Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Student Gratitude

Student Responses to the Question: 
What are you grateful for?

I’m grateful for my dad who has been there for me when times get tough. When he plays around with me and we go out to get ice cream shell and laugh about silly jokes. I’m grateful for my mom because she has not given up on me and has faith that our future is bright. For all the times that she has given me a second chance. I’m grateful that I have a full, complete family that love me unconditionally. For my sister who can joke and play around with me and then also be the big sis that everybody wants. For all the times I have needed help and she drops what she is doing and comes. Christmas is the best holiday of the year for me: the laughs, family dinners, snow ball fights, warm fire, hot chocolate and cookies with milk and love. I’m grateful for my strong faith that my dad has helped me stay focused on. And lastly for bubble baths, Netflix, music, chick-fil-a, sweet tea, the south, beaches, and most importantly my best friends.  

I’m grateful for sunrises and sunsets. I’m grateful for family and friends supporting me through the roughest times. I’m grateful for photography to capture each precious memory in the moment. I’m grateful for big warm sweaters while sitting by a fire holding a hot cup of tea, and someone to share it all with. 

I am grateful for the nooks and crannies of our world, waiting to be explored. I am grateful for the expanse of our universe, waiting to be understood. I am grateful for all the unknowns of our world and the opportunity to explore them. Also, dogs. 

 I am grateful for the java bean, those rare sunny days in Portland, scrambling up rock walls, the whale sound a frozen lake makes, and great novels.

I am grateful for the way music and stories take me places far away or close to home and myself. 

My dad. 

I am forever grateful for God’s love, healing, my family, and my Chrysalis sisters and family. 

I am grateful for my brother, dad, and mom. For my dogs. I am grateful for having food every day. I am grateful for life. 

I am grateful for pixels. I am grateful for screens and soundtracks and buttons and characters. I am grateful for the friends I have. Also chocolate.

For warm sweaters and hot chocolate by the fire. For mechanical pencils and down jackets. For glistening fresh snow and steaming coffee. For family and friends. For fresh starts and old memories. For the smell of new books and the smell of old books, too. For lullabies and crickets. And for times when it’s ok to cry. 

I am grateful for my family who loves and supports me endlessly. I am grateful for the ability to walk, talk, and breath. I am grateful for good food. I am grateful for laughter that makes your stomach cramp and for smiles that ache. I am grateful for dogs, fires, and life. 

I am grateful for my family, for all the amazing things they have done for me, for the opportunities they have been able to give to me, all the wonderful memories we have had together. I am grateful for amazing friends who have always been there for me. For my teachers who have gone out of their way to get me the extra help I have needed in school. I’m grateful for Bob, Paula, and their cooking of course! I am also grateful for the mistakes I have made that have helped me become who I am today. I am grateful for True North Wilderness Program in Vermont, and Mod for helping me throughout my time at True North. 

I’m thankful for my family. I’m thankful for my dogs, my friends, snowboarding, and music. I’m also grateful for warm fires, brownies, and blankets. 

I am thankful for the incredible support system I have at home and here. I am grateful for all the people who have been a part of my journey or impacted my life one way or another over the past year. My life has changed dramatically and I am a whole new me, and I am so grateful for that. 

I’m grateful for nail polish, staff that care, passing junior year, and whiteboards.  And I’m so grateful for my mom, dad, and little brother.  

I’m grateful for my super annoying, severe ADHD because it’s what makes me me, and I’m happy with who I am. I’m also grateful for the ability to make people smile. 

I am grateful for my sister and brother. I am thankful for warm weather. I am thankful for the beach. I am grateful for Florida. I am thankful for home. I am thankful for my dad. I am thankful for the ability to exercise. I am thankful for hot drinks. I am grateful for spas. 

I am grateful for my younger brother, for my wonderful parents, for good vanilla lattes, Disneyland, and for spending holidays by the fire with the most important people in my life. I’m also very grateful for Franny! 

For all the unseen and unheard things that come to me willingly. For all the strengths I have. 

I am so grateful for being alive today – I wouldn’t be without this place. I’m also grateful for green bean casserole. 

I am grateful for my family, my friends, my teachers, my coaches, and my role models. These people that I have listed have taught me so much. I’m also grateful for the knowledge that I posses. I am grateful for star lit skies with no light pollution where you can see the milky way. I am grateful for drinking warm hot chocolate with marshmallows on a winter night. I am grateful for genuine smiles and laughs. I am grateful for hugs when you are having a bad day. I am grateful for songs that give you chills. I am grateful for love and support. I am grateful for meaningful quotes. I am grateful for my life, even with its downs. Those downs are what got me to where I am right now. 

