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From STOP and GO to MEDIUM to SLOW

by Beth Black, Co-Founder, Cherokee Creek Boys School

Beth Black - Co-Founder Cherokee Creek Boys SchoolI took a walk today… my usual coronavirus exercise. Partly cloudy, pleasant breeze… perfect. I stopped halfway to tie my shoe and decided to sit for a while and on a bench to enjoy the grey clouds racing across the sky. It reminded me of my childhood in West Hartford, hiding in the tall grass in the field behind my house… just watching the clouds and being in a world of my own imagination.

After a few minutes of musing I thought “time to go”. Then I stopped myself! No, you have all the time you want…nothing pressing, no place you need to be… coronavirus has put a pause button on all the “normal” events of my day and given me this gift of time. A great blue heron landed near me… a fish jumped in the lake near me… a moment of clarity.

Angeles Arrien tells us to live our life in “nature’s rhythm which is medium to slow.” I realized that my life was really more like “STOP AND GO” than “MEDIUM TO SLOW” … Go, go, go, then completely shut down. Gear up and do it again. Sound familiar to any of you?? It’s a pattern learned over years of working against deadlines, raising two children and, frankly, enjoying the activity. But the gift of this pandemic is a new pace and I need to remember it when the “real world” returns!

most important things in life I created a little mantra for myself:





For years I have loved the StoryPeople books by writer and artist Brian Andreas. The illustration to the left is a “story” that sits on my desk as a daily reminder.

From now on, I will pay more attention to it and move more slowly.

How about you…what are your “medium to slow” stories?

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Sweet Sixteen for Cherokee Creek Boys School

March Madness is in full swing, and as the Sweet 16 begins we want to reflect on 16 sweet things that have taken place at CCBS over our 16 years.

Beth and Ron Black - Founders of Cherokee Creek Boys School (1) A dream of a place where boys can be boys. Thank you, Beth Black, for following your true heart’s calling!

(2) 2 boys completed a 50-mile hike for Boy Scouts.

(3) 3 International Student Trips.

(4) Entering our 4th year of transition services.

(5) Our student Trek Program visiting 5 different states. (NC, TN, AL, GA and SC).

(6) Family Center Programming now includes Father/Son Treks, Mother/Son Treks, Family Treks, Women’s Retreats, Father’s Retreats, and Quarterly Family Seminars.

Cherokee Creek Boys School soccer team(7) Open 7 days a week and having helped over 400 families!

(8) In 2018, we had one of our first alumni become a full-time staff member.

(9) Our athletic teams have participated in 9 different sports (flag football, soccer, lacrosse, karate, cross-country, basketball, golf, disc golf and softball).

(10) Expanded our academics to now offer (PE, English, Math, Social Studies, Science, Vocals, Band, Art, DBT and Spanish)

(11) 11 wonderful years with our fearless leader, David LePere!

(12) More than 12 specialized kayak clinics.

(13) Boys completed a 1/2 marathon (13.1 miles) in March 2019!

Lego League Champs(14) Boys competing in 14 Lego League competitions.

(15) Nick Linscott (our Math Teacher) and Phil Fairbrother (our HR Director)’s 15th year anniversary in 2019.

(16) Celebrating 16 years of “Challenging Boys and their families to discover what is real and true about themselves and the world around them.”

Happy Sweet 16, Cherokee Creek Boys School! Here’s to many more!

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Classroom Learning is a Roller Coaster Ride

Designing roller coasters at Cherokee Creek Therapeutic Boys Schoolby Ben Briggs, Social Studies Teacher, Cherokee Creek Boys School

Have you ever thought what it would be like to design roller coasters? Doesn’t that sound like an exciting job? What if it’s done in a classroom learning environment?

Our boys have been doing just that in our Social Studies class this week. They have been using a program created by Disney to design roller coasters. This is intended for students to connect science and engineering to their imagination.

While they are having fun creating roller coasters, little do they know, they are also learning about physics. While the cool look of the ride is one thing, the boys must also measure the force, velocity, and trajectory to make the roller coaster work.

Designing roller coasters at Cherokee Creek Therapeutic Boys SchoolAt Cherokee Creek Boys School, we are fortunate to have teachers that use creativity and fun to teach the boys something new everyday. Projects like this not only excite the students, but they also energizes the staff, as well.

How special it is to walk into a classroom and see students having almost as much joy learning how to design roller coasters as they would be with riding one!

Who’d have ever thought that classroom learning could be so much fun!

It was Walt Disney himself who said (and it couldn’t be more true), “Our greatest natural resource is the minds of our children.”

