Where Can I Get a “RESET” Button?

Denise Savidge, Academic Dean, CCBS

In Cherokee Creek’s Medicine Wheel philosophy, the “Quarter of the Visionary” has begun and the “I am” statements of creativity, authenticity, truthfulness and insight are at the forefront of our thoughts.

If I were a creative person, and I think I am, I would invent the RESET button for life. If I said the wrong thing to a coworker and hurt their feelings? PUSH, and get an instant Do-Over. When my newly licensed child wrecks her car not once, but TWICE in a month? PUSH… never happened. But alas, in a Real and True World, there is no reset button to make things all better.

Reset ButtonI have often wondered if the availability of a reset button is one of the reasons middle school boys enjoy video games so much. Society pretty much expects boys, during this time of their still-developing prefrontal cortex, to mess up. The PFC is that part of the brain that develops quicker in girls than in boys which governs executive function. “EF” relates to anything having to do with “future consequences of current activities, working toward a defined goal, prediction of outcomes, expectation based on actions, and social ‘control’”. Having a reset button and more “lives” in a virtual world gives middle school boys the opportunity to do over what may not come easily to them. That would be a very handy thing to have in the real world, at times.

I think teachers often choose the profession of teaching because it comes with a quasi-reset button every fall. There is a new class to greet. There are new minds to engage. There are new relationships to build. There are ALWAYS new programs coming down from somewhere out there. And there is the opportunity each and every year to improve upon the year prior.

It is that time of year again to hit the reset button at CCBS. Despite the fact that classes went all summer, there has to be a moment when someone declares that the school year has begun anew. On August 18th, most of the boys ascended to the next grade and many were placed in a new class group. They get a “mini do-over” within the “overall do-over” of past choices that comes with enrolling here. It is their time to highlight their creativity, authenticity, truthfulness, and insight. And we wish them all the best in the 2014-2015 school year!

Denise Savidge, Academic Dean, Cherokee Creek Boys Boarding School

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Recommended Reading List

The Purpose of Boys - Michael Gurian

The Purpose of Boys - Michael Gurian

Several families who attended our latest Family Seminar were interested in what we considered as some of the most recommended books to read on the subject of parenting and mentoring boys. All of the books on this list have taught us how to better teach our middle school boys. Every staff at Cherokee Creek will have their favorites, but three books in particular that really captured my attention and spoke to me were: The Purpose of Boys, Boundaries with Kids,and Wild at Heart.

Here is our recommended reading list in alphabetical order according to the author’s last name:

Beausay, Bill. Teenage Boys! Surviving and Enjoying These Extraordinary Years. 1998

Brozo, William. To Be a Boy, To Be a Reader: Engaging Teen and Preteen Boys in Active Literacy.2002

Cloud, Henry & John Townsend. Boundaries With Kids. 1998

Dobson, James. Bringing Up Boys: Practical Advice and Encouragement for those Shaping the Next Generation of Men. 2001

Eldredge, J. You Have What It Takes: What Every Father Needs to Know. Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, Inc. 2004.

Eldredge, J. Wild At Heart. Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, Inc. 2002.

Gurian, Michael. The Minds of Boys: Saving Our Sons from Falling Behind in School and Life. 2005

Gurian, Michael. The Good Son: Shaping the Moral Development of Our Boys and Young Men. 1999

Gurian, Michael. (1999). From Boys to Men: All About Adolescence and You. New York: Price Stearn Sloan.

Gurian, M. with Trueman, T. (2000). What Stories Does My Son Need?. New York: Jeremy P. Tarcher/Putnam.

Gurian, M. (2009). The Purpose of Boys. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

Gurian, M. & Stevens, K. (2005). The Minds of Boys. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

James, Abigail Norfleet. Teaching the Male Brain. 2007

Last Child in the Woods - Richard Louv

Last Child in the Woods - Richard Louv

Kimmel, Michael. Manhoodin America: A Cultural History. 2006

Kindlon, Dan and Thompson, Michael. Raising Cain: Protecting the Emotional Life of Boys. 1999

Mosatche, Harriet and Unger, Karen. Too Old for This, Too Young for That! Your Survival guide of the Middle-School Years. 2000

Louv, R. (2005). Last Child in the Woods: Saving Our Children from Nature-Deficit Disorder. Chapel Hill: Algonquin Books.