I am grateful for my family, my friends, and all the other people who have been in my life and taught me without knowing it. I am grateful for crepes, Nutella, eggnog, and my mom’s stuffing. I am grateful for snowboarding, longboarding, snow, and Bear Lake. I am grateful for the craziness in my house and the people who have come and gone here. I am grateful for kindness, and change. I am grateful for Chrysalis and how it has changed me and my family J 

I am grateful for life, the universe, everything – people who come in and out of our lives. I am grateful for the ability to write this, the good food we eat, the clean water we drink, and the sweet Montana air we breathe.

Monday, November 24, 2014

Chrysalis Staff Gratitude

Some thoughts of gratitude from our wonderful staff:

I'm grateful to have the privilege and opportunity to work with amazing girls and their families in reconnecting.  It is truly an honor to be part of each girl's journey.  I also feel incredibly blessed to work with such dedicated, kind, and caring people.   
~Natasha, Therapist

First and foremost I am am grateful for my faith and the joy that fills my life because of it.  I am grateful for my parents for guiding my faith, for the love they have showered over me and for the strength the have placed in my heart.  As I aged, met the man of my dreams and started a family, I could not feel more blessed.  The deep love and simple joy that radiates through our home brings a smile to my face with each passing day.  I do my best to share my joy, especially with the girls I work with.  I am grateful for my parents teaching me to be compassionate, for that too is passed on to the beautiful girls I am trying to help. I just wouldn't be true to myself if I didn't mention how grateful I am for the mountains and for ski season being just around the corner.  Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow!
Julie, Adventure Supervisor

I am grateful for snowfall, for fashionable AND functional scarves, and hot baths. I am grateful for Cake Batter flavored ChapStick and dark chocolate with sea salt in it. I am grateful for living in a place that is so remote I can look up at the sky on a clear night and see innumerable stars right from my front porch. I am grateful for having food in my pantry that doubles as a gathering place for friends and family. I am grateful that my grandparents, Gert and Ernie, will likely be around for one more holiday season. I am grateful for the Chrysalis environment, both my fellow staff and students, which comprise much more than a workplace. It is an extended family I can learn from, lean on, and laugh with; who make sure everyone has a place not just for the holidays, but every day; who share the primo huckleberry patches and fishing holes; who laugh and smile (and tease relentlessly) like family; who care just as much for our girls as I do; who are only here because their families entrust us with their daughters -- without them, Chrysalis couldn't be such a loving place.
~Krysten, English Teacher

I am thankful for family and friends, both near and far. I am frequently reminded that people are what matter most, and I feel grateful for the wonderful people in my life. I am particularly thankful for my husband who has had so much patience, grace, and has offered support as I frequently travel for work. I am thankful for our home and land in which we have created a small backyard farm. I am grateful for the simplicity of fresh eggs and veggies, and the many meals shared this year. I love living in northwest Montana and I feel blessed to call it home. While I enjoy traveling for work and collaborating with many fantastic professionals, the more I travel the more I enjoy living in Montana. I am thankful for a job I believe in, and many co-workers who are my dear friends. 
~Carrie, Admissions Director

I am grateful for being able to join a team of people who are willing to work in collaboration for the greater good of young women and their families. I am grateful for the beauty of NW Montana that speaks to my heart and soul everyday without words. 
~ Becca, Therapist

Gratitude is essential for the soul. Without it, I wither and shrink from the joys of life. I'm immensely grateful for the blessing of harvesting a deer for my freezer. I'm thankful for my children, their spouses, and for my grandson's bright eyed smiles. My 14 year old daughter's journey from little girl to young lady delights my heart. I'm grateful for being witness to maturing young women and their process of moving forward in a positive manner. I'm thankful for a husband that is always there to encourage and fill up the empty spaces of my being. I'm thankful for a God filled with love and grace for me.
~Darla, Academic Director

This Thanksgiving season has provided us with very crisp temperatures accompanied by azure blue skies and sparkling, dramatic snow covered peaks.  How fortunate I feel to be nestled in our beautiful valley, inspired by our glorious scenery.  After thirty five short years, Montana and her grandeur still takes my breathe away.  I feel blessed to be able to work with an amazing team of professionals who are dedicated to our students and their families.  I celebrate the courage that it takes to fully engage in the healing process, and I am surrounded by girls who are finding their voice, mending their hearts, exercising their talents, honoring their values, embracing their families and building sturdy character.  I delight in the addition of our new border/bearded collie Charlie, his antics, the smiles he prompts, and the silliness he adds to our lives.  I treasure my family, and my husband and our co-founder.  I value our supportive, brilliant partners at InnerChange.  Life is good! 
~Mary, Clinical Director and Co-Founder


Gratitude is never more difficult to find and express than when it comes on the heels of a difficult period in one's life. That is, however, undoubtedly when the expression of gratitude is the single most important response we can have, and the most important thing we can practice, day in and day out. That's when counting one's blessings and giving thanks for all that is good about our lives is most healing. It separates us from our burdens and allows us to look forward to the promise of a new day. And that glimpse of something brighter in the distance can make all the difference. 

