Moonridge Academy News

August 13, 2018:  Moonridge Academy Announces Some Exciting Changes

After 10 incredible years as the Executive Director of Moonridge Academy, Tawny Thomas, LCSW will be passing the baton and transitioning into a new position with CERTS, who is the parent company of Moonridge and includes programs Kolob Canyon, La Europa Academy, Mosaic House and Mountain Springs Preparatory Academy. In late August 2018, Tawny becomes the CERTS Director of Business and Program Development.  Tawny will oversee marketing, relationship development and program support for all CERTS Programs.  While it was an extremely difficult decision to step back from her beloved programs and team, Tawny shared “I am looking forward to this new opportunity and to continue working with the fabulous team at Moonridge Academy.”

With Tawny's transition, Moonridge Academy is excited to welcome Jack Hinman, PsyD. as the new Executive Director.  He will be joining the Moonridge team in on August 20, 2018. Jack comes to Moonridge Academy teams with years of clinical and leadership experience, having helped grow and develop other exemplary girl's programs. Jack says "I am excited to join a great team that has a strong commitment and passion to helping young women and their families reach their potential.” Jack and his family live in Southern Utah. Jack is an avid cyclist and outdoors enthusiast.


Moonridge Academy is excited to announce Lacey Heinzelman, LPC, LMFT as their new Clinical Director. Lacey received her Master’s Degree from Abilene Christian University in Abilene, TX. Lacey comes to Moonridge Academy with variety of experiences working in both residential and wilderness settings.   Most recently Lacey was a lead clinician and trainer at New Visions Wilderness in Wisconsin. Prior to working at New Visions Wilderness, Lacey was a therapist at Explorations in Montana. Lacey has advanced training in Brainspotting, Trauma Center Trauma Sensitive Yoga, and HeartMath strategies. She is a trained family therapist, working with the entire family system to create long lasting change. Lacey has unique experiences working with young women in adventurous settings. This is essential at Moonridge Academy where the students are middle school age and are involved in weekly Adventure Therapy.   Lacey is also a creative therapist including art projects, play therapy and music in therapy sessions. She is a calming, steady presence as a therapist when working with younger girls in a fun and empowering way. For families, Lacy is a consistent support providing real solutions for families in need. Lacey knows the treatment industry inside and out, but even more importantly, she knows teenagers and how to help create some incredible change. In her off time, Lacey enjoys exploring and playing in the outdoors, reading, Packer football, and spending time with her family

“We're so excited about Lacey coming to Moonridge”, comments Executive Director Tawny Thomas.  “She's walking into an already amazing team of clinicians and there's no doubt she'll help make it even better!”




Laurie Barrett is celebrating 14 years working at Moonridge Academy! She has been with us since we opened our doors. Her dedication to the students at Moonridge is undeniable and amazing to see. She clearly brings a sense of loving support to the students she serves and the staff she works with. Her warm welcome to anyone who enters our doors whether they be student, parent or touring professional instantly makes Moonridge feel like home. This comment says it best, "Laurie is by far the most genuinely good person I have ever met. Her dedication to the youth and even the staff is absolutely amazing. Laurie is gentle, caring, and highly devoted to everyone at Moonridge. It's truly a blessing to have met her and to work with her. She's amazing!" Sami Tovar (Youth Mentor). Thank you Laurie for being a member of our team.



Our April adventure excursion was a total success!  We camped in one of our favorite places--Snow Canyon. Snow Canyon is a State Park located in the St. George area.  We spent 3 fun filled days camping, hiking, and exploring the lava tubes.  The weather was perfect with highs in the 80's and lows in the 60's!  The students enjoyed scampering on the rocks the most which was easy to do because they are everywhere.  Each of our adventure trips has a DBT theme.  For this trip the theme was Mindfulness.  Each day includes activites and group sessions concentrating on the theme.  



Math Teacher Nancy Ward was honored with an "Excellence In Service" Award at the Southwest Regional NATSAP (National Association of Therapeutic Schools and Programs) Conference held on March 6, 2018 in St. George, UT.  Nancy was among 10 candidates nominated for this award.  Nancy started working at Moonridge Academy in July 2016 soon after graduating from Southern Utah University.  Nancy continues to go far beyond her job description to meet Moonridge students at their learning level and engage them in her passion for math.  Nancy has found that if she connects wtih students outside of the classroom she has won the battle inside the classroom.  She does this as she builds a relationship with students through participation in adventure activities and therapy groups.  Nancy has cheered on students as they compete in local horseshows.  She has intereacted with students on monthly adventure excursions.  Recently Nancy was observed helping a student with her homework during a trip to Lake Powell.  Nancy is willing to come in early and stay late to help tutor a student who needs extra assistance.  Once a student sees that nancy uses her free time to have fun, connect or study with them, students show up ready to learn in class.  Often students come to Moonridge Academy disliking math.  They have often been unsucceful in math and this has caused increased anxiety as they enter the math classroom.  Due to Nancy's individualized approach to teaching and her ability to conncext with her students outside of classroom, student leave Moonridge feeling confident with (and often loving) math.  Test scores and quarterly student updates consistently prove her success. 

TJ Penrod!! There are simply not words to effectively express our appreciation for this amazing man!  He is a man of many hats who ironically likes to wear hats too.  Whether he is directing a play, performing at his Improv Comedy Club--Off the Cuff, adventuring with the students or teaching a class, TJ brings a sense of excitement and commitment.  He makes everyone around him feel important, cared about and safe.  He really listens.  He makes things fun!  Social Studies Class is interesting and never boring with TJ (comments all shared by his current students).  TJ recently celebrated his 11th year working at Moonridge.  He received a Excellence in Service Award for his years of dedicated service.  TJ has worked at Moonridge Academy as a Program Staff and Mentor.  He then became the Assistant Program Director.  In addition to those responsibilities he taught our staff about effective behavio maTnagement techniques and taught our students the love of Improv in Drama Class.  Recently he became our full-time Social Studies Teacher.  We feel so lucky that TJ has continued to make Moonridge Academy his work home.