July 2022:  A Letter From Our Executive Director, Wendy Penrod                                                                                                   

Everyone might agree that the world feels a little different post covid shutdowns. Maybe people are feeling the impact of being so disconnected for such a long time, maybe we're emotionally tired from carrying around so much stress and caution for so long.  Certainly, almost every segment of our society is seeing increased rates of anxiety and depression, whether it's in schools, workplaces, in our teens, and even at home. And nowhere do we see it more than in online forums.  

While we are so lucky to continually hear from past Moonridge students about the happiness and awesome lives they are now living, recently we've also seen an uptick in negative online reviews about our program. 

We invite all families considering Moonridge to please take us up on our ever-present offer to speak to current and past parents at Moonridge, and get a reliable reporting on who we are and what’s it’s like at our school.  We ask our families to share openly with others, the positives and negatives, and help other parents who are engaged in the same anxiety-laden search they once were.  We can provide multiple parent contacts for you to speak with.  

We are aware that some of our online reviews appear very concerning.  Our biggest sadness is that most of those reviews aren’t even true, but they also aren’t from past students or parents, but are anonymous people who frequent the sites of many programs, leaving as scathing of accusations as possible.  And many students and parents who have posted positive reviews on Moonridge’s behalf have been attacked and ridiculed to the point that they’ve deleted their reviews to protect themselves and their privacy.  And Google does not allow us to intervene to have reviews verified or removed, and of course we will never publicly respond to anything that even alludes to a person's personal and confidential information, even if it’s erroneous.

This has been disheartening at times, given that anyone who works at Moonridge does so to truly try and help teens and families. And we do not allow, condone or hide abusive behaviors.  So to occasionally hear that some prior students did not appreciate the help, or worse yet - claim that it was intentionally harmful can be so sad to the helper's heart. Being away from home is hard and healing is painful, no matter what. So it’s understandable that some students might later look back and question their parents' efforts to help them. We guard the employment gates carefully to make sure the care and treatment at Moonridge is compassionate, ethical, and transparent, but we also know we can't control how a person opts to experience it or reflect back on it.  

And it’s also important to reflect that at Moonridge, we are strongly dedicated to teaching teens to hear feedback - no matter how uncomfortable -  to try to remove defensiveness, and evaluate it to see if there is anything in it that we can use to improve. Just as no teen or parent is ever perfect, the goal is for improvement, not perfection and improvement only comes by having an open mind and heart and a willingness to shift where needed.

So we have been (and continue to be) open to inviting and evaluating online reviews about our program, and we take them into our Management and Team Meetings with an open-hearted question to ourselves: "Is this true?  Even if it isn't, could it have been experienced as true?  Is there something for us to look at here? And, what can we do with this?"

As a result, we've made intentional shifts in certain areas, departments, and approaches at Moonridge, based solely on hearing and considering the feedback of our current and prior students. And we will continue to do so. We want to continue and amplify the things our past students have loved and appreciated about Moonridge, and also see what we can do to improve the parts they didn't. Some of our recent shifts:

  • Dress code changes at Moonridge. The intention of our dress code is to reinforce inclusive acceptance of all body shapes, body sizes, gender expression, and individual self-expression. This disengages staff and students from most pointless power struggles about clothing choices and allows even more self-expression and power of choice for our students.  We were relieved to move forward and not stick to outdated uniform/dress code practices just because "that's how we've always done it".
  • We've changed policies on safety precautions, on body and clothing searches for all students.  While safety is still paramount for all our students, we know that safety checks (even conducted appropriately) can feel invasive.  We saw that we could be more individualized in who may sometimes need these protective interventions based on history and current risk factors, and who this is not an issue for.  
  • Students have more autonomy with food and food portions. We don't need to intervene as drastically unless there is an identified eating disorder or the student is asking for help with this.
  • We invite students and parents to give us immediate feedback DURING treatment as well, so we can shift as needed or at least try to understand the reasoning for different rules or practices.
  • We have reviewed and adjusted our policies with phone calls, video chats, letter writing, and contact with home.
  • We give any prospective or enrolling family access to other families, current and past, who can help answer anxieties, explain "how things work at Moonridge" and share their own experiences and helpful advice.  We want our families to not have to solely trust us, but to also connect with other families on similar journeys.  

We are committed to continually improving at Moonridge.  So while we may not be able to control the accuracy of some of our online reviews, we stand behind the work we do and care we provide and offer an open campus and relationship of trust and transparency.

We are closely monitored by the State of Utah Health and Human Services and we are JCAHO Accredited, meaning Moonridge conducts treatment at the highest level of treatment compliance and efficacy.  And we have been, and remain, in good standing with both of those entities.  And most importantly, we are an open campus, always happy to be in communication and have parents visiting, observing and being a part of our everyday activities and programming.

We hope you will accept our invitation to speak personally and privately with our Moonridge parents as you decide what this little school in Southern Utah is all about.

Wendy Penrod 

June 2022:  Executive Director, Wendy Penrod Shares What Makes Moonridge Academy So Special                        

What makes Moonridge Academy so special?  Well...so many things do.  Our Executive Director, Wendy Penrod took some time to share her thoughts about the students, the program and the team at Moonridge Academy.  Take a few minutes to check out what Wendy has to share.

