by Phillis Cooper
In October 1993 Redcliff Ascent was born as a therapeutic wilderness program. From those early beginnings its’ mission has been to help troubled teenagers and their families in a wilderness environment away from all the disruptions of daily life. Hundreds of young adolescents and their families have marked the RedCliff wilderness experience as a life changing, and in many cases, a life saving experience. As students have graduated from the Redcliff program they have done so with the tools needed to navigate through the challenges of life in the world today.
This past month, on a crisp fall night, twenty years of service and dedication to youth and families was celebrated in a beautiful wilderness setting in Southern Utah. Alumni, staff and friends gathered to recognize this milestone as the campfires glowed, memories were shared and bonds of friendship, love and respect were renewed..
It was a night of festivities and celebration that included drumming, interaction with current students, tours of our Kiva and simply the opportunity to feel the peace and beauty of being in the wilderness. Participants were even rewarded with a breathtaking sky accent by a beautiful rainbow.
In celebration of 20 years of providing successful treatment, the owners were presented with a beautiful plaque. A dinner of warm, delicious soups and breads was served in hand-made bowls which the guests were able to take home with them. Each bowl was a uniquely crafted piece of art made by previous RCA staff! The soup was followed by yummy cupcakes, hot chocolate and warm cider.
Congratulations to the owners, administration team and staff for your dedication and service to struggling teens and their families! We hope the legacy continues for many years to come.
THE WINNER IS: JOSIE! (PHOTO #6) “After 96 days”
Congratulations Josie (Photo #6) – you are the winner of the RedCliff Ascent Student Photo Contest with 52 votes!!! Thank you all so much for submitting your photos! It was so much fun reading your posts, watching you support your friends and walking through memories of the time spent at RedCliff! Second place was a tight race with photo #4 scoring 24 votes and #5 scoring 23 votes!
Instructions for Student Photo Contest:
Your vote will be cast by leaving a comment with the number of the photo you’d like to vote for. The photo with the most comments/votes will win a pair of Chacos and other RCA goodies!
1. (Above)“I was serving in the Utah Ogden Mission but now I’m serving in Monterrey Mexico. RCA changed my life and just wanted to say thanks to the whole crew there!!! I went in June 24, 2012 to August 19, 2012, and reported to the Missionary training Center July 10, 2013. Less than a year!”
2. (Above)“I was there from Jun – Aug 2013… just barely Awesome place.”
3. (Above)“Here are a few photos from graduation that I pulled from an album”
4. (Above)“This picture was taken in 2002 during my stay. That’s me on the left. I believe Purple Sage took the picture for me on my wonderful disposable camera. We had stopped for a short break on the way to our next site and it had been a LONG walk.”
5. (Above)“LIVE/LIFE. Do you see it? Look at the branch. The L is camouflaged in the trees of the background but look close, it’s there. Just recently i got my disposable camera developed at CVS from my 4 month journey at RedCliff Ascent. When I took this picture, I was in quest, for obvious reasons as you probably remember far too well. I was lost. In being in this solo group, alone, I had no other choice but to reflect on my life, and be with myself, and my own thoughts. As I sat there, and looked around me there was nothing but dirt, sand, trees and mountains. Than this tree branch caught my eye, with the word LIVE or LIFE obviously spelled out on the branch. This moment of true epiphany, I shared with very few, because I felt it had such a personal and special meaning to me and should stay that way. However, in returning home, and telling people of my story, this is a necessary piece in allowing people to know where I’ve come from and how I’ve gotten to where I am now. This moment was a turning point for me, and it truly got me thinking; is this the way I want to LIVE my LIFE? Thank you mother nature. You were the one who helped me open up my eyes to the person that i want to be; a man who is 22 months clean from drugs, a man with clarity, a man with control over his emotions, a man with a future, and a man who wants to make a change in the lives of others, just as so many have done for me.”
6. (Above)“After 96 days.”
7. (Above)“Healing in Progress. Please stay on Trail.” This sign reminded me of Red Cliff. At Red Cliff, there may not have been a specific trail…but the one we were on was one that had healing in progress. When I saw this sign I thought about all the challenges I experienced at Red Cliff, the pain I was going through at the time I arrived there and how I transformed, healed into a better stronger, confident woman. A quote I found relates to this picture:
“I thank you God for this most amazing day, for the leaping greenly spirits of trees, and for the blue dream of sky and for everything is natural, which is infinite, which is yes.” — e. e. Cummings
It was 14 years ago yesterday that I graduated from Red Cliff. Every year on October 10th, I take a moment to reflect on my time there.
Thank you to all of the staff.”
9. (Above)“I had a really hard time choosing what picture to send in so here is one of my favorites from my time as a student in the field.”
Remember that the photo with the most votes in the comments below will be the winner! So, please choose your favorite pict and submit your vote below! (Don’t sweat it if the comments don’t show up immediately as they go through a spam approval – keeps the spam down – prior to showing up live online!
