Archive for January 2019

Ironwood Maine Web Update

Wow! The first day of Family Weekend is a tremendous whirlwind of activity. Launched by a family orientation meeting at the Farmhouse School, the day is then set in motion with reunifications, smiles, laughs and yes, tears. All of the emotions you could imagine after not seeing your child for 10 weeks. After that, the families head off for a day of family therapies, experientials and some quiet time together.

The Level III, and Level IV residents enjoy a much deserved trip off campus beginning in the mid-afternoon. All Level III’s get to stay off campus on Saturday night. A Level III with their second family weekend get to stay off campus Sunday night as well. Level IV’s will enjoy a complete 3 night family weekend with a return on Monday. Level II residents, while enjoying a great day with family are not allowed off campus for the overnight.

This always leaves the question as to what happens to the Level I residents who’ve not yet been here long enough to enjoy a Family Weekend. Well, staff take great care of our Level I’s, by planning a good mix of activities, school lessons, exercise and time to converse with peers and staff. Today saw them in school for the regular amount of time, followed by a delicious lunch cooked outside, then some R&R with fellow residents and the Frye mini horses.  Even in the winter months, our campus is ripe for adventurous exploration and the students will participate in snow showing, construction of igloos, and an epic fire building competition. 

One of our residents offered a quote during this powerful time. “Remember, you can’t change your Family Destination overnight, but you can change your direction. 

Have a nice weekend!

Ironwood Maine Web Update

As we enter in to the second half of January, Ironwood remains fully enrolled and our campus bustles every single day.  40+ teenage residents, 60 staff, contractors, and dozens of animals (domestic and wild), make for a vibrant campus and community.  And let’s not forget family members back home…hundreds more, when parents, siblings and key extended members are considered.  At first glance, Ironwood presents as a tiny institution, but if it were much bigger than it is today, we would start to struggle to remember everyone’s name and story.

“Knowing” the group is an important element of the work that takes place on our campus.  Understanding the struggle and history, appreciating the layered perspectives behind every resident and becoming a part of the growth and future goals, is what sets up our team for success.  We are still (and just barely) an intimate environment where residents can feel known and understood, as they figure out their next moves towards a better and healthier life.

Family Weekend will be upon us next week and it never ceases to amaze us how quickly time passes from one Family Weekend to the next.  Ten weeks here, feel like half of that, always, and we all know the reason behind the rapid passing of time…we are busy, engaged and YES, we are also having some fun.  Earlier this week, I was talking to a new resident who was lamenting over his perceived “one year Ironwood sentence” and we discussed the many hundreds of residents who came before him.  Sitting in his same seat, these prior resident impressions very similar to his, on how to deal with being in Maine for many months…only then to look back at graduation in wonder, on how quickly the time had passed.  A motivated teenager can experience radical change during this period of time, when inspired by the right combination of education, structure and understanding here at Ironwood, combined with thoughtful love and support “back home”.  We see positive transformations taking place at Ironwood, often and it never ceases to inspire our days.

We have received below average snowfall this winter but things are about to change.  A large weekend storm is heading our way and we are making plans to receive it with gratitude, as a Maine winter is always better with fresh powder.  Residents and staff will respond with shovels and plows first, then sleds second.  This was being discussed at dinner last night and the group was looking forward to this change of scenery.  As for those of you visiting next week, please keep these Maine weather conditions in mind.  January is one of our roughest months to endure and personal planning goes a long way.  Vehicle choice (4WD when possible), dressing casually and in layers, winter footwear/hats/ gloves, and VERY CAUTIOUS step taking will all set you up for the most positive experience possible.  There have been fender benders, slips and falls at prior January gatherings and we want everyone heading home at the end of this weekend feeling optimistic and in excellent physical condition.  

The emotions of your sons and daughters this week are comprehensive, to say the least.  Some are excited, hopeful and encouraged while others are anxious, cautious and even angry.  Many are feeling both positive and negative emotions and you likely already have a good read on how you child is feeling, these days.  Our goal (as staff), is to help you to navigate through your current family struggles towards a better future, together.  We tell your kids that they are loved back home and that there is great reward in remaining hopeful, considerate and honest…especially with your family.

We wish you a very pleasant weekend and if you’re joining us next week, travel safe!