May 2022:  Art Therapy--Another Clinical Modality at Moonridge                                                                                     

The Clinical Team at Moonridge Academy provides many different clinical modalities to meet the needs of our students.  We feel it is important to meet a student where they are at.  One student might respond well to Equine Therapy, while another responds well to Sand Tray Therapy, while another student responds well to a trauma focused therapy such as Brainspotting.  Art Therapy is one of the modalities that we provide at Moonridge Academy.  One of our therapists, Kirstin Petela is a Board Certified Art Therapist.  She runs an art therapy group each week.  Experiential therapies such as art therapy helps our younger teens in ways that traditional talk therapy does not.   Our students have recently been working on a mask activity as part of this art therapy group.  With this activity, students decorate the outside of a mask to show what face they show the world and decorate the inside of the mask to show what they feel inside.  Often those two things are very different.  The goal of this activity is to help our students come to terms with the difference and process how to reconcile this.  


April 2022:  Moonridge Academy Provides Caring Treatment                                                                                         

 The team at Moonridge Academy includes many dedicated individuals including therapists, teachers, mentors and others.  Each of these individuals who are dedicated to our students.  They care deeply for each of our students and provide caring treatment every day. 

March 2022:  Moonridge Announces New Admissions Director, Gabby Ramirez                                                             

We keep growing and changing to improve our program to meet the needs of our students and their families.  And with Wendy Penrod's recent promotion to Executive Director, we also promoted one of our most amazing and dedicated mentors, Gabby Ramirez to the role of Admissions Director. Gabby has been working at Moonridge Academy for the past few years as a mentor, an advocate and a shift lead.  From a young age, Gabby knew she wanted to help the nation’s youth and dedicated her early adulthood to finding her calling.  Being a part of the students journey at Moonridge has been greatly rewarding. Gabby was born and raised in Southern California where she enjoyed the many different landscapes it had to offer.  She and her husband made the decision to move to Utah and their lives have only enriched since then. Gabby fell in love with Utah’s nature and the opportunities to help teens.

Five fun facts about Gabby:

She's married, and has two kids and two dogs. 

She once flew over the Grand Canyon in a tiny airplane; it was terrifying and awesome. 

She enjoys reading to have some quiet time. 

She makes custom t-shirts for fun!

She loves going to pumpkin patches in the fall. 

February 2022:  Moonridge Welcomes New Members To Our Team                                                                                        

Moonridge Academy is excited to welcome two new members to our team.  We are always excited when we get new team members.  They bring their excitement and energy which builds us into a stronger unit.

Hannah Hawkins joined our clinical team in January.  Hannah's fun and enthusiastic personality is contagious.  Hannah received her MS in Clinical Mental Health Counseling from Southeastern Louisiana University in 2020. Originally from Louisiana, Hannah has experience in clinical, residential, and adventure based settings with foundations in mindfulness, person-centered, and family-centered approaches. When she is not working, Hannah enjoys exploring nature by backpacking, hiking, and camping, though her favorite place is on the water in a kayak or canoe! Most importantly, Hannah is beyond excited to work at Moonridge and start her career in helping children and their families. 

Nedra Davis joins our academic faculty as a math and science teacher.  Nedra was excited to find Moonridge Academy’s opening for a Science and Mathematics teacher. Having served as an Assistant Professor / Associate Professor, Teacher, Lecturer, and Science Teacher and having earned a Bachelor of Science in Occupational Education, a Master of Science in Health Education, and a PhD in Science Education, Nedra was accustomed to the rigors of fast-paced, highly-regulated environments requiring sharp attention to detail, and outstanding communication skills. 

Nedra feels that she brings the following strengths to the Moonridge Academy team--A proven track record of excellence in motivating and encouraging students to reach their educational goals; the possession of a high level of experience in developing and implementing course curricula; Value--added communication, presentation, and interpersonal skills.  And she loves to make learning fun.

Most importantly, Nedra has raised four daughters by herself (and survived)! She understand the challenges our students face and also many of those that their parent face.  Nedra's motto is--We can do this! 

January 2022:  Moonridge Academy Earns Joint Commission Accreditation                                                              

Moonridge Academy is thrilled to announce that we have recently earned accreditation from the Joint Commission. This national accreditation demonstrates that our clinical programs emphasize a consistent approach to care.  It also indicates that we provide a culture of safety and integrity to our students and staff.  Moonridge Academy is eager to continue the processes we have put in place to meet the high standards set by the Joint Commission.  We look forward to a relationship with the Joint Commission in the years to come as we provide excellent services to students and their families.  All of the CERTS RTC Programs including Moonridge Academy have earned The Joint Commission’s Gold Seal of Approval® Behavioral Accreditation. We have done this by demonstrating continuous and rigorous compliance with the Joint Commission's performance standards. The Gold Seal is a symbol of quality that reflects our commitment to providing safe and quality care to our students and their families. This high level of accreditation demonstrates our dedication to meet our goal of providing programs that provide the highest level of care to meet the needs of our students and their families.

December 2021:  Announcing Our New Executive Director and Anne Sullivan Award Winner                  

Moonridge Academy is excited to announce Wendy Penrod as our new Executive Director!  Wendy has been at Moonridge Academy since 2019 working as our Admissions Director.  Years ago Wendy also worked at Moonridge Academy as a mentor.  She then worked for the state of Utah for many years in Youth Justice.  We were thrilled when she finally returned (we really had been asking repeatedly for her return).  When Jack Hinman announced that he was moving on to a new adventure and realizing his dream of opening a young adult program, Wendy was the obvious choice to take his place.  Jack had big shoes to fill and we knew Wendy could fill them.  Wendy brings a deep love of Moonridge Academy to her new position.  She is an excellent listener and communicator.  These skills are so important as a leader of our team.  She has a positive attitude and is great problem solver.  She is dedicated to our students and their families.  When you think of the Moonridge motto--being ALL in every day, for every student--you immediately think of Wendy.  

