Ironwood Maine Web Update

There is more in us than we know if we could be made to see it; perhaps, for the rest of our lives we will be unwilling to settle for less. – Kurt Hahn

The Frye Trail is dirt path that originates at the Frye Campus, meanders through the woods and up the hill to the Farmhouse. It not a long or strenuous hike, but for some, it seems like an impossible task. It only takes a few minutes to walk up the trail, but for each student, it feels like they are finally reaching the summit of an unreachable mountain. The feeling of pride and accomplishment for these students as they arrive to the farmhouse, begin shaking hands of their new housemates, taking in the expansive view, and processing how far they’ve come, is overwhelming.

This week, two students presented to our Treatment Team their individual progress and achievements thus far in the program. This presentation is the last task for our level two students before leaving the Frye campus and transitioning to level 3 and the Farmhouse. They each gave speeches of where they were at the beginning of the program, challenges they’ve learned to overcome, and future aspirations of continued success in the weeks ahead. Later in the day, there is a ceremonious sendoff of the student. Campuses gather on each end of the trail, congratulating and welcoming respectively.

The congratulatory sendoff from Frye is a wake-up call, and a reminder that the impossible can be achieved for each of our residents. It can start with the small things like eating tomatoes or doing pushups, or sharing thoughts to family members in letters home. I spoke with several residents this week who havebecome excited about waking up in the morning to go for runswhen before Ironwood, this would have never been a desired activity. They have become aware that engaging in exercise makes them feel better throughout the entire day!

Encouragement and constructive criticism allow the development of confidence with bigger task like taking care of animals. Upon arrival, the multitude of chores and responsibilities seem to be never-ending for our students. It is a barrage of expectations and checklist to cover throughout the day.  After a short time, each student becomes more comfortable and confident in their efficacy. Recently, a few students saved the life of a mini horse! During chores and grooming, the students noticed a small detailed difference with one of the horses. This observation sparked for investigation and revealed the horse had colic, but the quick recognition saved lots of trouble for the beautiful equine.

One of the biggest areas achievements for our students relates to academics. Nearly all residents come in to the program struggling for success in a traditional academic setting. The separation of distraction and individualized courses are helpful, but I feel as though the growing feeling of accomplishment and pride is what contributes most to the drive of our students. This week I have been inundated with excited acknowledgments from students. “I completed Spanish!”, “I have accepted that I have to learn algebra…” “I was accepted into my next school after my Ironwood graduation!”

For our students, each challenge is comparable to Everest internally. A far away peak that is unattainable. However, with daily encouragement, a safe space to fail, and one step at a time, they eventually realize they are capable…perhaps of anything they are willing to work for.  Have a great weekend and be well!

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