Muharrar, Aisha. More Than a Label. 2002

Pollack, W. (1998). RealBoys: Rescuing Our Sons from the Myths of Boyhood. New York: Henry Holt and Company.

Schaffer, Susan and Gordon, Linda. Why Boys Don’t Talk and Why It Matters. 2005

Slocumb, Paul D. Hear Our Cry, Boys in Crisis. 2004

Strauch, Barbara. The Primal Teen: What the New Discoveries About the Teenage Brain Tell Us About Our Kids. 2003

Stone, Richard. (1996) The Healing Art of Storytelling. New York: Hyperion.

Tatum, Alfred.  Teaching Leadership to Black Adolescent Males. 2005

Thompson, Michael.  Speaking of Boys: Answers to the Most-Asked Questions about Raising Sons. 2000

Thompson, M. & Barker, T. (2008). It’s A Boy! Understanding Your Son’s Development from Birth to Age 18.New York: Random House.

Tobin, L. (1991). What Do You Do With A Child Like This? Inside the Lives of Troubled Children.Whole Person Associates: Duluth, MN.

If you would recommend other books that you have read that are not on this list, please let us know. The staff at Cherokee Creek Boys School is in perpetual learning mode!

Happy Learning!

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Four-Legged Therapy

You can hardly walk on Cherokee Creek’s campus without a greeting from a four-legged friend lately. The number of dogs loyally following their owners to work has increased and, along with that fact, the number of boys happily throwing sticks and playing chase!

Jacob, Student, and MosesThere are many research studies pointing to increased happiness when pets are available for petting, play, or just listening. Our dogs have been welcomed in therapy sessions, formal and informal. In short, there are so many wonderful reasons to have them around (to learn more about the therapeutic value of pets, please see http://www.helpguide.org/life/pets.htm).

We dedicate the anonymously written fable below to our CCBS “co-therapists” Lily, Mable, Moses, Yoshi, Bella, Callie, Dirt Dog,and Big Dog. Thank you for being you!

Fable – God Summoned The Beast From the Field (Author Unknown)

God summoned the beast from the field and He said
“Behold, man is created in my image. Therefore adore him.
You shall protect him in the wilderness,
shepherd his flocks, watch over his children,
accompany him wherever he may go…
even into civilization.
You shall be his companion, his ally, his slave.”

“To do these things,” God said, “I endow you with the
instincts uncommon to other beasts:
Faithfulness, Devotion and Understanding
surpassing those of man himself.
Lest it impair your courage,
you shall never foresee your death.
Lest it impair your loyalty,
you shall be blind to the faults of man.
Lest it impair your understanding,
you are denied the power of words.
Speak to your master only with your mind
and through your honest eyes.”

“Walk by his side; sleep in his doorway;
ward off his enemies; carry his burden;
share his afflictions; love and comfort him.
And in return for this,
Man will fulfill your needs and wants…
which shall be only food, shelter and affection.”

“So be silent and be a friend to man.
Guide him through the perils along the way
to this land I have promised him.
This shall be your destiny and your immortality.”

So spoke the Lord.
And the dog heard, and was content.

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You Can’t Have it Both Ways

As the rain continued for the FOURTH day in Westminster, SC, I chuckled at a friend’s Facebook post saying, “Hey! Quit grumping about all this rain when just a few months ago we were grumping about the drought and low lake levels. You can’t have it both ways.”

It reminded me of how often my parents used that exact phrase. It always drove me a little bit buggy to hear it (and usually was followed by a big long argument beginning with BUT WHY CAN’T I…?). This was my parents’ phrase for teaching me that life is full of choices and choosing meant something had to be given up as part of the bargain. I spent the better part of my 20s learning and relearning that I can’t expect to have my cake and eat it too.