Each year Moonridge Academy presents the Anne Sullivan Award to an employee who exemplifies the essence of true dedication and committment to our students.  This year, the recipient is Lacey Heinzelman, our amazing Clinical Director.  Lacey consistently goes above and beyond for our students.  She is the steady in any storm and the first one to do something silly to bring a smile.  While she leads our clinicl team, Lacey is also committed to teaching and training our mentoring staff.  Thank you Lacey for all that you do and for everything that you are.  Lacey is also ALL in every day, for every student.  

October 2021:  Area Visits--The Best Places To Explore In Southern Utah With Your Family                                 

Visits from family are very important to the students at Moonridge Academy.  Being away from home can be hard.  We highly encourage visits as an essential part of the therapeutic process.  They are the best way to connect, build trust with each other and practice new skills.  Students and their families look forward to visits in the area first.  These visits then lead to many home visits as a student progress through the program.  With the holidays coming up many students will be having area visits with their families. Other students will be going on home visits.  When parents are planning visits, we often get lots of questions about our recommendations for fun things to do, places to stay, or places to eat around Southern Utah that are family friendly and worth visiting.  Kara Poole, one of our amazing primary therapists decided to provide a webinar to help parents planning an area visit with their student.  In this webinar she highlights some of the awesome places to explore in Southern Utah.  The webinar was so well received, we felt it would be helpful to post the webinar in our monthly newsletter to assist parents as they plan for upcoming holiday visits.  

August 2021:  Moonridge Academy Responds to Negativity about the treatment industry                               

We think everyone would agree that the world feels a little different post covid.  Maybe people are feeling the impact of being so disconnected for such a long time, maybe we're emotionally tired from carrying around so much stress and caution for so long. Certainly most every segment of our society is seeing increased rates of anxiety and depression, whether it's in the schools, workplaces, and even at home. And nowhere do we see it more than in online forums. 

While we are so lucky to continually hear from past students about the happiness and awesome lives they are now living, recently we've also seen an increase in negative online reviews about Moonridge. We are also seeing and hearing about the recent increase in negative reviews from our colleagues that work at other schools and programs across the country. We acknowledge that and how scary that can be as a parent, student and even for our employees. This has been disheartening at times, given that everyone who works at Moonridge does so to truly try and help others, and to be a positive contributor to the lives of teens who are all working on challenging issues. So to occasionally hear that some prior students did not appreciate the help or worse yet, claim that it was intentionally harmful, is heartbreaking.

Reports have been made that students and families who have had a positive experience have chosen not to share their experiences on certain social media forums out of fear of retaliation. Often previous students and parents post positive comments that are quickly attacked or their comments are removed.  

There is also a typical and a healthy response to mental health treatment which is the desire to move on to the next chapter of your life. We often experience that students and families want to focus on the next steps of their lives and not focus on their previous treatment. Therefore, their positive experiences are not always reflected in online reviews. 

Being away from home is hard and healing is painful, no matter what. It makes sense that some students might look back and denounce the efforts to help them. We carefully make sure the care and treatment at Moonridge is compassionate, ethical and transparent, but we also know we can't control how a person opts to experience it or reflect back on it. Mental health is a tricky science. Mental health professionals and programs can create a structure and opportunities for people to heal. Still, it is in the student’s control how they use that structure and opportunities and how they sustain what they learn in therapy throughout their lives.

We are a group of professionals, many of whom have licenses and educational backgrounds that have taught us to recognize the signs of abuse, neglect, and trauma. We would never knowingly let our students, who are here to heal, experience those things at our hands. We are here to heal, not harm. Moonridge comprises many wonderful people who have dedicated their careers to helping our students and their families. People who grow with us, learn with us, and lead with us to create an environment where families can learn, heal, grow, and connect.

We are strongly dedicated to hearing feedback, to try to remove defensiveness, and evaluate it to see if there is anything in it that we can use to improve. Improvement only comes by having an open mind and heart and a willingness to shift where needed. We have been (and continue to be) open to inviting and evaluating feedback about our school, and we review them in our Directors and Team Meetings with an open hearted question to ourselves: "Is this true?  Even if it isn't, could it have been experienced as true?  Is there something for us to look at here? And, what can we do with this?" From feedback we are continually making intentional shifts in different departments and approaches at Moonridge. We want to continue to amplify the things our past students have loved and appreciated about Moonridge, and also see what we can do to improve the parts they didn't.  

July 2021:  Upgrading our Adventure Equipment                                                                                                     

Each month our students participate in a 3-day adventure trip.  These trips and the outdoor adventure experiences that they provide are an essential part of the Moonridge Academy experience.  Students, therapists, and mentor staff look forward each month to camping, hiking, exploring, kayaking, skiing and so much more.  Our therapists will tell you that some of the best therapeutic interactions happen when they are adventuring with their students.  Recently we decided to make some changes to upgrade the camping equipment.  We purchased individual tents for our students in an effort to improve their camping experience and provide them with privacy for sleeping and dressing.  With the addition of these new tents, came a learning curve for our students.  Prior to our river rafting trip this month, our students practiced setting up and taking down their individual tents on the lawn.  After a few practice sessions, the old saying, "practice makes perfect" really seemed to apply in this situation as our students successfully learned how to put up their tents without much assistance.  They were ready to go!  We look forward to making many memories with our new tents.   

June 2021:  Exciting Changes at the CERTS Programs                                                                                                              

Moonridge Academy is part of the CERTS Programs.  The other schools in the CERTS Group include Kolob Canyon, La Europa Academy and Mountain Springs Preparatory Academy.  The CERTS Group leadership is shifting in ways that will only make it more effective in helping with our students, including those students at Moonridge Academy in their healing journeys.  