This has been a tough year for many of us, professionally, personally, socially, financially, and perhaps in other dimensions as well. It's been difficult at times to arrive at laughter and lightness of being. And yet, when challenged to search our souls for encouragement, or reasons to be hopeful, we inevitably find them if we but try. I've often heard this described as a treasure chest sitting right in front of us, full of all manner of delights, just waiting for us to use the key in our hand to unlock the chest, open the lid, and discover the bounty of blessings within. This veritable "horn of plenty" may have been sitting there for years, waiting patiently for us to claim it.. At times this process requires some perseverance, some faith, and some action on our part. Fortunately, these are all characteristics that are available to us. We can possess them and utilize them when the going gets tough. And, thankfully, It turns out there are guides and mentors all around us, ready and willing to take our hand and lead the way when it feels necessary. Then, when we do our part, fulfilling our role in this equation, we begin to remember all that is good about the world around us, and all that is beautiful about our life within that world. 

In that spirit, I am grateful this year for countless blessings that are known to me, but can go unnamed in this more public expression. I'm also grateful for those blessings that I haven't stumbled across yet, but which are inevitably in my path. I'm grateful for those spiritual qualities of which I wrote that sometimes define us, such as perseverance, faith, and the capacity for positive action. I'm grateful for the guides and mentors in my life, both past and present, who have steered me carefully and collectively toward this lovely moment in time. I'm grateful that I can occasionally be a blessing to someone else along the way. I'm grateful for this beautiful place that we get to call home, and for the beauty of the people with whom we live and work. I'm especially grateful for hope, which we should never take for granted. And mostly, I'm grateful for God's good grace, always much needed, and for HIs willingness to weave all of this together for us, perfectly, 

Happy Thanksgiving to all of you at Chrysalis.

~Kenny, Executive Director and Co-Founder

Monday, November 10, 2014

Students Talk with Author Daniel Quinn

Last week, some of our students had the wonderful opportunity to have a phone call with Daniel Quinn, author of Ishmael, My Ishmael, The Story of B, Providence, and various other novels. Our sophomores have just finished reading Ishmael and are working on their final papers for the unit, and all of our students have just begun writing novels for our participation in National Novel Writing Month (we'll have updates on that later this month!). The opportunity to speak with Mr. Quinn was phenomenal; Ishmael has been in print continuously since its publication in 1991 and has been translated into over 20 languages. It's been used in courses ranging from History to Anthropology to Philosophy to English (and everything in between) and he's been invited to speak at various universities across the country. 

Our girls asked him questions on everything they could think of regarding Ishmael and what it takes to be a writer, and we learned that he doesn't believe in writers block. If you have something to say, the words will come. Of course, they may need to be heavily revised and edited, but when a writer has something to say, writing is the natural outlet. We also learned that if he could redo Ishmael, he would clarify the gender of the narrator as it's been a point of uncertainty for some readers. Many of his novels took twelve years to be ready for publication, and he's working on another right now. 

I'm most proud to say that he was very impressed with our students. During the process of setting up the interview, he mentioned that Ishmael was not intended for readers as young as our students. When our interview concluded, he stated that this was one of his most difficult interviews ever as our students asked very challenging questions and made him think. I walked out of the room on clouds, and am so very excited to share how well our girls performed with this prestigious writer! 

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

11 Signs Your Daughter May Need A Therapeutic Boarding School

Sending your daughter away to a therapeutic boarding school is never in a family’s plan. It can be hard and overwhelming when your daughter doesn’t thrive at home and may need extra help and support. It’s hard to know when your daughter needs more help than you can provide. Here are some common signs that we’ve found in girls needing a Therapeutic Boarding School.   

