond her depth of experience at Open Sky and in the field of wilderness therapy, Erin brings a unique bend of professionalism, technical acumen, attention to detail, strategic outlook, compassion, and kindness that make her so successful at and valuable to Open Sky.” Congratulations, Erin!

Risk Management: A Company-wide Commitment

Managing risk and prioritizing safety is integral to the work of every department and employee at Open Sky. As a member of the Outdoor Behavioral Healthcare (OBH) Council, Open Sky has a steadfast commitment to upholding or exceeding industry accreditation standards and best practices. A 2012 study showed that the average American adolescent is two times more likely to visit an emergency room than an OBH Council program participant.

As a way to continually learn and pursue excellence, Program Director, Danny Frazer led a Risk Management in-service training for Open Sky’s office staff (in addition to the ongoing risk management training Field staff receive). The meeting emphasized the importance of effective collaboration, transparent leadership, and a diversity of viewpoints throughout the company.

Thank you, Danny, for an engaging and important presentation!

Congratulations, Mariah Loftin on 7 YEARS at Open Sky!

In January, Young Adults Senior Therapist, Mariah Loftin, MA, LPC, marked 7 years at Open Sky! Mariah enriches our treatment team with her expertise, passion, and leadership. Congratulations, Mariah! 

“Mariah saved me. She is the best therapist I've ever known and has set me up for success in my life. I will forever be grateful to her and will not forget what she has taught me.” - Alumni Student, 2016 

“Mariah is a special person. Incredible at her job, compassionate, kind, incredibly insightful and intelligent, and able to deliver difficult and challenging information in the most effective and empathetic way possible. Words cannot describe how grateful we are for what she has done for our son.” - Alumni Parent, 2016 

“Mariah pushed me and challenged me in ways that facilitated so much growth within me. The best therapist I’ve ever had!” - Alumni Student, 2018 

Outdoor Behavioral Healthcare: The Future is Bright!

Program Director, Danny Frazer (second from right) participated on a NATSAP Conference panel with other members of the Outdoor Behavioral Healthcare (OBH) Council. The panel led an informative discussion regarding the future of OBH. Way to represent, Danny!

A "Legend" Becomes a "Master"

Program Mentor, Chris Moeller has been taking his skills, knowledge, and experience to a new level. As he pursues his Masters in Social Work, Chris is partnering with Clinical Therapist, Chris Blankenship in Team Eagle with transition age young adults. Chris Moeller’s thousands of days in the field (yes, thousands!) give him unparalleled insight into the student experience. We are grateful for Chris's experience and passion in the field!

Celebrating Bride-to-Be, Morgan Robak!

We loved surprising Adolescent Boys Therapist, Morgan Robak with a bridal shower at NATSAP in San Antonio!

The bride-to-be will marry her love, Austin, at their favorite Utah ski resort in March.

Congratulations, Morgan and Austin!

In the Trenches: SKYlighting Open Sky's Incredible Guides

Who are our Field Guides? What are their passions? How do they embody Open Sky's core purpose to "activate the potential of the human spirit"? Look for the "In the Trenches" section in future issues of SKYlights to meet some of our incredible guides. "In the Trenches" will give you a glimpse into the grit, teamwork, and excellence they demonstrate in the field day in and day out.

Expo Snapshot: Team Cleo

PHOTO: Students from Adolescent Girls Team Cleo pause to take in the views during a hike mid-January.

In a recent check-in, Clinical Therapist, Kirsten Bolt shared, "Team Cleo is a super sweet team right now. They are loving, supportive, and challenging of each other. They love fire-busting, are increasingly efficient, and are hiking well while accepting the challenges of hiking." Shout out to the students and Field Guides in Team Cleo!