Majority Owner, Kent Tasso founded CERTS in 2002, opening Kolob Canyon Residential, and slowly adding Mountain Springs Preparatory Academy, Moonridge Academy and La Europa Academy over the next few years.  We have built small, sincere, effective and loving programs with intensive therapy and top level programming provided by the best in the field!  To improve the operations of the CERTS Group, Kent has promoted Tawny Thomas to the role of CERTS Chief Operating Officer.  Tawny joined CERTS in 2008 as Executive Director of Kolob Canyon and Moonridge Academy and more recently has served as CERTS Outreach and Program Development.  As COO, she will continue to support the leadership of our programs and take a more primary role in ensuring we are providing the best care to our clients at each program.  As Tawny takes over the day to day program oversight, Kent will still stay involved in CERTS, and particularly in manning the CERTS Foundation, our nonprofit fundraising organization that provides needed scholarships to families. 

With Tawny's stepping in as COO, there's another exciting announcement! Kris Archer has joined our team as the CERTS Marketing and Outreach Director.  Kris has been a light and force for good in so many ways within the treatment community - and we're so happy to have her hitting the road, educating others and sharing the good work happening at Kolob, Moonridge, La Europa, and Mountain Springs!  


May 2021:  Parent Seminar and Cathedral Gorge                                                                                                                        

We always love having our parents with us.  May 6th-May 8th we were more than excited to host our parents during our spring Parent Seminar.  Our spring parent seminar is always special because we hold it at Zion National Park.  This beautiful location allows our students to experience adventure activities with their parents.  Many of our students have gained skills in the areas of hiking, climbing and pushing themselves to new heights.  It is fun for them to share this new found love with their parents.  Parents were also able to participate in parent support groups, classes and in-person family therapy with their students.  Parental involvement in the treatment process is so integral to a student's progress.  

Later in the month, we loved adventuring at Cathedral Gorge State Park in Nevada.  This was such a beautiful and intriguing landscape--so many slot canyons to explore and rocks to climb.  This was only the second time we have visited this unique park and honestly, we can't wait to go back.  Adventuring is such an important aspect of our program at Moonridge Academy because as we do hard things with our peers, our mentors and our therapists, we also gain new skills that help us in day to day life.  Each adventure trip is coupled with learning a new DBT Skill with opportunities given for students to practice that skill.  There is just nothing like learning something first hand.  


April 2021:  Adventure Trip to Moab and Arches National Park                                                                                          

Ok we admit it....there are just some places we love to adventure in a bit more than others.  Moab is one such place.  Who can resist the unique beauty of Arches National Park which literally has 2,000 arches?  We certainly can't.  In April we were excited to spend 3 days in the Moab area.  We explored, hiked, and enjoyed camping along the Colorado River.  Our students enjoyed discovering the unique of Double O Arch and many offerings of the Window Arches.  They also loved scampering and exploring cool nooks and crannies found in the rock formations on the way.  And along with all of the fun, some great therapeutic work happened as well.  That is what adventure therapy is all about--doing hard things while also having some fun.  Our therapists will tell you that some of the best experiences they have with their students is during Adventure Therapy opportunities.  This is why we continue to provide as many adventure outdoor experiences that we can at Moonridge Academy.  


March 2021:  Kitchen Remodel is Completed!!!                                                                                                                               

Moonridge Academy is excited to unveil our newly remodeled kitchen!  This project has been much anticipated.  While we always loved our farmhouse kitchen, we also knew we needed more room to better meet the needs of our students. We added more counter space to prepare and serve food.  The extra counter space improves the flow of the kitchen making it easier to cook and do dishes.  We also expanded the pantry and made it easier for staff to access through a new entryway.  The expansion allowed us to move a large industrial fridge into the pantry, opening up space for additonal ovens and a cooking stove surface.  The expansion extended into the large family room where we included large tables for students to eat together.  We feel that eating together is important as it allows students to chat and interact with their peers during mealtimes.  The large tables also allow our students an excellent place to do homework, play games and complete arts and craft projects.  We also love the new gathering area in the kitchen with two comfy chairs where students can chat, read a book or just hang out.  With our top of the line appliances, stylish new cupboards, counter tops, flooring and backsplash our kitchen is exactly what we dreamed of.  Our students, staff and especially our cook couldn't be more excited.  


February 2021:  Moonridge Academy Celebrates 18 Years                                                                                                                    

Sometimes you just need something to cheer about!  We are excited for this chance to celebrate 18 incredible years of service. Moonridge Academy welcomed their first student in February 2003.  In the years since, we have seen so many amazing students find joy in their journey as they have matured, healed, gained skills, and accomplished hard things at Moonridge.  We have loved watching students hike higher than ever before, connect with horses, and learn more about themselves than they thought possible through tough clinical work.  We couldn't be more proud of them.  We feel so honored to work with you as we come together as a team supporting students and their families. 

 Click here to watch a short video of our staff sharing some of their favorite things about working at Moonridge Academy

Click here to watch a short video of our 2020 adventures 

January 2021:  Covid-19 Updates                                                                                                                                                                        

“We are in this together--And we will get through this together"

 - Antonio Guterros
 Secretary-General of the United Nations

Moonridge Academy is excited to announce that we have started the process of Covid-19 vaccination!  Most of our clinical and academic team members have received the first of two vaccinations.  Our mentoring staff has also been able to start with vaccinations as well.  This process will continue in a few weeks when many staff will receive their second vaccination.  We feel so fortunate that the state of Utah has considered our staff to be essential workers who have a higher priority to receive the vaccine.  We are happy to be contributing to a healthy, safe and hopefully more "normal" 2021.   