  1. Isolating From Peers: Does your daughter isolate more than normal? Does she hide in her room avoiding her life? Isolating can be defined as socially withdrawing from friends and family and wanting to be alone more than usual.
  2. Codependency/Unhealthy Relationships: If your daughter is changing her core identity in order to “fit in” with a certain group or person, that is a sign of an unhealthy relationship. Needing constant approval or attention from others is another sign. If your daughter feels like she “needs” another person and even goes to extreme measures to reel them in, it may be a codependent relationship.
  3. Difficulties with School:
    • School Refusal: Sleeping in late, frequently late, unexplainably sick
    • Not meeting full potential in school: Grades are dropping, No motivation
  4. Difficulty in Parent or Sibling Relationships
    • Arguing
    • Avoiding or Isolating
    • Lying and  Stealing
    • Physical aggression
  5. Overuse of Technology or Social Media: Wanting to be on Facebook or other social media sites more than participating in real life events with others is a red flag as is using television, the internet, or video games to distract from school or other activities.
  6. Victim of Bullying or Another Traumatic Event: If your daughter has been a victim of bullying or assault, it can have devastating effects and can lead to depression, anxiety, and PTSD.
  7. Sexual Promiscuity: Does your daughter act out sexually or has she had multiple sexual partners? Has she been caught “sexting” or looking at pornography?
  8. Substance Abuse: Is your daughter numbing herself by using alcohol or drugs? Giving into peer pressure and hanging with the wrong crowd can be a red flag for substance abuse.
  9. Suicidal Thoughts or Self-Harm: Does your daughter have suicidal thoughts? Has she cut or burned herself in the past? 
  10. Non-responsive to outpatient therapy: Is attending therapy once a week or more not doing enough? Often times when teenagers don’t respond to outpatient treatment sources, you need to reevaluate their situation. Your daughter may need further care.
  11. Recommendations from Mental Health Professionals: Often your daughter’s therapist or school counselor will recognize that she needs more help than they can provide. They may recommend a Therapeutic Boarding School or a Residential Treatment Center. Even though you won’t want to send your daughter away, you should take into consideration the opinion of a professional. 

3 Steps you Can Take:
  1. For support, tell a close friend or family member what you are going through. It’s tough and you shouldn't go through this alone.
  2. Find an expert in the field such as a counselor or educational consultant who can point you in the right direction. There are thousands of options for treatment. Sometimes it helps to have someone tell you what these options are.
  3. Give us a call at 888-317-9297 for more information on how we can help you get your daughter back. 

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Backpacking trip in Waterton Lakes National Park

There are many reasons why we are so fortunate that Chrysalis is in Northwest Montana. One of those reasons happens to be how close we are to such expansive, wild, and dramatic scenery that surrounds us in all directions.  We decided to take advantage of our proximity to Canada and head to Waterton Lakes National Park for a backpack trip. I like to describe Waterton as the extension of Glacier National Park in Canada.  It mirrors the eastern and western boundaries of glacier and adds another 185 square miles of protected land to the "crown of the continent".

With a short window of only  three days, we wanted the girls to see some of the most magnificent views the park had to offer so we took a trip into Akimina pass on the southwestern end of the park with intent to summit Akimina ridgeline and see views into Glacier and Waterton alike. 
After several hours of measuring oatmeal, scooping craisins, and counting granola bars, we put food, tents, sleeping bags and cooking gear into our backpacks and headed north across the border.  On our way to the trailhead we passed the famous Prince of Wales Hotel.  We were inspired by the dramatic views surrounding the hotel.  We re-arranged our packs making sure they were stable and we tightened down all the straps, ready to hike the few miles into our campsite. 

We spent the evening setting up tents, huckleberry picking, and enjoying our new home for the next two nights.  The next morning we woke early around 5:30 am to start breakfast, pack up, and get ready for a big day.  We set off on the trail into Forum Lake and headed up the Akimina Ridgeline gaining elevation quickly.  The girls were such a great team supporting and encouraging each other to ascend the steep ridgeline.  After many false summits we found our selves in a cloud with little to no view of the surrounding mountains.  Many of us were disappointed while simultaneously being satisfied by the fortunate chance to be walking within a cloud.  As our view shrank to the few feet in front of us we found ourselves reflecting inwards and finding solace there.  Once the cloud cleared on the other side of the ridgeline, some absolutely outstanding views of the park greeted us.  It was well worth the suspense to experience such a beautiful site.  The energy of the group instantly sparked into a chorus of oohs and aahs.  We then descended into the Wall Lake drainage to find three mountain goats grazing above the lake and more huckleberries on the way down.  Nine miles later, we arrived to make dinner at camp after a successful day!  Early the next morning, we packed up camp and set out down the trail to arrive at the Prince of Wales Hotel where we enjoyed our lunch on the lawn with beautiful views of the lake and valley.

It was a short, but beautiful trip.  The girls put in great effort and reaped great reward.  I am so thankful to be a part of these life changing journeys.