This lesson, along with providing opportunities for our boys to rethink actions once given the consequences, are two of the primary  steps for teaching good choice-making here at Cherokee Creek Boys School. Life is full of choices. Life is full of consequences  —  both natural and man-made. Navigating the waters of life involve consistently making better choices for ourselves and our families. It’s not an easy task and it seemed like I’d barely gotten the hang of it before it became my duty to impart it to my children as a necessary task. Talk about feeling barely qualified!

My daughter Grace, who is six, came to me the other day wanting a piece of her sister’s birthday cake. It was the pre-dinner hour. I said she could have it right then or she could have it for dessert. She of course chose right then … because she is six and there is no “later” to six-year-olds. So she had the cake and ate her dinner. Of course everyone knows what happened after dinner: Big tears, wailing, flailing and drama that there wasn’t going to be a dessert piece. I held my ground, shuffled her off to the bath, and tucked her in shortly thereafter. The big pouty lip was still there as I tried to explain to her why she couldn’t have both pieces of cake. We talked about how sometimes waiting a little bit made things even better when you finally got them. She seemed to understand as I pulled out the piece of perennial wisdom, “Sometimes you have to choose, Grace. You can’t have it both ways.”

She nodded, pulled the covers up and – as only a six-year-old can – said, “Okay. I’ll have two tomorrow to make up for it.” I sighed. Thank heavens for more tomorrows to impart the lessons of choice.

Academic Dean and Mom Denise Savidge explains choices.

Academic Dean and Mom Denise Savidge explains choices.

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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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Making Movie Memories

One of my accomplishments at Cherokee Creek is to have avoided authorship of a blog for well over a year. And if you

Will's blogs are rare, but always have great advice!

William's blogs are rare, but always have great advice!

decide to read this modest contribution, you may end up hoping that I quickly start another streak of avoidance, procrastination and outlandish excuse-making!

Once I was backed into a corner with no apparent means of escape, my plan was to write something easy and brief. I decided to create a list of  “approved movies” for the upcoming Holiday Break!.  But I began to sense trouble when my list of recommendations quickly surpassed 50 movies. I couldn’t seem to stop myself. I feverishly began organizing my gargantuan list into subsections. I knew I was really in trouble when I began considering which were the best Samurai melodramas to include. After all, what list is complete without including “Zatoichi – The Blind Swordsman, Volume 7”? I’m not kidding, it’s great ’60s cinema from Japan with a strong message of morality and justice. Think Hopalong Cassidy in a kimono and swinging a sharp sword.

I really went overboard with sports movies. I know it’s a ‘guy’ thing, but it was no problem coming up with three dozen sports movies everyone should be able to quote around the dinner table. So I’m asking you to ‘take one for the gipper’ and consider my baker’s dozen list of off-beat and value-laden sports films. I’ve tried to stay away from the most obvious choices (“Hoosiers”, “Friday Night Lights”, “Field of Dreams”, etc.) and you might wonder at my loose definition of sports (chess and spelling are included), but I hope something on the list will spark your interest. I hope that you will watch  them with your son. And, mostly, I hope you enjoy the time together.

Okay, I’ll stop digressing and actually get to the list of my favorite PG and PG-13 ‘sports’ flicks:

St. Ralph” (2005, PG-13) A low-budget, indie gem from Canada. The story of a boy who spends most of his time confusing fantasy and reality and magically thinks that running the Boston Marathon will help his mother recover from illness. Very touching, very funny. WARNING – there’s one scene that might make you uncomfortable when the hero’s sexual fantasies get a little out of hand.

Finding Forrester” (2000, PG-13) This movie features Sean Connery, literature and basketball. And if that’s not enough, there’s a wonderful message of connection, kindness, truth and redemption. I can’t recommend this one enough.

Searching for Bobby Fisher” (1993, PG) One of my favorite films about learning to love your child and not the aspirations you have for him. It’s about chess tournaments, but it could be about any sport.