In the meantime, we will continue with the Covid-19 guidelines that we have successfully had in place at our programs throughout the pandemic:

  • All students are encouraged to wear masks in the classrooms and when not in their bedrooms.  All employees are required to wear masks.
  • Social distancing is always encouraged. 
  • Frequent handwashing and disinfecting surfaces is just a way of life now.
  • Newly admitting students are tested for Covid-19.
  • Symptomatic and positive Covid-19 students are immediately quarantined as per CDC guidelines.
  • Frequent tests are administered on all students and employees whenever we have encountered a positive case to quickly reduce further spread.
  • If an employee tests positive, they immediately quarantine at home for the recommended 10-14 days before being cleared to return to work.
  • Students have been able to seamlessly continue with their schooling and therapy through online platforms, even when in quarantine. 
  • Our off-campus activity options are always being adjusted as necessary, as dictated by local levels of outbreak and CDC recommendations.  We have been able to continue with many of our adventure and recreation activities.  
  • Parent visits and home visits have enhanced testing and quarantining requirements to help increase the safety of everyone.  

None of us could have ever predicted the curve balls of Covid-19.  We are excited for a healthier 2021!   

December 2020:  Eddie Calamity is the Anne Sullivan Award Recipient for 2020                                                          

Each year Moonridge Academy honors one of it's dedicated staff with the Anne Sullivan Award.  Anne Sullivan Macy was an American teacher best known for being the instructor and lifelong companion of Helen Keller. At the age of five, Sullivan contracted trachoma, an eye disease, which left her partially blind and without reading or writing skills. This year Eddie Calamity was honored with the Anne Sullivan Award.  Eddie is such a talented leader on our campus.  His fellow staff look up to him with respect often following his direction and example.  Eddie is the true definition of calm.  Students and staff alike routinely turn to Eddie for advice, validation, support and understanding.  Eddie helps our students both in challenging times and also at times of great fun.  We feel so grateful that Eddie is part of our team.  Thank you Eddie!  We love you!


November 2020:  Honoring Veterans With a Visit from retired Air Force 2 Star General Kathy Thomas 

In honor of Veterans Day, retired Air Force 2-Star General Kathy Thomas, Vietnam Veteran and the first female general officer in the Air Force Space Command traveled to Cedar City and spoke to our Moonridge Academy students. General Thomas shared with the students her stories of serving throughout the world, aiding in diplomacy missions, mobilizing troops following the 9/11 attacks, and - in her opinion, most importantly - helping change the rules and removing the obstacles for women in the armed forces.  General Thomas shared funny stories about having to wear skirts in negative 75 degree weather on base in Minot, North Dakota, and how she helped convince the Air Force of the folly of that gender-based rule.  She shared touching stories of supporting struggling troops, and how leadership is not in the speeches you make, or the ribbons on your lapel, but in the moments of service and true connection you give to others.  The students were enthralled with how many places she has been to, and served in the world, as well as how many Presidents of the United States she had personally met.   

General Thomas focused on the 3 Core Values of the Air Force:
1) Excellence in Everything You Do
2) Service to Others
3) Integrity, Always Be Honest

She shared how these values will lead to a successful, happy life, regardless of being in the military or not.  General Thomas now spends her retirement in Southern Utah, mentoring teens and young adults pursuing higher education and/or military service.  We are grateful to have had General Thomas share her life service with us. 

October 2020:  Adventure Trip to Coral Pink Sand Dunes                                                                                                                   

Each month (with the exception of November and December) we love our 3-day trips.  These adventures are a big part of Moonridge Academy.  There is just something special about getting away from campus, exploring new places, participating in outdoor activities and spending time with students and therapists.  Our therapists often say that they are able to connect more deeply and do some effective therapeutic work when they are participating in an adventure activity with their students. It is also productive for our students to see their mentors and therapists doing hard things or fun things right along with them.  Usually our adventure trips including camping.  For our last trip of 2020, we splurged and rented an amazing cabin east of Zion National Park.  This cabin really blew us all away!  The students especially loved the large home theater room.  Prior to the trip, TJ Penrod, our Program Director put together a video of all of our adventure trips and Wednesday activities.  It was so much fun to remember all of the things we have done this year.  It was also made us nostalgic for friends who have graduated.  So many of the students commented on how much they have changed in their time at Moonridge Academy. 

This biggest highlight of this trip was the time we spent at the Coral Pink Sand Dunes.  These beautiful sand dunes (which are literally coral pink in color) have always been a favorite spot for the students at Moonridge Academy.  There aren't too many places where you can sled down sand dunes just like you might sled down a snow hill.  The students soon learned that it takes a bit of work to walk up the sand dunes, but it such a thrill to sled down them.  It was too hard to resist a race or two.  Students also enjoyed burying each other in the sand.  

We feel so much gratitude for our dedicated staff who plan and organize our monthly trips.  We loved what 2020 brought our way and can't wait to see what 2021 has to offer!  


September 2020:  Carrying On With Covid-19                                                                                                                                                 

By this time there are probably very few treatment programs that haven’t been directly touched by Covid-19, whether in students or employees.  And it’s a situation we’ve all had to quickly learn to prevent, address, respond to, and manage.  Moonridge Academy has thus far not had any students who have tested positive for Covid-19.  The collaboration and support between NATSAP programs has been inspiring as everyone is navigating this together. 