~Ashton, Adventure Staff

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

2014 Mother-Daughter Retreat

This year's mother-daughter retreat recently concluded its 2014 stint under the high beams of the Cockerall Center at Flathead Camp. Unseasonable temperatures, dramatic clouds and rain provided a unique experience this year as we anxiously awaited for the skies to part and the sun to appear so that we could be pulled around on the speed boat, canoe around the bay, and have our moms teach us how to do back flips off the diving board. Even though there was a bit of wet weather, participants of this year's mother-daughter retreat had an overall wonderful experiencing reconnecting with their daughters and mothers, respectively. 

Our therapeutic focus surrounded the bond that exists between a mother and her daughter. We celebrated feminine energy and set intentions for the retreat in our opening flower ceremony on TuesdayWednesday and Thursday events and groups focused on reorienting relationships toward healing and re-connection, while also having a bit of fun with some art projects, spa activities, adventure activities, and a talent show of moms, daughters and staff. With the fire roaring in the main lodge on Friday morning, we spent a lengthy, large group circle reflecting on all that was experienced and accomplished throughout the retreat, by highlighting our "favorite frames" and offering gratitude to and for the ones we love, the privileges we are granted, and the ability to be in relationship with each other. We are celebrating yet another extraordinary, healing, rich Chrysalis family event and send our deep thanks to all who helped to make it happen. Can't wait for next year!

Love, light and gratitude.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Chrysalis Academics: Above the State AND National Average!

Kudos to the 2014 High School Graduates of Chrysalis!  They are ready for college success. The ACT College Readiness letter has arrived in our school office.  The results are shown on the graph below.  100% of our students who took the ACT met or exceeded the benchmark score of 18 on The ACT English Test.  The average for Chrysalis students was a whopping 23...a full 5 points above the benchmark. Also shown on the graph, our students outscored the average Montana student who took the test by 40 percentage points. College Social Science scores as measured by the ACT Reading test also exceeded the benchmark. We couldn't be happier. 

Chrysalis students are out performing other Montana students in 3 of 4 areas measured, and even out score them with the number of students who reach all four benchmarks. Meeting a benchmark score means that a student from Chrysalis heading to her first year of college will be 50% more likely to get a B or higher in that college course.   

Chrysalis girls are succeeding academically, and we are happy to share the news with you. What a great time to be a Chrysalis student and have the privilege of experiencing its supportive and challenging academic environment.  We are proud of what our girls have accomplished, and look eagerly forward to the new school year. Continued success stories are on the horizon as we strive to regularly make improvements in our academic program. 

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Kootenay River Trip 2014

After a full day of preparing and packing for the second Adventure Trip of the summer we were all ready to hit the road and head north.  We drove three and a half hours into British Columbia to arrive just an hour south of Banff National Park, in the Kootenay National Park.  We spent our first night on the banks of the river anticipating the next four days of freedom on the water.  

We put in at Mcleod Meadows on a perfect bluebird day reaching temperature upward of 90 degrees.  Needless to say, once the two oar frame rafts, single paddle raft, and two inflatable kayaks were rigged and we embarked on our marine journey, water wars abound!  Thanks to Natasha, one of our therapists, who brought several water guns for our drenching delight. 
Three nights and four days on the water later we have endless stories of instructors falling into the glacial water, girls working hard paddling "all forward", and each and every one of us getting way too much sun!  However, I am happy to boast that we had zero sunburns and did a great job to keep all group members hydrated and happy.  

Many girls' favorite moments included watching Tom, another therapist, take a plunge into the very cold Kootenay waters; they thoroughly enjoyed his surprised reaction.  Another favorite moment was arriving at the most beautiful oasis of a campsite on our last night on the river - filled with beautiful sandy beaches, cedar trees and a gorgeous limestone cliff face opposite our site on the river.  We were all in awe and very thankful for the inspiring beauty around us.  I speak for the group when I say that we all experienced a great deal of light hearted happiness, filled with good humor and a healthy dose of humility in our circles and conversations.  I could not be more delighted to have been a part of this great adventure!

~Ashton, Adventure Staff

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Freezeout Lake Migration Trip

Over spring break, seven Chrysalis students left Eureka for a weekend trip to the Rocky Mountain Front. ‘The front’ as locals call it, is the place in our state where the mountains meet the plains. To the west, snowstorms brew high in the foreboding Rockies, to the east, golden fields and blue sky stretch into eternity. Out here, you can tell why they call it big sky country. Below are reflections by one of our adventure staff who planned the trip:

Reflections on the Freeze Out Lake Migration Trip

We drive by Glacier Park, up and over Marias pass, then south until we pull in to our destination, Freezout Lake Wildlife Management Area.  We are here to witness the white goose migration from Southern California where they winter to the Canadian Arctic where the breed. Nearly a million geese live in the pacific flyway, and a majority of them stop at Freezout Lake during the spring migration. For most of these birds, Freezout is the only place they will stop to rest and refuel on their journey north.
We spend the weekend on goose time. We wake up at sunrise to see them simultaneously take flight and head for the nearby barley fields where they will spend the day feeding. While the geese are at lunch, we visit with the area’s biologist who tells us about the species in the area.