Did you know October of this year kicks off 20 YEARS that RedCliff Ascent has been working with youth in wilderness therapy?
GET INVOLVED WITH YOUR PHOTOS!
We’re excited and ready to start the celebrations and want YOU to be involved! So, are you ready for it? We’re going to kick things off with a photo contest that will run through the month of October 2013. Send your photo that has anything to do with RedCliff. It can be a picture that was taken of you in the field, that you took in the field, that was taken at graduation, or while you were wearing an RCA tee on the Great Wall of China after you left! If you don’t have anything from the field, get creative- pull out your powakas, bowdrill sets, tee shirts, etc. and let’s see what you come up with! We’ll post the pictures on our blog and voting will be open the entire month of October.
WHAT’S IN IT FOR ME?
Oh, and wondering what you’ll win? A fantastic 20th anniversary package – RCA trail mix, RCA honey bear, a bar of JR Liggett’s shampoo soap from your full body hygiene days, a sticker, AND your choice of Z/1 or Z/2 CHACO sandals!!!
Remember to send your photo to
[email protected] by September 30th, 2013 to participate!
***Sorry, this one is open to former students only. Staff, we’ve got you covered in a separate contest. Stay tuned!***
To read more comments on the photo contest and interact with others who are talking about this please visit our FaceBook page here: https://www.facebook.com/RCAscent
A new study by Dr. Michael Gass of the University of New Hampshire indicates teens are safer in wilderness therapy programs than they are in their own homes. The study is published in the Journal of Therapeutic Schools and Programs.
In a statement released by the University, Dr. Gass says, “After ‘does this program work?’, the question most asked by people considering adventure therapy is ‘will my child be safe?’” Dr. Gass is a professor of outdoor education in the kinesiology department at UNH. He wrote the article with lead author Stephen Javorski, a UNH doctoral student.
“While no one can guarantee the unconditional safety of any child, we can now show the relative risk levels for adolescents. This study shows there is actually less risk to participants on wilderness therapy programs, when they are conducted correctly, than to adolescents in their normal everyday activities.”
You can read more about the study at: http://www.unh.edu/news/releases/2013/mar/bp28wilderness.cfm#ixzz2PEdT4Pdu
We’ve done the research and found some very interesting information that we want to share with you. This information comes from surveys done by on Facebook as well as a study conducted by the US Bureau of Labor Statistics.
With changes in teen behavior in the last ten years, we feel that to properly address the issues facing so many of our children today, we must remove the distractions and get to the heart of the matter. That’s why we focus on wilderness therapy for teens. Leaving it all behind allows the teens that come to our program the chance to get to know themselves and confront their challenges.
We hope you enjoy this information.
If you found this information useful, please share it with your friends. All we ask is that you link back to us to give us credit for putting this together.
The RedCliff Ascent field is covered with Juniper trees. In a small number of these trees you can find a dark barky growth called a gall. The gall is the tree’s reaction to a fungus or rust that has infected the branches. Most often, the branch with the gall dies, leaving a bare branch with the unsightly gall surrounding it. It is easy to assume this gall is of no value and a blight on the tree.
However, if you pluck one of these Juniper galls and begin to sand down the rough bark outer coating, you reveal a beautiful burl wood pattern underneath. With further sanding and shaping one can form a beautiful pendant with fascinating burl wood grain. A coat of varnish completes a piece worthy to be worn as a necklace.
We use these Juniper galls to illustrate to our students that regardless of how ugly our behavior has made us, no matter what we have become whether by choice or circumstance, no matter how insignificant or unimportant we may feel, there is something beautiful underneath that dark, barky gall we think ourselves to be.
We can always sand down that rough outer coating to reveal the beauty our own experiences have formed in use. With some shaping and fine polishing we can become a person of value and inner beauty. The process is hard and often painful but the results reveal that our struggles can create an amazing tapestry of life experiences worthy to be shared with all. - Darren Jensen, Backup driver
Our Shindig celebration happens about once every three months. It’s a chance for students to gather at Outpost with their peers and celebrate their wilderness experience. Here’s a letter we received from one of our current students. We think it shows the respect and concern we have for all of the troubled teens enrolled in our program.
To whom it may concern:
Some students here at RCA calls this the “grievance” process in which they express their complaints of feelings of injustice. I believe that if this channel of communication can be used to complain it can also be used to thank and show appreciation.
On Wednesday of last week, Shindig was held. It was a wonderful event that allowed groups to show team cohesiveness and have fun at the same time. I’m sure that I share the sentiment as all the other students that attended in saying that it was a really wonderful event. I would like to thank everyone responsible for the success of Shindig; I really enjoyed it.