Here is what we have learned and what we've done...
  1. Employee temperatures are taken each day as they arrive at work.  Any employee with a temperature over 100 degrees is asked to go home.  Employees also fill out a questionnaire regarding symptoms before starting work each day.  
  2. All students are requried to wear masks especially during school hours.  All employees are required to wear masks.
  3. Social distancing is always encouraged.      
  4. Frequent handwashing and disinfecting surfaces is just a way of life now.
  5. If we do have any students with symptoms or if a student does test postive for Covid, they will be immediately quarantined.  
  6. We have an off-campus quarantine home for use if a student is having symptoms or tests positive for Covid.  
  7. If an employee tests positive, they immediately quarantine at home for the recommended 10-14 days before being cleared to return to work.  If they have tested positive for covid, employees must have a negative Covid test prior to returning to work.
  8. We are providing testing to our employees when they have concerns about symptoms or if they feel they have been exposed to Covid-19.  
  9. Student have been able to seamlessly continue with their schooling and therapy.  
  10. Our off-campus activity options are always being adjusted as necessary, as dictated by local levels of outbreak and CDC recommendations.  We have been able to continue participation in our Adventure Therapy Wednesday activities and monthly trips.  
  11. All new students enrolling, must be tested and have a negative test result before admitting and joining the other students on campus.  
  12. We continue to restrict tours on our campus.  
  13. Parent visits and home visits have enhanced testing and quarantining requirements to help increase the safety of everyone.  All students returning from a home visit or off-campus visit are tested and remain in quarantine with their parents or in our quarantine house until they receive a negative test result.
  14. We are coordinating the times of home visits and parent visits to ensure that testing can occur with results obtained in a reasonable amount of time.
  15. We are using a private lab in St. George for all of our testing.  This has helped make this process so much easier with results obtained in 24-36 hours in most instances.     

And With All of This....

Moonridge Academy has been able to continue safely enrolling new students, and we have had overwhelmingly positive feedback from our parents on our handing and communication with the pandemic.  None of us could have ever predicted the curve balls of 2020, but we're pretty proud of how it's going!   

August 2020:  Tropic Reservoir/Kings Creek Adventure Trip                                                                                                             

This month our regular adventure excursion took us to a new location.  We have been to Bryce Canyon many times, but we have never spent time at Tropic Reservoir that is located close by.  With the temperatures being quite warm in Cedar City, we loved the cooler weather that being higher in elevation provided.  The students loved paddle boarding and hiking in this beautiful location.  The campground at Kings Creek was also enjoyable.  Students enjoyed the campfire, making s'mores and putting on skits for each.  other.  Many of the skits focused on out DBT Theme for the trip.  It was a successful adventure!  Our adventure program is such an important part of Moonridge Academy.  We believe that the more a student plays, explores, builds mastery, connects with nature and others - the more open they will be to making those adjustments towards a healthier, more balanced life. It is all about living a life worth living...


July 2020:  How Our Parents Feel We Are Handling Covid-19                                                                                                          

The safety of our students, their families and our staff is of upmost importance to us at Moonridge Academy.  In March we quickly put into place Covid-19 guidelines and protocols.  Over the past months, these guidelines and protocols have changed as needs arose or circumstance changed.  We routinely communicate with our parents to ensure that they are part of this process. Our staff are closely monitored when they arrive on campus.  Temperatures are taken and staff fill out a questionnaire about any symptoms before they start working each day.  Clinicians and teachers wear masks in the classroom and meetings.  Initially we cancelled off campus and home visits.  This was very difficult for our students and their parents. We have since reinstituted visits in the area as well as home visits for some of our students.  We follow strict protocols following a visit ensuring that students are tested for Covid-19 and then remain in quarantine until they receive a negative test result.  New students are also tested prior to admission and are quarantined until they receive a negative test result.  With these protocols we have been able to keep our students and staff safe and healthy. 

Recently Executive Director, Jack Hinman sent our parents a survey to see how they feel we are handling Covid-19.  We were pleased with the results.  We now know what we have done well and what we need to improve.  A sample of some of the questions asked included:

Is the program meeting your expectations related to parent to program communication? 
Answers/Choices Responses
Very Good  9
Good 11
Fair  1


Is the program meeting your expectations with parent to child contact during this pandemic? 
Answers/Choices Responses
Very Good 13
Good  5
Fair  2
How much do you support the programs current COVID-19 visit protocols? 
Answers/Choices Responses
Kolob has a good balance of health/safety while supporting parent contact 19
Kolob should do more to increase the safety of students and parents  0
Kolob's protocols are excessive  1


Since the pandemic do you believe your child is having a closer to a normalized experience/childhood being in treatment compared to their peers that are at home? 
Answers/Choices Responses
Yes 15
No   4
Unsure  2


Due to the pandemic, do you believe your child is having a normalized academic experience compared to peers? 
Answers/Choices Responses
Yes 20
No   0
Unsure  1



June 2020:  Adventure Trip to Escalante State Park and Grand Staircase                                                                                   

June's Adventure Trip took us to a place we don't go very often and after spending 3 days there, we can't wait to go back soon!  Escalanta State Park and the Escalanta Grand Staircase National Monument are filled with beautiful vistas, amazing hikes and petrified forests.  It seems other worldly at times.  Our students, therapists and teachers enjoyed a hike to Calf Creek Falls. This beautiful waterfall feels like an oasis in the desert.  It was the highlight of the trip for everyone.  Once at the hike, the students loved swimming and playing in the water.   Our monthly 3-day adventure trips allow our therapists a chance to work with their students in a different kind of setting each month.  Therapist and students do hard things together and this most often leads to important discussions and experiences that can then be brought back to the office during more traditional therapy sessions.  We love adventure at Moonridge Academy!