The spring migration through Freezout largely consists of white geese – snow geese and Ross’s geese. Trumpeter swans and tundra swans also fly through in large numbers. In addition to these birds, ducks, pelicans, seagulls, and songbirds all make a temporary home here in the spring.  
The students have many questions for the biologist, and we spend much of the afternoon in his office, looking at maps of the migration route and pictures of breeding habitat in northern Canada and Russia.

We say goodbye to the biologist and head back to our campsite. As the sun sets, flocks of geese begin to fly back to the water where they will rest for the evening. With hundreds of birds to a flock, it is easy to hear them coming and we all point and watch in awe as they pass. We can hear and feel their wings swooshing against the wind.
We make dinner and get ready for bed. The girls talk and giggle around the campfire where we roast marshmallows. We climb into our tents and say goodnight. The cattails rustle in the balmy evening and the geese on the water sing us to sleep.

Friday, April 4, 2014

Reflections on the Poetry Competition and Teaching

I strongly believe that one of the things that makes teaching such a challenging profession is that many of us adopt our students. Of course, this doesn’t happen legally, but I can assure you that it happens emotionally. I teach because I care about the success of your daughter. I am always telling them that I will never ask for them to do more than their best, since many girls are afraid they will fail a class even if they do their best work. They frequently believe that their best will not be good enough. From an outsider’s perspective, I’m sure it often seems I only want her to be able to write an effective analytical essay, but the reason I want her to write effectively is because I want her to thrive in life, get a good job, and become a happy, strong, successful individual. It would be great if, years down the road, they sent us a holiday letter and a wedding invitation to let us know how they’re doing, but we know better than to expect it.

I got a firsthand lesson in the emotional ride of being a teacher when one of our girls went to the State Finals for Poetry Out Loud. We drove to Helena on Friday afternoon and spent the evening practicing the poems, finalizing outfits for the event, indulging in a Chinese Buffet for dinner (which, as it turns out, was not as good an idea as it seemed), and inventing the sport of underwater ballet (look for it in the next Olympics!). The next morning we rose early to get to the venue in plenty of time.

The Myrna Loy is a theater in the state capital. There is ample seating for a large audience and the stadium seating ensures that everyone gets a perfect view of the stage. There is a pit for an orchestra, great sound and lighting options, and a lobby area selling food and drinks. They’ve done a wonderful job with it, especially considering the building got its start as the jail. The architecture is definitely… “alternative,” and the dungeon-esque feel is exacerbated by the fact that to get to the restroom, one must wind their way through a narrow labyrinth to the basement, surrounded by the cold sarsens originally intended to make their guests feel despairingly confined. I loved it.

I’m not sure that our student was as nervous about the competition as I was; I made sure to direct her to use the restroom before the event got started, get up on stage and practice adjusting the height of the microphone, test out the various shoe options she had brought, and rehearse the introductions to her pieces. After all, there was a lot riding on this performance and I know how much pressure teens can feel to succeed. I wanted to ensure this experience ran as smoothly as possible so she had the best shot at winning the trip to Washington, D.C. to compete in the National Finals. She accepted my pointers and suggestions, but was honestly more interested in socializing with her peers.

The first few rounds went very well. I was proud of how well the poems went, but couldn’t help wondering if they would be good enough. I knew that if we could get into the final round of the day, we’d be able to win. Her final poem was a secret weapon capable of destroying even the most formidable of her opponents… we just needed the opportunity for her to recite it. I hardly remember lunch, I was so focused on my nerves. As much as I wanted her to succeed, I wanted to protect her from failing. I knew that the ride home would be devastating if we had to make it knowing she hadn’t won. I knew that she would be emotionally crushed if she wasn’t the best. I knew that there would be tears and heartache and feelings of inadequacy that my words would not be able to soothe away. I wanted to protect her from feeling those things… I wanted her to be happy.

I locked my eyes on the back of her head as they announced the finalists after lunch, and was utterly deflated when her name was not on the list. I knew she had done her best and I was sure she would be devastated. When she turned in her seat to make eye contact with me, she shrugged and turned back to watch the final round. We listened to the finalists recite their poetry and watched as the winner was announced. When the day was finally over and I had an opportunity to talk to our girl again, I learned so much about being a surrogate parent.