Akeelah and the Bee” (2006, PG) How do you spell HEARTFELT? If you haven’t seen this movie, watch it. It’s a great story of determination and making good choices.

Bend it Like Beckham” (PG-13) The dance scene at the wedding party is worth the rental. The story of an Indian girl in the UK finding the balance between a traditional family and a non-traditional love of football.

Believe In Me” ( 2006, PG) Another great girls basketball film, this one set in Oklahoma. Lots of sports films take more than a little liberty with the truth. This one, by all accounts, is solidly based in fact. And more inspirational for it!

The Black Stallion” (1979, G) I’m somewhat of an expert on equestrian cinema, due entirely to my daughter’s love of horses and riding. And I can safely say this is one of the best of that genre. Made by Coppola between the first two installments of “The Godfather”, the first half is a beautiful dreamlike sequence about the connection between animals and children. Mickey Rooney helps make the second half equally moving.

Forever Strong” (2008, PG-13) Bad choices lead a talented rugby player into serious trouble. But with some value-laden help, redemption is possible. Your son will probably relate to the clear demarcation between the good guys and the bad ones.

The Winning Season” (2010, PG-13) It never hurts for a great high school basketball movie to be set in Indiana. This one pairs a looser of a dad with a struggling girls team. Together they restore faith and values to one another in equal measure. A very sweet film.

Eight Men Out” (PG) John Sayles is one of my favorite directors and his retelling of the Black Sox scandal is both accurate and moving.

Sixty Six” (2010, PG-13) This one stretches the sports theme a bit, but it’s worth considering if you can find it. It’s the actual story of the film director’s bar mitzvah, which happened to coincide with England’s last , and totally unexpected, world cup championship. Funny and poignant.

The Perfect Game” (2010, PG) The true story of a Mexican team that unexpectedly made it to the Little League World Series in the late ’50s.

Galipolli” (1981, PG) My list wouldn’t be complete without an entry from down under. This is the story of two young, aspiring track stars (an early role for Mel Gibson) in Australia who run off to World War I. It’s the story of friendship and the tragedy of the ill conceived Dardanelles campaign where so many ANZ soldiers perished.

Here’s hoping you find some time during holiday visits and vacations to enjoy one or more of my favorites! There’s nothing that encourages “real and true” discussion than a good flick and a big bowl of popcorn.

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A Fond Farewell to a Long-time Employee

David LePere and Clarence Robinson

David LePere and Clarence Robinson

At Cherokee Creek, our mentors come in all sizes, shapes, ages and genders! We recently said farewell to one of our senior mentors, Clarence Robinson, who dedicated 8 years to our boys as a night shift counselor at Cherokee Creek Boys School. Last week we held a retirement party for him and it was a grand event! Our students made a bright yellow 16 foot long poster. The kitchen served up a fancy lunch and added desert, which is rare on our “limited sugar” campus.

We gathered all our students and staff and Clarence’s wife to host an Honorable Closure ceremony for Clarence. This event honors community members for their contributions, the relationships they built over time, the stories that were shared, the knowledge that was created, the healing that has taken place and the work that was accomplished. It is a time for everyone to say goodbye and for the honoree to leave with dignity, respect, a sense of their own value, and their value to the community.

Everyone was invited to share a favorite memory and wish Clarence well in his retirement. And, Clarence told a few stories about his times here. The most famous story…now a legendary part of our school history…was about the time he walked around the corner of a bunkhouse in the middle of the night and came to nose-to-nose with a black bear! The bear scrambled up the hillside, leaving claw marks as evidence. We’re not sure who was more alarmed, the bear or Clarence…although he claims to have lost a few years of growth! While we never saw the bear again, Clarence proved his dedication to our school by coming back to work the next night.

Clarence also gave the boys some advice. In a straight-shooting grandfatherly way he gave us a few “real and true” nuggets of gold…

“When I was a kid, any black kids were thought of as bad kids. What I have learned is that we are all the same, it doesn’t matter if you are white, black or purple.” Clarence grew up in rural South Carolina in the 50’s.