Ironwood Maine Web Update

After a renewing new year celebration, all of the students are now stepping into what they want their new year to look like. Students have made resolutions and expressed things they were grateful for in the year of 2018. The year of 2019 has started off with a bang. Students are motivated and wanting to do the best for themselves. Everyone is getting into the motion and putting their best foot forward for a fresh start. I took the time to interview a few residents and here is what they had to say.

“It’s a new year! I am looking forward to my Birthday at home with family, finishing my sophomore year of high school, and enjoying everyday life. I was so miserable last year and now I look forward to the new opportunities and a fresh start with my family and friends.”

“The new year usually doesn’t mean a lot to mean, but this year is different. I am motivated. I see a lot of changes coming. I am actually making a plan for my future, which I never thought I would do.”

“I am looking forward to completing the Ironwood program, spending time with family and going to college. I am also planning to put more effort into staying in shape and exercising, perhaps I’ll join a soccer team. I think I might even get a job, I am so excited for all of these things!”

During educational groups, students are practicing how to identify struggles within themselves as well as within the group. Students have made headway with these goals and are open to learning new things about themselves that they did not know before. These types of groups are always exciting and inspiring, but I wanted to get a more in-depth perspective. I choose to interview Lily about one of her recent therapy groups. 

Q. What was the intent/goal of The Tin Can Foot Pass activity?

A: The goal of this activity is to highlight the strengths and challenges of the group; how does the group support each other, is communication respectful and is it clear? Often the strengths and challenges that come out in the activity are present outside of it as well. 

Q: What do you think is the most important part of the experimental group?

A: The most important part of the experiential is for residents to challenges themselves and push themselves outside of their comfort zone. When this happens resident often realize they are capable of more than they first thought. 

Q: What is your favorite part of leading these groups? What is the most challenging?

A: My favorite part is watching the group work through a difficult activity and find a creative solution through effective communication and problem solving. The most challenging is knowing a solution and allowing the group to struggle. 

The new year is a year of discovery and growth. It is a year for change and acceptance. Students are ready to keep progressing as is obvious from the multiple graduations and level promotions already this year! 2019 is the year of growth and illumination for all students at Ironwood, and it is underway!  Have a great weekend.

Ironwood Maine Web Update

“There are far far better things ahead than any we leave behind.”

C.S. Lewis

Over the past several days, the entire Ironwood campus has managed to partake in many productive, exciting and fun events. While we have all been away from our family, it has been easy to recognize that we are never alone. Our friends and staff have been supportive, our memories are still with us and the hope and opportunity that lies ahead provides the most comforting of thoughts.


As the new year neared, each of our students had some time to reflect on 2018. Students were asked to take pride in what they had accomplished, acknowledging their challenges and all that has been overcome. We spent time sharing precious memories and past events that made many smile. It was easy to recognize for many that 2018 was a year to be proud of.


Students also spent time pondering what they wanted most out of 2019. Not only did everyone share their own individual resolutions like “Continuing to learn Japanese…creating a better relationship with my family and waking up with a smile everyday”. They also spent time thinking about ways to support the follow- through of these important goals. Later, students viewed a movie about a young man who struggled to return home after being separated from his family. He finds a similar lost wolf companion in the forest and starts a friendship that would change his humanity. “Alpha” is the movie, if you’d like to view it over this weekend.


In between groups, school, chores, and snow shoveling, there has been plenty of opportunity to enjoy the snow, as well. Epic snow sled races down the Beaver Pond hill, makeshift snowboarding (on sleds), snowman making and a “revolutionary war style” snow ball battle that was hilarious to observe.


During a social group, students had the opportunity to learn about different styles of leadership…Democratic, Authoritarian, and Laissez Faire. Students split into groups and took turns being their own leader of the group and picking one of these styles of leadership. Then, the stage was set for a 3 way game of capture the flag. After each game, the students discussed what was beneficial about each style and when it might be appropriate to use this in a general life setting.


While there has been plenty to celebrate, the mission of the Ironwood campus has remained focused on individual growth, accountability, and progress. Highlights of student hand rolling sushi and a night sky filled with fireworks to welcome the new year has not distracted our students from what is most important, making the most out of their day and accomplishing their individual goals in preparation for a return home. All of us at Ironwood are excited to see how much our students can accomplish in the months to come. Happy New Year to everyone and we wish you a most pleasant weekend!