She was sad to have not won, but she was not devastated. She was not emotionally crushed. There were no tears or heartache or feelings of inadequacy. She was happy to have gone as far as the State level of competition, and to have had time to interact with peers from other schools around Montana. She had eaten terrible Chinese food, she had painted her nails, and she had practiced ballet underwater. She had seen hundreds of miles of our beautiful state and taken a picture in front of a gigantic plaster roadside attraction cow. She knew that she had done her best and that she had been beaten, and she was okay with that. I was so focused on protecting her from failure that I forgot how strong she was. Sometimes, we have to trust that they know their best will be good enough.

-Krysten, English Teacher

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Volunteering at the Special Olympics

On Tuesday February 25th, seven Chrysalis students journeyed south from Eureka to Whitefish Mountain Ski Resort, but not for a day of hitting the slopes.  Instead of skis, snowboards, helmets and goggles, they arrived with noise makers, flowery leis, silly hats and giddy personalities as we volunteered to help out with the 16th Annual Montana Winter Special Olympics.  Excited athletes took on the freezing temperatures as they snowshoed, cross-country skied, downhill skied, and snowboard their way towards gold medals.  

After arriving and a quick lesson on how we were to run the medals ceremony, we joined the athletes at the Closing Ceremony for music, celebration, and hugs before the races began.  

Some of our students cheered on racers and then helped the athletes line up on the podiums, while other students brought forward the medals on silver trays to be placed on the winners.  Though a bit apprehensive at first, everyone who was volunteering soon got into a good rhythm. By the end there were smiles and laughter from our students almost as bright and loud as the athletes.  

This is the sixth Special Olympics I have been part of with Chrysalis, and every year has been a lot of fun.  This year was no different, and I am proud of the students who came with to volunteer.  They all did a great job, had a good time, and helped make great memories for the Special Olympians who competed this year.

-Ken Kudick, Program Specialist and Service Coordinator

Monday, February 17, 2014

Student Qualifies for STATE Poetry Out Loud Contest!

The following article was written by one of our English teachers after last week's Montana High School Regionals Poetry Out Loud Contest.

I think I should have worn velcro on the seat of my pants last night… it certainly would have made it easier to stay seated after hearing our school champion recite her first poem at the Montana Regionals Poetry Out Loud competition.

As I type, I am so elated from last night’s success that I need to remember to take a deep breath and begin at the beginning.

Chrysalis School participated in Poetry Out Loud, a national poetry recitation contest, this year. Students select poems from either the print or online anthology to memorize and recite without costumes, props, or other major theatrics. The goal is for students to fully understand the poem they recite, and then use their presentation to channel the essence of that poem. Successful recitations include appropriate cadence, intonation, posture, stance, and a few carefully selected gestures to enhance meaning and convey the emotion(s) from the poem. Students are judged in several categories, including physical presence, voice and articulation, dramatic appropriateness, level of complexity, evidence of understanding, and overall performance.

The journey began in November, when each girl at Chrysalis selected a poem and began memorizing. Students were encouraged to select a poem that spoke to them, a poem that held a special meaning that they would want to hold in their hearts for the rest of their lives. They had five weeks to prepare their poems, and when it finally came time to perform them, their hard work paid off. We heard poems such as “We Wear the Mask,” “Harlem,” and  “To the Desert” in the December 19th classroom competition. Each English class produced a champion for their grade and these champions moved on to the school-wide competition.

Our four classroom champs faced off on January 23rd, which proved to be a fun evening filled with poetry and music. For this round, girls needed to have two poems rehearsed. After performing their first poem, we had a brief musical intermission for other girls to showcase their talents (and to allow the judges to begin tallying scores). We are extremely lucky to have so many girls with diverse talents here, and I’m glad to work in an environment where they feel safe enough to share those talents in front of a large group. After the second round of poems, one contestant emerged as the school-wide winner and we all celebrated the evening with scones, muffins, and apple cider provided by our Freshman/Junior English teacher.

Our school champ spent the following two and a half weeks poring over poetry, surgically tearing it apart, stitching it back together, and wringing every last drop of emotion out of the selection she’d bring to regionals, and she wasn’t working alone. The Poetry Out Loud Montana State Champion from a few years ago is now living in town and came out to help coach our girl on her road to success.

I was lucky enough to take our school-wide winner to regionals in Missoula just last night. The velcro-bottomed pants is only a slight exaggeration; while I managed to stay in my seat, it required an exorbitant amount of willpower. The poems went smoothly and our student reported feeling very pleased with her performance before the winners were announced, so whether she advanced to state or not, she was going to be making the drive home with a smile on her face.