“You will always have a boss, someone who tells you what to do. Learn to respect the authority that your bosses have.”…he playfully winked at his wife on this one…

“Your parents love you. I hear you sometimes moan and complain that they won’t let you do this activity or buy you these shoes, or whatever. But I’ve got to tell you, your parents love you. In fact, they tell you ‘NO’ because they love you. They want you to learn to work for your things and be responsible for yourself.”…couldn’t have said it better myself!

Congratulations Clarence! Thank you from all the members of the Cherokee Creek community. Your hard work and wisdom have helped many students to “…discover what is real and true about themselves and the world around them.”

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Lessons for Living

“The key to living a truly satisfying life is nurturing your relationships…” I was startled by the tagline of the article in

Jake borrows Denise's jacket for a goofy pic. Just another good relationship at CCBS.

Jake borrows Denise's jacket for a goofy pic. Just another good relationship at CCBS.

October’s issue of Psychology Today. There was the R word again, RELATIONSHIPS, front and center, demanding my attention with a “How are yours going these days?” insinuation. And the teacher in me has to give an honest C+. I’m struggling. Or maybe closer to the truth: I’m juggling, and a few balls are getting dropped, especially in the relationships department

I’ve got a lot on my plate right now – Academic Dean, teacher, Soccer mom, choir member, Clemson University doctoral student, chef, maid, laundress, taxi, and tutor. Oh, and single motherhood, which is a full time job in itself. At our August Family Seminar, we were asked to introduce ourselves and reveal our secret superpower wish.  I rather flippantly answered, “Are you kidding? I’m a single mother. I HAVE all the superpowers I need.” You may notice there are a lot of jobs I have, but no mention of relationships in here. In other words, a lot of “whats” but not a lot of “whos.”

To make things worse, we create a life of busy and then throw in an unspoken infallibility factor upon ourselves. The “if you’re going to do it all, you better do it well without complaint” self-challenge. That’s a perfect setup for failure, shame, and doubt when something doesn’t go right. Keeping busy prevents us from reflecting upon how well we’re doing in the really important thing in life: Relationships. That’s a strange little paradigm, isn’t it? We stay occupied pretending to be too busy for platonic and romantic relationships that we might fail at, but become so busy we end up chastising ourselves for not doing a good job at things that may not be that important in the first place.

Here at school, we focus on teaching the boys that relationship is first and foremost, yet I’m not fully modeling the behavior. I may be driving my son to soccer, but I could do better just engaging him in discussion on the way to the game. I am singing on the Worship Team, but when we’re just talking and not practicing harmonies, my thoughts stray to what I have to do next. I’ve got the schedule down pat, but I’m not allowing my guard down to show vulnerability in the moment.

Vulnerability is a key concept in relationships. It popped up in an amazing TED talk last night in my college class. The segment featured Brene’ Brown, who is a research professor at the University of Houston and has spent the past ten years studying vulnerability, courage, authenticity, and shame. She seeks to answer the question, “how do we learn to embrace our vulnerabilities and imperfections so that we can engage in our lives from a place of authenticity and worthiness?” I know I have to give myself permission to be less busy and more vulnerable to engage in relationships that have – as we say at CCBS – heart  and meaning. And to accept no shame if I do it imperfectly.  The discovery of what is “real and true about ourselves and the world around us” means to render ourselves vulnerable and fully embrace the ride!

Invest 20 very worthwhile minutes to enjoy Brene’ Brown’s TED talk “The Power of Vulnerability” at this website address:

http://www.ted.com/talks/brene_brown_on_vulnerability.html

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All I Really Need to Know About Life, I Learned from Middle School Boys

Learning all I need to know about life with the boys on the CCBS front porch chairs...

Learning all I need to know about life with the boys on the CCBS front porch chairs...

(with a nod to Robert Fulghum, who learned about life through Kindergarteners)

Most of what I really need

To know about how to live

And what to do and how to be

I learned from my middle school boys.

