Shortridge Academy, a private co-ed therapeutic boarding school in Milton, New Hampshire, recently announced a unique enrichment program being offered to its students.
As part of a community outreach effort, the school has partnered with Granite State Adaptive Sports, a non-profit organization that provides a variety of physical activities for people with disabilities.
In the program, a select group of students from the school are given an opportunity to work with Granite State’s clients, coaching and guiding them in various sports.
Granite State works with people from age three and up who have physical, cognitive or emotional disabilities as well as those who are visually or hearing impaired. The program offers sessions in adaptive skiing, therapeutic riding, and bike riding.
Students from the school work with Granite State participants, guiding the horses, leading bike tours or teaching simple maneuvers on the snow.
It is a chance, said Mik Oyler, chief operating officer at Shortridge, for the students to give back to the community and to expand their own self-confidence and interpersonal skills.
“On the spectrum of kids, our kids probably have the softest profile,” said Oyler. “These are the kids who tend to be anxious or depressed. These are not the bullies; they are the ones who were bullied. These are the ones who cope by being withdrawn. They tend to be engaged in the treatment and motivated to change.”
The school works to provide a more open campus for their students as a step away from full treatment programs and towards a typical residential school.
“In many cases, these are kids who are coming from other programs, from treatment or wilderness programs,” said Oyler. “We try to bring them some balance between the academic and therapeutic so they don’t feel like they are stuck in treatment forever. We are able to do some amazing programs with them, surfing in the summer, off campus trips, mountain biking, visits to museums or comic book stores.”
In the first winter session last year, the school administrators chose several students to help with the adaptive ski program.
“We were very selective on our end as to who was ready,” said Oyler. “It was looked at as a privilege. The students who did it last year were really committed and almost protective of the program. It generally takes two or three students to champion a new program in order for it to build.”
Administrators at the school found it gratifying to see their students open up to the Granite State clients.
“We have a video on our Facebook page of one of our kids on the snow with a boy with Down’s Syndrome,” he added. “He had a phenomenal time snowboarding and our kid worked with him to make it a fun event on the snow. He approached it with a fun and loving attitude.”
Over the summer, students joined Granite State for bike riding and equine therapy. At this point, the staff at Shortridge are looking forward to getting back out on the slopes again with a new group of students.
By Catherine Robertson Souter