Also; I entered the poetry sharing part of Shindig and at the end I was offered and Almond Joy chocolate. I am allergic to nuts and made the gentleman who was giving out the candy aware of that. Upon sitting in my seat I was approached by a lady who told me that she’d let someone know about my allergy to nuts; then a gentleman came and asked me to name a chocolate that I liked and he said he would have it sent out. I told him that a Milky Way would be fine and he said Okay.
To my surprise the next day at about midday Snow Owl came to my group and delivered to me the Milky Way. I didn’t expect it to come out that fast and I’m happy that it did.
I just wanted to write this letter to express my gratitude and appreciation for a great Shindig and the courtesy and wonderful hospitality that I received with regards to my nut allergy.
Have a good day!
E., Ravens group
Mark wrote this response to our request for grads to share their RedCliff wilderness experiences. We thought you might relate:
hi, my name is mark and i was in redcliff 8 years ago now, i still dream of my memories of that place, i find it amazing how we take so many simple things for granted and redcliff has a way of opening your eyes to the beauty of the world and eachother, the power of recieving letters from your loved ones and being able to read them 1000 times and get a different meaning every time is just magic,
i come from ireland and to be honest at first i would never of considered this place for me to go, i didnt speak to my parents and done everything to push them as far from my life as i could, one day they asked me to sit at the table on a monday and told me about redcliff and that an oppurtunity had come up for me to go on thursday, after months of not speaking to my parents i physicaly broke down in tears as i couldnt believe that after everything i had done they still loved me enough to try and allow me to help myself, i knew i had to do this so i decided to go
i joined a group called the ravens, i found it strange at first everyone being called iron wolf and whispering eagle and so on lol, i remember my first experience was when we went to sit for dinner and i asked where is my fork and the leader said go find a branch and make one, i thought this was a joke but they were serious, pulling splinters from my lips on my first nite was not what i was expecting lol
i found myself growing very jealous of the other members in my team as it took me over a month before i bowed my first cole, the sense of accomplishment over a cole was overwhelming, passing my first 2 phases in the folder i never thought id be so grateful of salt and pepper lol
when i arrived at redcliff i saw myself as a sheep but as time went on i seen myself as a shepard, i led our group and provided support to other members in the team, i couldnt believe i was a leader. i made such an effort to keep everyones spirits up and used to sing a song, anyone reading this who knows this song will remember who i am = ill tell me ma when i come home the boys wont leave those girls alone, they pull my hair and stole my comb but thats alright till i go home, she is handsome she is pretty, she is the bell of belfast city, she is counting 123 please will you tell me who is she = i couldnt believe the sense of pride i got when i recieved my name ( Discover Fire Starter) after it took me so long to get my first fire i made it my goal to get my fire badge which i did, to be 1 of only a few people to of achieved this makes me very very proud
this whole experience has completely changed my life and the person that i am, i love life again and love me for me, you all are wonderful people and i have nothing but respect and love for what you have done for me, you will stay in my heart forever and i will return to work for you to give back what i got
id like to leave you with a poem i wrote on solo that still to this day makes me cry when i read it:
as i lie here now and the rain hits my head, i remember long ago wishing i was dead, those thoughts hurt and all of that pain, wouldnt leave my head i drove myself insane, but suicide wasnt the answer my family was, they helped me day by day, to them i give my applause, no matter what i did they still kept strong, even through the drugs which i did for so long, as i sit here now i realise what ive done, so ill stay and face my problems no longer will i run, cos runnings what i did i ran from my fears, i ran from my worries and from my parents tears, because it was my blindness that stopped this in the past, but im part of a family again and this i will make last, thinking of them now it is clear to see, im no longer just mark, i am mark halpenny,you have made me realise who i am inside, my thoughts now warm my heart and fill me up with pride, because as i lie here now and look at stars above, i realise theres only one drug i want, and thats the drug of LOVE!!!
thanks again for taking the time to read this, i will never forget what you all did for me and one day i will return the favour, thats a promise!!!
Congratulations to Trevor, Melinda, Gabriella and John! They shared their RedCliff stories and won Kindle e-readers. You should be receiving them today. John – we’re still trying to figure out how to ship yours. Who knew Canada was on the “no ship” list?
Watch for each of their posts coming to our blog beginning tomorrow. Share your comments and your own RedCliff story.
What’s your RedCliff experience? In honor of our new Facebook site – www.facebook.com/RCAscent – we’re giving you a chance to like us there and share your story here.
What’s your connection to us? Share your story here, “like” us on our new page, and you could end up winning an e-reader. (You know how critical good Kindle-ing is.)
Here are the official rules:
1. Like us on Facebook – RCAscent – and post a comment here about why you like us.
2. Post your comment here between April 1 and May 1, 2012.
3. No purchase necessary.
4. Winners may not be Ascent employees or family members of any Ascent employees.
5. Winners chosen at random and will be notified by email.
6. No bow/drill set necessary to win.
Thanks for being part of the RedCliff family and good luck! We can’t wait to hear from you.