July is perhaps our most exciting month at New Summit Academy as the summer brings our annual International Aventura to Peru! This year’s trip was especially meaningful as students engaged with a curriculum created by our Aventura teachers, therapists and Experiential Education mentors with a view toward building a greater sense of community among students and staff to bring back to our NSA campus.
After arriving in Peru, students began their journey with a tour of the colonial town of Cuzco before traveling by train to Machu Picchu, which is always a highlight of the trip.
Next, students split into two groups and, with their staff group leaders, followed the same itinerary, but in reverse order. One group began a high-altitude trek in the Auzangate region of the Andes, learning about the sacred gods – or Apus – of the mountains. The hikes were demanding, but the views made them worth the effort!
The second group began their trip with a 3-day whitewater rafting adventure, navigating class III and IV rapids (plus portaging around the class V’s), and camping along the spectacular river banks. Our English teacher, Brooke, was impressed with the way students cooperated in navigating the challenging portages.
The two groups reunited in the middle of their journeys in the indigenous village of the Amaru people, who welcomed them with a traditional ceremony complete with flutes and drums. Both groups spent the day working side-by-side with the Amaru helping them prepare fields for planting. The day culminated in a celebratory lunch prepared by the villagers.
NSA’s summer International Aventura has always been an unforgettable experience for those who participate. The students, now back on campus with stronger bonds within their community and ready to begin the school year, will be telling stories of their trip for weeks to come.
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!
Students and staff spent an arduous week working side-by-side to learn and master the content and skills needed to earn their WAFA and CPR certifications. Our fabulous instructors are adept at interspersing classroom learning with real-life, hands-on application of wilderness medicine essentials including:
- Scene and situation evaluation
- The ABC’s of airway, breathing and circulation evaluation
- Comprehensive patient assessment
- Stabilization and treatment techniques
Our community worked to dress fake (but so realistic!) wounds, splint broken bones, diagnose heat stroke and more on their way to earning professional level WAFA and CPR certification cards.
Congratulations on everyone’s hard work and success!
Pursuing healthy passions is an important part to living a full, balanced life, and our Clubs enable our students to advocate for their particular interests in that pursuit. Any student can start a Club with enough interest and by passing a proposal with the Experiential Education team. Once a Club is approved, student and staff leaders facilitate a quarterly Club Fair for student sign-ups.
This quarter’s Clubs include Cooking, Gardening, Chess, Comic Books, Biking, Climbing, Music Makers, and Backcountry Skills.
Clubs then collaborate to organize and schedule weekly meetings and weekend outings, developing student advocacy, organization and follow through while having fun!
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!
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 is continually working to innovate and provide the best possible experiences for all of our students, parents, staff and educational partners. Each year, the Academic, Experiential Education, and Personal Growth departments all set goals for improving our program and offering a unique learning and growth opportunity for students.
2018 is looking to be even more exciting, and as we develop our goals – guided by our organizational values – we would like to thank our students, families, educational consultants, faculty and staff, homestay families and the community of Atenas for the support and dedication they have provided to make New Summit Academy the amazing program it is today.
Keep an eye out in future issues for our 2018 goals and objectives!
This week, New Summit Academy proudly awarded high school diplomas and certificates of program completion to six young men who have – like all of our graduates – shown impressive effort and growth during the past year.
December graduation coincides with our seniors wrapping up their college application process, and reflecting through their personal essays on their unique journeys. As we celebrate this graduation and look forward to more stories of success in the future, we would like to share a handful of excerpts from these student reflections:
Presentation by Dr. Danny Recio & Dr. Heather Tracy at the Young Adult Transition Association conference in Coeur d'Alene, ID, in October 2017.
Learn more about 5 societal and cultural trends affecting youth development and how Supportive Immersion methods develop the PROPS which lead to self-generation and therefore integrative growth.
Blog authors may be students, staff, parents or colleagues. We're all-inclusive! Just enjoy!