Springing forward with optimism!

We are energized by signs of spring here in the Four Corners region! Each spring, we reflect on the presence of new opportunities and possibilities for the path ahead, and we are excited to share those with you in this issue of SKYlights! Learn about our new educational partnership with Crow Canyon Archaeological Center, meet members of our Clinical and Field Teams, and learn about Open Sky alumni making a difference in the world. Enjoy!

Open Sky Announces Educational Partnership with Crow Canyon Archaeological Center

Open Sky's exciting new partnership with Crow Canyon aims to enrich students’ understanding of the history of the landscape and strengthen their awareness, respect, and stewardship of the culture of the native people who inhabited these lands before us. For all Open Sky students, experiential learning with Crow Canyon is an integral part of their educational experience. The curriculum also meets state standards for science credit for...

Finding Love in the Chaos: A Conversation with Open Sky Therapist Kelly McGrath 

Article excerpt: I have worked with students who have never stepped foot on anything but asphalt or cement, have never seen stars, the Milky Way, or Orion’s belt. I’ve seen students come into a trip hardened and bitter and frustrated. It’s amazing to watch as they soften, become wide-eyed, let go, and become playful kids again. I don’t expect everybody who does wilderness therapy to become an outdoor enthusiast by any means, but I do believe that nature can help us explore who we are and at the end of the day become...  

What has your life been like since Open Sky? So much has happened in my life since attending Open Sky. Attending Open Sky redirected my career. While I originally wanted to be a medical doctor, I am now on my way to becoming a psychologist. I graduated from college with departmental and college honors, summa cum laude. I now attend Columbia University, where I am earning a PhD in Counseling Psychology. I work as a psychologist-in-training within the New York State prison system and at one of New York City’s hospitals. My dissertation is on the mental health outcomes of LGBTQ young adults in wilderness therapy. I think this topic is so important, given the relatively high percentage of LGBTQ students in wilderness therapy across programs, yet it’s one that has not been explored much. There’s almost no research on this population; there are no published studies and the rest of it is kind of informal or just guidelines. I hope I can help fill this niche in the literature, which I believe speaks to how much wilderness therapy has remained with me, even though I graduated almost a decade ago.

Field Guides: The Importance of Ongoing Training and Development 

Leah Dworkin, MA • Assistant Field Director

Article excerpt: Throughout the year, we offer our guides other trainings to support their growth and equip our field department to attend to our students through all conditions. Before winter begins, guides attend a mandatory winter skills training...On the other end of the spectrum, our seniors and soon-to-be seniors attend a retreat before summer. This required weekend is focused on learning new skills, brushing up on old skills, and building community. Other mandatory trainings include a 15-passenger van training on how to safely operate our vehicles. Additionally, at the start of every shift, guides receive... 

In this podcast episode:

Stress is something we humans cannot avoid. From being cut off in traffic on our way to work, to navigating a global pandemic, we all face it regularly to some degree. So, how do we respond to stress? How do we prevent our thoughts from spiraling, our emotions from taking control, and our actions from causing even more damage?

Clinical Therapist Brian Leidal addresses these questions and more in episode 24 of the SKYlights podcast. He’ll also give five actionable steps for grounding the nervous system and responding to stress in alignment with core values.


In this podcast episode:

Defiance and opposition can be normal and even healthy signs of adolescence. But when do these patterns become unhealthy? How can parents effectively respond to their teen’s defiant behavior? What are the best strategies for parents who are at their wit’s end during this phase of parenting?

Here to help us answer some of these questions in episode 25 is Senior Clinical Therapist, Jonathan Mitchell. Jonathan also shares helpful examples from his work at Open Sky Wilderness Therapy and from his own experience as a defiant teen.

In this podcast episode:

We’ve all become familiar with our own personal comfort zones; where we operate and interact with the most ease and predictability. Some of us are more inclined than others to step outside of our comfort zones. Others find it difficult and even debilitating. How is it beneficial to step beyond our comfort zones?

Senior Clinical Therapist Mariah Loftin discusses this topic in SKYlights episode 26. Mariah helps young adults launch into adulthood and independence by building confidence, grit, and resilience outside of their comfort zones. 


In the podcast episode:

Set to release: March 24, 2021. With the closure of schools and the isolative nature of pandemic-life, the last year has clearly been challenging for teens, sometimes in unexpected ways. An emerging issue we’re seeing more and more is the online exploitation of teens online.

In episode 27, Senior Clinical Therapist Kirsten Bolt covers the risks, signs, prevention strategies, and interventions related to online sexual exploitation of teens.

With compassion, Kirsten confronts presenting issues while circumventing the shame that can interfere with progress. 

"Conrad exemplifies passion and uses the wilderness to create learning opportunities and meaningful experiences in his teams. Conrad has a humble self confidence that inspires guides to grow and students to engage in their personal work. He embodies what he teaches. His mindfulness practice and commitment to eating well are hallmarks of his self-care. He has a deep well of patience and approaches others with kindness and care. Conrad believes in others." - Field Leadership Team

"Tess embodies the quality of respect in her teams through direct, assertive communication and through her commitment to accountability. Her capacity to hold firm boundaries and to meet students with loving, playful energy allows her to build and maintain strong connections with students. Tess strives to set guides and students up for success. She skillfully balances challenge and compassion to foster an environment that supports learning and growth." - Field Leadership Team