Wisdom was not at the top

Of my doctorate pursuit mountain,

But deep in the red dirt of a therapeutic boys school known as Cherokee Creek.

These are the things I learned:

Share with others, but some things can be just yours.

Play fair. Play often. Be playful.

Don’t hit, kick, punch, throw things, or yell.

Put things away if you want them to be there tomorrow.

Clean up your own mess.

Anything found abandoned is considered fair game – It’s called a “G-Score.”

Say you’re sorry when you’ve finished processing an argument. Don’t say it until you are ready , or it’s not authentic.

Wash your hands, a lot. Especially important after seeing their science fair pitri dish results.

Flush. Twice if necessary. There will be a boy cleaning your restroom.

Cookies, milk, and the occasional gourmet cupcake can make anybody’s day.

Live in balance – pursue Personal Enrichment, Academics, Therapy, and Healthy endeavors.

Learn some and think some

And play and work every day some. Make it outdoors whenever possible.

Forget naps – you might miss something good. You can sleep when you’re dead.

When you go out in the world, keep an eye on whoever’s in your group. They like to hide around corners just to see if you’re paying attention.

Hug them a lot.

Be aware of their individual boy-ness, build a strong relationship in which you show you care about them, and remember, no matter how big or hairy they are, they are still BOYS.

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Reflections on Mentoring

At August Family Seminar, Beth Venable mentors parents on how to develop a village of support before their students return home.

At August Family Seminar, Beth Venable mentors parents on how to develop a village of support before their sons return home.

As I prepare to leave CCBS and take the next step on my career path, I find myself reflecting on all I have learned here and the power of mentors throughout my life.

Mentors are people who help reveal “what is real and true about you and the world around you” by role modeling, teaching, and, as Dan Rather once said are people who” believe in you, who tug and push and lead you to the next plateau, sometimes poking you with a sharp stick called “Truth.'”

Dr. Beger, my high school mentor & teacher, taught me that I had a power and purpose that was innately mine. She taught me how to access my courage, even when it was buried near my toes. Jane Condon, my high school’s principal, showed me that leadership can be a class act, that teams of people are happiest when they know why you have picked them. Shelby Hicks, my first boss, taught me about service and gave my my first lessons in business as she taught me to keep the books in a pencil ledger, the same way her father had before her. John Degan, a college professor who became a dear friend, taught me that no man need be an island, that exceptional performance is a rare treasure and that I could work my fanny off and still get a “C.” Ellen Richard, who hired me fresh out of college at the Roundabout Theatre, taught me that all the Southern charm I can muster will have little result if I don’t do my job well. She also taught me, rather painfully, that everyone is replaceable. Suzanne Youngerman, the Program Director at Young Audiences at the time, taught me what program development is and how to do it well. The “Duenas” (my mother’s close girlfriends) taught me how to return to my authentic self, when I had all but lost any thread of her. Jack Wise, with whom I once sunk a boat, taught me about accepting “what is” and moving ahead whether you like it or not. Beth Black, who founded Cherokee Creek Boys School, taught me the value of orienting your business, first and foremost, by its mission and values and about what it really means to put form after function.

Though none of these folks are my immediate family, their impact on my life has been profound. These are some of the greatest mentors I have intersected in my life. Beginning at the age of 13 and continuing on to today, they have presented themselves as catalysts for change throughout the years.

Some of them were great inspirations, others have made me wince with the raw reality of “real life.” All of them were invaluable and changed my life for the better. I would not trade any of these relationships for a life of ease and riches. I believe the most interesting tapestries are the ones with an abundance of colors, a rainbow of stories and even a few knots.

We all need mentors who help us uncover our authentic self and move toward discovering and living out our purpose. I want to express to all parents that your sons have wonderful mentors at CCBS. They will be blessed by their experience here and remember their favorite staff with affection…as will I. Thank you to everyone who has touched my life while at Cherokee Creek…you have added a stitch to the tapestry of my life.

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