We huddled together as they announced the seven finalists who would be advancing to state… and squealed with joy when our Chrysalis girl was announced!

I cannot express how elated I am that Chrysalis participated in Poetry Out Loud this year. All of our girls can carry a meaningful poem with them for the rest of their lives, a mantra to soothe them in times of turmoil or an incantation to bring a smile in times of joy. As a therapeutic school, many of our girls realize how powerful a tool poetry can be. I’m also so proud that we have proven that our girls are smart enough, diligent enough, and mature enough to compete on a state-wide level. I’d like to send out a very heartfelt thanks to all of the staff at Chrysalis and families at home for encouraging our girls to be the best they can be in all areas of their lives, for it’s this excellent support network that makes our girls so successful.

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Using Mindfulness to Slow Down and Make Different Choices

Many of the students who come to Chrysalis present with anxiety, depression, impulsivity, emotional regulation issues, and difficulty distinguishing between thoughts and emotions.  Mindfulness practices teach students to begin to slow down their busy minds, see the difference between thoughts and emotions, and pause before reacting impulsively to those thoughts and emotions.  The concept of mindfulness originated in Eastern thought and has been translated into Western Psychology as a way to focus one’s attention on the present moment, see unhealthy habitual patterns, and respond in new, healthy ways.  The specific goals are to decrease unhealthy behaviors such as interpersonal chaos and confusion about the self and to increase behaviors related to interpersonal effectiveness, emotional regulation, and distress tolerance.  Mindfulness and awareness of one’s own process, patterns, and habits is a key foundation for making these positive behavioral changes.

At Chrysalis, we teach students mindfulness skills to self-regulate attention on the immediate thoughts and feelings that they experience, which promotes increased awareness of how the mind works in the present moment.  Often students are caught in worrying and/or fantasizing about the future; anger and/or shame about the past; and are so unaware of their thoughts and feelings in the moment that they act habitually and continue to act out old, unhealthy patterns. 

When we talk about this with students we often frame it as working on auto-pilot without really slowing down to make a choice about how to handle a particular situation.  Students are encouraged to try to view their present moment experience with curiosity, non-judgmental stance, openness, and acceptance.  The idea is that by promoting curiosity and non-judgment, one is able to slow down and recognize habitual patterns without shutting down or acting out.  In turn, one is then able to think about possible outcomes and respond to situations in new rather than habitual ways. 

Natasha Gregg, MA

Friday, February 7, 2014

Winter Activities and Bloomsday Training

It's been a snow filled week here in Eureka, Montana. Chrysalis students are staying cozy and enjoying the fresh snow on the weekends. A group of students are headed to a Forest Service Cabin for a leadership retreat this weekend. Take a look here at why we do leadership retreats.

In other news, the annual Bloomsday 12K training is in full swing! We had twenty-one (!) students show interest in participating in the race this year. Many of these girls have never run a road race before. They will train at morning work out over the next few months, which is also student's PE credit. For the more serious runners in the group, a few girls hope to join the "Sub-One Hour Club" - students who have run the 12K (7.46 miles) race in under an hour.

What are you up to this first week of February? It's still winter here, but we're ok with that because there are numerous opportunities for growth and fun in northwest Montana all year long.

Monday, January 6, 2014

Celebrating One Year with InnerChange!

At this time last year, Chrysalis was preparing to announce our exciting partnership with InnerChange. The final logistics were complete, and it was only a matter of making it official. As of January 1, 2013, Chrysalis has been been a proud InnerChange partner.

InnerChange is a partner organization that serves mental health professionals, providing clinical and operational support to help them aid struggling families. 
We are happy to learn from their expertise and to collaborate with other professionals. Many people ask us how Chrysalis has changed because of InnerChange, and the answer is rather simple: we provide the same care to students in a warm and nurturing environment that we have for 15 years. On a program level, not much has changed. The main program change is that we now go on two international service trips a year, and every Chrysalis student will go on one international trip during her time here! InnerChange thought that our international service trips were a wonderful opportunity for our students and families, so they encouraged us to do more trips. So we are! We are also in the process of creating a formal alumni program. It has been great to begin to connect more regularly with alumni and to hear the wonderful things they are doing now.

The other changes are more staff focused. Our staff are able to travel more, engaging with other clinicians in the field. Our staff are able to learn from staff at other InnerChange partnership programs. We will be updating our website and utilizing social media more to be in contact with prospective, current, and alumni families. There are even better staff benefits as a result of being a part of a larger group of people that are serving families. 

In short, we are pleased and thankful to be working with InnerChange, and we look forward to our continued partnership as we enter 2014.