The Courage to Change

I’m a guy who likes routines; steady reliable routines.  So you may imagine that I could get overwhelmed working at

Phil Fairbrother

Phil Fairbrother

Cherokee Creek Boys School which presents changes to any given routine each minute of the day.

I only need to remind myself the same thing I would remind any of our students: that change and transition are a part of life.  As with anything else that is a part of life we have the choice to resist, which generally makes us miserable, or accept, which allows us to see the wonder of possibilities.

When a student first arrives and is exposed to this new environment, he often has a lot of resistance and struggles.  Empowering a child with the knowledge of choice is an interesting process.  It seems always to be easier to blame others for the uncomfortable situations in which we find ourselves, but there is incredible strength that comes form accepting circumstances and recognizing we have a choice in making our decisions.

Each of our students work through this process each day, and sometimes while focusing on the struggles of today, we miss the changes that are happening over time. However, I was recently reminded of how wonderful change can be.  A few of our students are getting ready to graduate and are setting up their own transition room in the bunkhouse.  Moving into the transition room means more responsibility for managing behavior with less supervision. This is exactly the environment they will find themselves in once they leave our school and rejoin their families.

The boys moving into the transition room were eager to help set up their new space.  They were focused, responsible and pleasant.  I had wonderful conversations and exchanges of ideas with these boys, and I was able to assign tasks knowing they would be done without supervision or redirection.  These boys were coming to the end of their journey with Cherokee Creek Boys School, and in looking back over their time with us, the changes were remarkable. They had truly taken the opportunity for showing leadership and responsibility.

We are now in the quarter of the Warrior when we encourage the boys to “Show Up and Choose to be Present.” Our boys in this transition room have made that choice and we are delighted to send them home as the responsible, courageous and empowered Warriors they have chosen to become.

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posted by Shaler Black Cooper in Discovering What is Real and True and have Comment (1)

Turning It Around

Denise Savidge with Sam and "driver" Nick - too cute!

Denise Savidge with Sam and "driver" Nick - too cute!

Next week marks my one year anniversary of joining the Cherokee Creek Boys School staff as Academic Dean. It’s been an amazing journey of growth, self-discovery, and relationship building in what I call fondly, “The Greatest Job Ever.”

There will likely be those who ponder how big a (choose from suck-up, butt-kisser, brown-noser) I am by writing a blog so blatantly complimentary to my colleagues. But you have to know them. When you’re as delighted as I am to come every day and work with these folks, you feel the need to spread the love on a little thick now and then.

Two years ago I was homeless and jobless. Who wouldn’t feel lucky to have a job — any job — given those circumstances? Somewhere close to MLK day 2010, I was packed up and halfway home to Pennsylvania to live in my parents’ basement. That’s the absolute truth. Well okay, the basement is actually unfinished. I probably could have scored my old bedroom. Thanks to the miracle of modern smart phone communication, an email was delivered offering me a job to make just-above-poverty-level in the local school district. It was enough to get by. It was also a foot in the door, and I turned around and drove five hours back to where I’d started.

That fortuitous email was the beginning of a much needed walk in faith and fellowship. The friends and relationships I’ve formed since turning around that day make life before that point look like a scrimmage against myself. I had been losing no matter what, questioning every decision and second guessing every move. It was mental torture I was inflicting upon myself. Does this sound like something our boys have experienced?

Each move I made after my personal decision to turn my car around brought me closer to finding CCBS one year later, where I finally feel at home. Every perceived misstep I took gained me a skill set I’m using daily in a giant montage of job freedom and creativity. It’s good, hard, rewarding work with payoffs every day – always based in being able to witness and be part of the “turn around” the boys do while they’re here. It’s a team effort in which there are no superstars claiming MVP, just team players acknowledging the other guy’s part in the process.

Turning around is a BIG theme here at CCBS. Our boys come to “turn it around.” Our families get to take a new course along with them. And we’ve grown so much as a school since about this time last year. We all manage to grow and change on these healing soils – from the trees to the people to the school itself.

This week, we were told we would again be recommended for accreditation by SACS. We can’t reveal most of the contents of the study until it’s published, but suffice it to say we were showered with some pretty amazing and heartwarming Commendations. To have strangers walk onto your campus and immediately recognize the warmth, camaraderie, cohesion, and respect among students and staff is a pretty big accolade.

Have you ever wondered about our claim to be “The Small School with the Big Heart?” Even first time visitors see it. Next time you’re in the area, turn around for a quick visit with us. It’s always rewarding to see the good work going on around here.

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The Burpee Challenge

From Left: Rick, Dain, Academic Dean Denise Savidge, Executive Director David LePere and Jackson all participated in the Burpee Challenge today.

From Left: Rick, Dain, Academic Dean Denise Savidge, Executive Director David LePere and Jackson all participated in the Burpee Challenge today.

A day after New Year’s, a friend of mine told me he was starting a 100-day Burpee Challenge. Thinking this would have something to do with growing plants, I asked, “Does that involve vegetables, or flowers?” He laughed, then without any explanation, did something that caught me completely by surprise. My friend squatted down, kicked his legs out behind him, did a push-up, brought his legs back in and from a squatting position jumped up with his hands reaching for the sky.

“That’s a burpee!” Excitedly he continued, “My brother and I have just started this great workout plan. We do one burpee on day one, two on day two, and so on until on day 100, we do 100.” He waited until he saw that I understood and then asked, “Want to join us? We’re on day 1.”

“Sure. That sounds like fun! I do need to get in shape for a sea kayaking trip.” I said quickly.