May 2020: Teacher Appreciation Week                                                                                                                                                 

We have an amazing faculty at Moonridge Academy.  They are a dedicated group of teachers who follow our motto of "we are all in, every one of us, every day, for every student".  Our teachers generally arrive early each school day to help our students one-on-one with assignments they do not understand or when they need extra attention.  Our teachers individualize their teaching approach to meet the specific needs of each student.  They also take the time to develop relationships with the students so that our students know that their teachers care about them inside and outside of the classroom.  This month we celebrated Teacher Appreciation Week.  Not only did our teachers each receive a special gift from our administration, teachers also received letters of thanks from the students.  Led by Susan Mackert, our impressive faculty includes Math teacher Nancy Ward; English teacher Rev McLean; Science teacher, Bailey Holt and Social Studies teacher, Ali Cecil.  To each of you, thank you so much!  




April 2020:  Parent Support During Covid-19                                                                                                                                         

Depending on your situation and where you live, you might be social distancing, self-quarantining, working from home, taking care of children not in school AND elderly parents in your home.  Wow, so much!   It is easy to feel overwhelmed and a bit out of control.  You aren't alone!  We hear you and want to help provide some support.   The good news is that Moonridge Academy and CERTS Parent Education have some wonderful on demand webinars that can provide you with much needed connection, information and support.  On Friday March 20th, Our Executive Director Jack Hinman provided a LIVE Webinar about Self-Care during this Covid-19 period.  You can watch this informative webinar below:

All of our parent webinars are located on the CERTS Parent Education Channel where you can watch any of these webinars on demand.  The link to this channel is https://www.gotostage.com/channel/certsparenteducation.

For daily support, parents can watch the webinars below:

March 2020:  Organizational Changes Improve Residential Care                                                                                        

Letter from Executive Director Jack Hinman:

As we continue to improve our quality of care to our students we have restructured the administration team at Moonridge. We have split Jewly Krause's position as the Residential director into two two new positions, the Operations Director and Program Director. Jewly has accepted the Operations Director position and is excited to take on her new role. We have interviewed several strong candidates for the Program Director position and we are excited to announce that T.J. Penrod has accepted that position. 
T.J. brings a tremendous amount of experience, knowledge and skill to the new Program Director position. He knows Moonridge and he knows the needs of middle school kids. TJ is a true and tried stable of Moonridge. This month will mark his 13 year anniversary. Prior to being our U.S. History teacher he was the assistant residential director of Moonridge for 6 years. TJ embraces and exudes the power of connection and engagement between a mentor and a student. He is seen as a leader at Moonridge and leads by example the core philosophy of balancing nurturing with challenge. TJ understands trauma informed care and is committed to our milieu to be even more trauma responsive. 
TJ and his new position will be responsible for hiring, on-boarding/training and overseeing the direct care staff of Moonridge. This new role is intended to better connect the treatment team to our milieu. TJ's primary role as the Program Director is improving the direct care staff to be better equipped with working with your child. The intention of this new position is to continually improve the residential staff's clinical sophistication working with our students. The programming/staffing are equally important as the operations of Moonridge thus the need for two separate positions. It can be seen as Jewly with strong organizational/system skills working in tandem with TJ with his strong teaching/leadership skills. I like to call them the dynamic duo. 
With the creation of these two new roles Jewly and TJ will be sharing the responsibility of the 3 day trips at Moonridge. Prior to TJ's time at Moonridge we was a wilderness therapy staff and he is excited to spend more time with the students on our monthly adventure trips. Ruth who has been our long time Adventure Director was splitting her time between Moonridge and our big sister program Kolob Canyon.  Starting in April Ruth will be 100% at Kolob.  We are sad to see Ruth transition to Kolob. She has been a large and an impactful member of the Moonridge team. With the recent growth of Moonridge from 16 to 20 students it has provided us the opportunity to expand the clinical team to 4 therapists which give us less of the need for Ruth's clinical support.   
We couldn't be more excited to implement these two positions and welcome TJ to Moonridge's administration team. 


February 2020:  New Game Room and Expanded Laundry!!!                                                                                                        

When Moonridge Academy completed our new Academic and Clinical Building this past summer, we couldn't wait to start renovating our adorable farmhouse residence.  In the past few months we have remodeled previous office space into new bedrooms, created a fantastic game room in our former school area and expanded our laundry room. (Who knew that a laundry room could bring so much joy?!)  Our hardworking handyman Kevin Barrett is to thank for all of his carpentry skills and Jewly once again has outdone herself with her decorating skills.  This game room just looks FUN!  There is more space for our students to hang out, play games, and connect (and do their laundry....) Anyone up for a game of foosball?


January 2020:  We are excited to welcome Kara Mattingly to our Clinical Team                                                      


On January 13th Kara Mattingly, MA, ACMHC joined our Clinical and Treatment Teams.  Kara comes to Moonridge Academy with a great deal of experience.  Kara has an MA in Mental Health Counseling from Asbury Seminary in Wilmore, KY. She comes with over 12 years experience in the fields of adventure programming and group leadership. As a college professor, she has 8 years of experience teaching classes in outdoor leadership, experiential programming, and group dynamics, all of which are foundational concepts to what we do at Moonridge. She even helped launch an emphasis area in outdoor behavioral healthcare within her academic program. She has also presented at multiple international conferences on the topic of leading groups and experiential programming, and has been training others in this field for over 8 years. Her expertise in the field of experiential education influences how she approaches therapy, making it experiential and engaging for her clients. Kara's strength as a therapist is building rapport with her clients, and engaging them in creative and experiential ways during therapy. Kara brings over a decade of experience leading groups to Moonridge, and is very passionate about group therapy and its ability to create change in clients. When she is not at work, Kara loves exploring the outdoors and going on new adventures with friends and family. Biking, hiking, boating, canoeing, camping- if it's outdoors, she is up for it! She also has a lifelong goal of visiting every national park!

