New Summit Academy celebrated another successful school year this month with the graduating class of June 2018. The festivities began with students and their families having dinner out with our homestay families, who have been a major part of students’ lives at NSA.
The following morning, 10 high school and program graduates earned their diplomas and certificates, and gave emotional speeches thanking their families, and the NSA faculty and staff for their hard work, dedication and support.
We will miss this class, but look forward to hearing of their many future successes!
New Summit Academy is fortunate to have many of our students return to “give back” to the program and to serve as interns and valuable mentors for our current students. This summer, we proudly welcomed a 2016 graduate, Zach, who has joined our team during a college break. Zach, who is double majoring in Physics and the Classics, was generous enough to share some of his experiences with us
This month, each student participated in one of our experiential, hands-on Aventura experiences, based on their progress within the program. This round of Aventuras was particularly effective in building student-staff relationships, developing leadership with emerging seniors, and enhancing our community’s supportive, positive milieu.
Community Service with Osa Conservation
Students, staff and volunteers from around the world teamed up to work side-by-side with the professionals from Osa Conservation in their preservation and protection efforts of the habitats and species of the area.
Everyone pitched in without hesitation to create a nursery for balsa trees, which are very important for native animal species including monkeys and scarlet macaws.
Students also built a new turtle hatchery, learned about reforestation, big cats, sea turtle conservation, and were rewarded with the opportunity to release baby turtles on the beach!
Kayak Explorations on the Golfo Dulce
Students in their second full quarter at NSA joined a seasoned group of staff – including our Director of Personal Growth, Director of Experiential Education and Director of Program Integrity – in a 5-day kayaking expedition around the spectacular Golfo Dulce.
Students said that they were initially nervous about going on Aventura with so many “administrators," but at the end of the trip expressed that they had an amazing time and were pleased to have spent time with the staff.
Highlights of the trip included:
- Learning about mangrove ecosystems while swimming in an estuary
- Student success at catching fish, including some first-time fishermen
- Sighting dolphin, sea turtles, monkeys and stingrays
- Spotting bioluminescence, watching the sunrise and catching tuna on the night crossing
Corcovado National Park Highlights
The setting of our Corcovado Aventura – surrounded by primary rainforest teeming with animals – made for a once-in-a-lifetime experience for our students in their third full quarter.
Students learned about biological relationships and forest succession while spotting wildlife that included multiple anteaters (two with babies in tow), three tapir that walked through a rainforest class, and an impressive boa constrictor seen moving along the forest floor next to a poison dart frog!
Cloud Forest Adventures
Our more senior students spent the week exploring Costa Rica's cool cloud forest on foot and raft, on a trip where they take charge of their growth and logistics, including menu planning (this trip actually had one student try peanut butter and jelly for the first time!)
Students braved hanging bridges, technical trails, and the frigid waters of the high-altitude streams, even taking some time to be kids and build a waterfall dam. Classes focused on ecological communities and how these relate to students’ relationships within their communities.
Our English teacher, Brooke, even channeled Mary Shelley and inspired a scary story session in the evening. Check out the Cloud Forest video she shared with us!
NSA’s signature Aventura program consists of five integrated adventures exploring the diverse and beautiful ecosystems of Costa Rica while providing students a chance to reflect on their growth and return to campus recharged.
The Aventuras are intentionally designed to begin at sea level and progress to the students’ final experience: summiting the highest peak in Costa Rica, Cerro Chirripo.
Each student makes the climb alone, beginning before dawn, silently contemplating his process. After climbing nearly 10,000 feet, graduating students meet at the summit to celebrate their efforts – both on the mountain and in their time at New Summit Academy.
As a reminder that this moment is the beginning of their journeys, students are reminded of the Zen proverb “When you reach the top of a mountain, keep climbing!”
The next two weeks are exciting ones for our students, families and staff of NSA! Newer students will be off adventuring and relaxing in the untouched forests of Sarapiqui and on the shores of Lake Arenal. They will be spending the week zip-lining, playing soccer, stand-up paddle boarding and horseback riding in some of the most beautiful areas of the country.
Another group of students will be traveling to South Africa for two weeks of impactful cultural immersion and community building.