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A Field Trip Back in Time

Andrew Stevenson, Cherokee Creek Boys School Teacherby Andrew Stevenson, Social Studies Teacher, Cherokee Creek Boys School

We just completed a field trip that was in conjunction with a unit covered in class on the Industrial Revolution. In class, we’ve been focusing upon on individual entrepreneurs, inventors, and political figures from the late 18th century to the early 20th century. On the field trip we delved more into what life might have been like for an individual who lived during this time period.
Field Trip to Agricultural MuseumWe did this by visiting the Bart Garrison Agricultural Museum of South Carolina in Pendleton.


Activities for our students included:
  • assembly line basics while mass producing paper airplanes;


  • removing seeds and cleaning actual cotton by hand, followed by seeing the machines that were developed during the 19th century to clean cotton;


  • using a basic loom to weave by hand, then studying the much larger industrial loom;


  • students created timelines of inventions from Eli Whitney’s cotton gin up the flight of the Wright brothers as our guides walked us through these inventions’ impact upon society;


  • Field Trip to Agricultural MuseumOutside, students were tasked with removing corn from the kernel by hand versus doing it with simple machines. They also ground the corn into a usable product;


  • Finally, we were taken to their gardens and animal pens where students interacted with American Guinea Hogs and various heritage poultry breeds while learning about animal care.

Field Trip to Agricultural Museum

Throughout all of this students were exposed to various other exhibits including farm implements, water systems, and local exhibits including a list of South Carolina Century farms (farm ownership by the same family over 100 years), including the farm they recently picked muscadines at (shameless plug for the Stevenson farm!).


Also of note, the staff at the agricultural museum were incredibly impressed by our boys and specifically complimented their firm handshakes and inquisitiveness. Our students were great ambassadors of Cherokee Creek Boys School during this trip.

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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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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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Say What?

Davis and his teacher Nick Linscott use the Can-O-Phone in Physical Science Class

Davis and his teacher Nick Linscott use the Can-O-Phone in Physical Science Class

Cherokee Creek Boys School Science teacher Nick and student Davis rigged up two #10 tin cans with a long cord. They stretched it from one balcony to the other – far enough that they couldn’t hear each other in a conversational tone, pulled the cord tight, and started talking.

Having grown up in a time when phones don’t use wires, our students were stunned by how well this worked – and of course it naturally led to his science lesson for the day!

Some interesting limitations of can and string technology are that only one person can talk at a time, and the call quality is poor, so you really have to pay attention to hear what is being said. Sometimes you even have to ask the other end to repeat what they said. Also the string has to be taut in order for the “Can-O-Phone” to work.

There are at least three mini lessons in these limitations that can help us be better communicators…
1. In any conversation, the only way for understanding to take place is for one person to talk and the other person to listen. It is not possible to listen and talk at the same time. Our brains simply don’t work that way, even if our smartphones do.
2. Check for understanding. Carla Shorts, one of our therapists says the only way to be absolutely sure you know what is being expressed is to ask. She says use a phrase like, “What I’m hearing you say is…or …Do I have that right?”
3. You can only pay attention to one thing at a time. When I asked Mitchell, one of our students how he knew he was being heard in a conversation, he said, “When the person is looking at me and paying attention to me. If they’re checking their phone, I know they aren’t listening to me at all.”

The lessons of the “Can-O-Phone” serve as a challenge for all of us today as we tighten the bond between us when we talk and listen with each other!

Cherokee Creek Boys School is a therapeutic boarding school for boys ages 11-15. Located at the foothills of the blue ridge mountains in South Carolina, the school has been serving boys and their families since 2003.

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Cabin Connections

Students and families get together for S'mores during last week's Family Trek

Students and families get together for S'mores during last week's Family Trek

I grew up visiting state parks throughout Georgia, North Carolina and South Carolina. They were my family’s escape from Florida summers to cooler temperatures and actual seasons. As a result, my brothers and sister and I cannot reflect on our childhood without recalling our park experiences. We were a “yours, mine and ours” family and those trips made us whole. Without them, I believe we might have retained more awareness of our differences instead of coming together as one family.

At Cherokee Creek Boys School, the families we serve need opportunities to become whole again. What better place than a state park…on a Cherokee Creek Family Trek…or a family vacation? With its particular orientation to family friendliness and its rich history with the Civilian Conservation Corps, Oconee State Park is special.

There is a story about a years-ago park manager at Oconee who decided to “update” the cabins by adding televisions. As the tale goes, when the park’s regional superintendant heard the news he ordered the televisions to be removed immediately stating that, “The day Oconee’s cabins have television, is the day we have failed to do our job.”

Today, if you stay at an Oconee State Park cabin, you will enjoy a working fire place, a screened in back porch complete with rocking chairs and even central air and heat. You will not have TV, WiFi, or a good cell phone signal. You will have time together for hiking, canoeing and other recreation, to make S’mores over an open fire  and stay up late telling family stories around the fireplace.

Your family may be non-traditional, single-parent, multi-generational, fractured or newly formed… but in that sacred, if sticky, “time together” place you will discover what is real and true about your family.  

PS…the next Family Trek is in May 2011

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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