Doing 1 burpee was pretty easy so I later consulted Saint Google to see if joining my friends would actually get me in shape for a sea-kayaking trip I have coming up in the spring.

Apparently, over the course of the 100 days, we will do 5000 push-ups each…( and 5000 lunges… and 5000 squat thrusts!) …I love exercise, but the thought of those 5000 push-ups seemed overwhelming!

I’ve stuck with the plan and am on day 25 now. It is actually starting to become fun. The last few are always tough, but now that my body is adapting, the first 15 and even 20 were easy.  I’ve overcome my initial doubt that I could finish the whole challenge because all I have to do is “just do one more than I did yesterday”…and it’s not hard to do one burpee.

David, Rick and Denise in full burpee action.

David, Rick and Denise in full burpee action.

On day 2, I invited the staff and students of Cherokee Creek Boys School to join me in the challenge. During this quarter, we are studying the value of Courage in our classrooms, our outdoor treks, and in our PATH work. We already have PE every day before classes and many of our students are on the basketball team, so I just put the invitation out there. Eight courageous boys and one courageous Academic Dean embraced the challenge.

It reminded me that great goals are achieved one step – or pushup – at a time.  It’s a great message for everyone, but especially for students. By “exercising” courage to take on new challenges…and just doing a little bit more than we did last time, we can accomplish great feats in our lives!

If any of you who are going on the CCBS sea kayaking trip with me in April, it’s not too late to join the challenge? One burpee is really easy…

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Women of Courage…

Women of Courage: CCBS Founder Beth Black, CCBS Manager of Clinical Services Jane Barker and 8 wonderful ladies who participated in this the innaugural Women of Courage retreat.

Women of Courage: CCBS Founder Beth Black, CCBS Manager of Clinical Services Jane Barker and 8 wonderful ladies who participated in this the innaugural Women of Courage retreat.

My dear friend Rick Stone wrote a wonderful book called The Healing Art of Storytelling. In it he says, “Telling a story, especially about ourselves, may be one of the most personal and intimate things we can do. Through storytelling we can come to know who we are in new and unforeseen ways. We can also reveal to others what is deepest in our hearts, and in the process, build bridges.” And when women gather in healing circles to tell their stories, extraordinary things happen!

In early February, 8 amazing Cherokee Creek Boys School moms gathered from around the country to attend “Women of Courage,” a retreat I hosted with Jane Barker, Manager of Clinical Services at CCBS. For two and a half days we read, wrote, talked, laughed, cried and ate great food (thanks to Beth Venable). We wove our stories into a beautiful “blanket of support,” creating a safe environment to share the vulnerable and authentic parts of our lives. We discovered, challenged assumptions, shed unnecessary burdens and made new commitments. And we laughed…a lot!

We began our retreat with a Rumi poem:

A Community of Spirit

There is a community of the spirit.
Join it, and feel the delight
of walking in the noisy street,
and being the noise.

Drink all your passion,
and be a disgrace.

Close both eyes
to see with the other eye.

Open your hands,
If you want to be held.

Sit down in this circle

Our CCBS Medicine Wheel places Courage in the position of the Warrior and challenges us to, “Show up and be present.” The ten of us showed up fully with delight, passion and maybe even a bit of disgrace! We did, indeed, create a community of spirit. With courage, we opened our hands and arms to one another and sat in a circle of new friends.

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Blessings and Brotherhood

The Brotherhood known as the Gold Team Crusaders

The Brotherhood known as the Gold Team Crusaders

Service is a  “real and true”  lesson taught at Cherokee Creek. We feel that  contributing time, gifts and talents to our community is a foundation of good citizenship. Giving builds an “other orientation” which may be unfamiliar to middle-school boys. We create activities on campus and in our local community that give students a chance to see themselves as builders, contributors and helpers in the world. Learning to give back and to help others builds character, strengthens developing social skills and builds a sense of pride. One of the great joys of giving is when someone thanks you for your efforts and you can see how you have touched others. We are pleased to share a letter that the boys received from Master Chief Jeff P. Johnson, United States Navy. We are very proud!

A scan of the letter with the seal

A scan of the letter with the seal

 

Cherokee Creek Boys School is a therapeutic Boarding School for middle-school boys, ages 11-15, located in Upstate South Carolina.

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River Lessons (Part 4)

River Lessons is a series of blogs from our students’ perspectives. Students recently reflected on their Treks experiences through writing and made connections to the Lessons of the Medicine Wheel and the 4 aspects of self they learn to explore while enrolled at Cherokee Creek: the Warrior, Visionary, Healer and Teacher.

Student: Mike
Aspect: Warrior
Statement: I am Courageous

“The Warrior is someone who shows up and chooses to be present. The I am statement courage was used more than any other skill on Trek. I used courage when I set up my tent in a difficult staking area, hiking Tallulah Gorge, sliding on the rock and talking to two girls, Danielle and Stephanie, and was able to ask for Danielle’s number in front of a big group of people. I had many self-confidence struggles before I came to CCBS and feel I made a huge change in one social conversation.”

Don’t you just love Mike’s courage and the way he stood up for himself!? He so clearly defines a rite of passage when he describes the, “huge change in one social conversation.”

Where do you stand up for yourself and declare your own value? When have you had to gather every drop of your own self-confidence to address a situation?

Lessons of the Medicine WheelCherokee Creek Boys School is a therapeutic boarding school for middle school boys, ages 11-15, located in Upstate South Carolina.

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