Next week, our students and staff will be hard at work studying and applying their learning hands-on in their efforts to earn their Wilderness Advanced First Aid (WAFA) and CPR certifications. Stay tuned for stories and photos from these upcoming activities!
Four young men celebrated their journeys and growth this week as they return to their families with program certificates and high school diplomas.
These seniors deserve our recognition as they begin the next phases in their journeys, which include one graduate enrolling in Montana State University with a merit scholarship, another considering (among many choices) Tulane University, where he was invited to join the Honors Program, and the others ready to test their new skills returning to complete high school in their home towns.
Congratulations to our graduates; we are proud of you and look forward to your many certain successes!
Months ago, NSA’s spring graduates began the extensive process of preparing for their transition back to life in the U.S. – be it a return to high school or enrollment in college in the fall.
Our Transition Program, led by a dedicated team, guides students and their families in “getting real” with what the coming months will hold, while helping students develop concrete skills and support structures for continued success.
Elements of the Transition Program include:
- A comprehensive Transition Plan created by students, their families and their team, which details expectations, goals and steps, and needed support that receives weekly feedback
- A series of Life Skills Workshops chosen by the students that may include Safe Travel, Finances and Budgeting, Sex and Dating, Car Maintenance, or Independent Living Skills
- A Transition Family Workshop on-campus engaging students and families in four days of therapeutic and transition work
- Opportunities to develop and put to the test greater responsibilities and freedoms in our off-campus Transition House
The Transition Program is one of many key efforts at NSA that help prepare students for continued success in their next steps, and we appreciate the energy and support of our graduates, their families, and the Transition Team.
NSA and The Bridge have been not only long-time members of the National Association of Therapeutic Schools and Programs (NATSAP), but innovators leading the way toward more effective and enriching models of engagement and growth for young people.
At this year’s national NATSAP conference in Tampa, our programs collaborated to facilitate four different presentations, which included:
- Martin Naffziger and Kelly Weld speaking about how investment in a rigorous Academic program can develop stronger Therapeutic offerings
- Dr. Heather Tracy and Mario Duran presenting on how to balance student empowerment with administrative needs
- Dr. Danny Recio discussing his recently-published article in the Journal of Therapeutic Schools and Programs titled Coming of Age in Foreign Lands
- Martin Naffziger presenting in collaboration with Montana Academy on innovative structures in education and the responsibility that therapeutic programs have to develop strong Academics
All of our Supportive Immersion programs will continue forward with industry-leading standards of education, personal growth and experiential education!
Students spent last week on one of our signature Integrated Aventuras -- expeditions throughout Costa Rica where students engage in experiential learning and personal growth alongside our dedicated therapists, teachers and Experiential Education mentors.
The Aventura program begins at sea level with students “giving back” to the Costa Rican community through volunteer work with Osa Conservation. Students plant trees, build trails, and patrol the beaches for nesting sea turtles.
A few high points from the community service Aventura:
-Nightly presentations from working scientists about research on canopy animals, hermit crabs, big cat tracking and water quality testing
-Safely relocating over 70 sea turtle eggs & releasing 70 baby hatchlings
-Encountering anteaters, coatimundi and a beautiful (and rare) puma!
Students then participate in the Kayak Aventura, circumnavigating the Golfo Dulce while camping along its undeveloped shores.
Memorable moments from this journey include:
-Watching turtles and dolphin swim alongside students’ kayaks
-Fishing with hand lines for snapper, mackerel and tuna
-Snorkeling in the coral reef at Los Mogos, two islands whose name means “the specks”
-Being surrounded by natural beauty and seeing rainbows nearly every day
After the Kayak Aventura, students spend a week hiking in the protected jungles of Corcovado National Park, learning about biological relationships and rainforest succession.
Students and staff reported some of their fondest memories:
-The teamwork and support shown by the group members during the challenging hike
-Impressive focus on the group’s goals
-Being blown away by the diversity of animal and plant life
The final Integrated Aventura before students climb Chirripo Mountain is a trekking and rafting expedition in Costa Rica’s cloud forests.
Highlights of this trip included:
-Student engagement with absolutely zero complaining!
-Students pushing themselves outside of their comfort zones while navigating whitewater rapids
-The valuable peer feedback given and received within the group
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