December 2019:  It Has Been An Amazing Year at Moonridge Academy!                                                                                  

It is hard to believe that 2019 has almost reached an end.  So much has happened at Moonridge during the past year that has made us feel excited and even a little proud!  In July we completed our new Academic and Clinical Building.  This has been a dream of ours for many, many years and seeing it's completion was absolutely the "BEST"!  With this new addition, we have added an additional 4 beds to our campus and plan to add an additional 4 more beds in 2020 taking our total number of students to 24.  We are thrilled that we can provide a supportive, healing and therapeutic environment to even more students.  We welcomed a new Admission Director Wendy Penrod.  She is so authentic and warm.  She loves working with families as they go through the emotion of the admissions process.  We also welcomed new therapists Annette Pellitier and Ashley Perez to our clinical team.  We look forward to welcoming a new therapist Kara soon after the new year.  We also added 3 new horses to our campus to expand the work we do with Equine Therapy and horseback riding instruction.  In September, our therapists were thrilled to receive training in Natural Lifemanship which is a type of trauma based equine based psychotherapy.  Our entire clinical team feels that this type of Equine Therapy that concentrates on developing attachment and connection will prove to be an essential aspect of the program at Moonridge Academy.  Our clinical focus also moved to more somatic therapies such as brainspotting and EMDR.  And, let's not forget our adventures--it really is what we do best!  We enjoyed trips to Arches National Park, Great Basin National Park, and Valley of Fire State Park.  We loved downhill skiing, snowshoeing, and cross country skiing in the winter with paddle boarding, hiking, and river rafting in the summer.  Moonridge really is a wonderful place to be and we look forward to what 2020 has to bring!  

November 2019:  Adding New Bedrooms and Enhancing Others                                                            

In July we were so pleased to announce the Grand Opening of our new Academic and Clinical Building.   With the completion of this beautiful new addition to our campus, school functions and clinical offices moved thus opening up space in the residence.  During the past few months, our Residential Director Jewly Krause and our expert handyman have worked tirelessly to turn old offices into wonderful new bedrooms.  They also added bunkbeds to the Aqua bedroom.  Plans are in place to make some modifications to another bedroom as well in the months to come.  Jewly's decorating skills have certainly provided a loving touch making our house into a home.  With these additional new bedrooms and some modifications to former bedrooms, we are now able to provide support to 24 students.  We plan to increase our campus from our current 16 students to 20 students immediately.  We will then take some additional time to increase from 20 students to 24 students.  We are so excited!!!


October 2019:  "Every Brilliant Thing"....Was Brilliant!                                                                                                

There is a play with a life-affirming message so powerful that the Utah Shakespeare Festival is offering it to every public high school and university in the state of Utah to help stem the tide of youth suicide. Every Brilliant Thing, by Duncan Macmillan with Jonny Donahoe, is an ingenious, heartfelt, highly theatrical one-person show wherein the narrator interacts directly with the audience.

Audience members learn that when the narrator was a child, his mother suffered from depression and attempted suicide. The narrator decided to make a list of all the things that make life worth living to persuade her to live, starting with #1, “ice cream,” and continuing to one million. This inventive, beautifully rendered theatrical experience is unique in the way the audience becomes a support community for the narrator and gains rich insights along the way about the things hiding in plain sight that make life worthwhile and wonderful.

On October 16th, students at Moonridge Academy were able to participate in this theatrical experience at the OTC Training Center.  Our students were part of the play both as actors and as they shared their own "brilliant things" throughout the show.  Because this play deals with the significant topic of suicide prevention, we spent time processing with our students following the play.  We feel very fortunate that our students had the opportunity.


September 2019:  Clinical Team Participates in Extensive Equine Training                                                                        

Our Clinical Team works tirelessly to enhance their skills so they can improve the lives of our students.  Our therapists have long been trained in Equine Therapy and have seen the benefits that it brings to the lives of our students.   In late September our amazing clinicians participated in additional extensive Trauma-Focused Equine Psychotherapy.  The training was provided by Natural Lifemanship.  Since 1986 this group has helped people overcome trauma and toxic stress by teaching clinicians how to help their clients form healthy relationships, with the help of horses.  Our clinical team Lacey, Annette, Ashley and Ruth along with our Equine Director Anndi felt that this opportunity and training will provide even more support to our students who have experienced trauma.  


MEET OUR NEW ADMISSIONS DIRECTOR WENDY PENROD                                                                                        

We are excited to introduce our new Admissions Director Wendy Penrod.  Wendy comes to Moonridge Academy with a wealth of experience.  She has been working with youth for the last 13 years in both the private and public sector.  Wendy actually worked as a mentor at Moonridge Academy many years ago and we are thrilled she has returned!   Most recently Wendy collaborated with local officials and educators implementing mental health preventive measures in schools and developing programs for students in risk.  Wendy is trained in DBT, Motivational Interviewing, Procedural Justice, and Trauma Informed Care. Wendy earned a Bachelor's of Fine Arts in classical acting from Southern Utah University.  While at SUU, Wendy met and fell head over heels in love with TJ Penrod.  The two just celebrated their twelfth wedding anniversary. Together Wendy and TJ sponsor an annual acting competition for teens.  Wendy believes with her whole heart that a comprehensive, compassionate approach with families is the most effective way to help youth become their best selves. 

Five fun facts about Wendy....

1. Wendy loves improv theatre. She and her husband TJ own and operate a non-profit improvisational theater in Cedar City. They do weekly improv comedy shows and have traveled all over doing improv. Wendy is also the camp director for Camp Improv Utopia West, a weekend summer camp for improv artists from all over the world.

2. Wendy loves thrills. She loves super high rollercoasters and has been skydiving three times.

3. Wendy loves to travel and has been to 45 states, three countries, and plans to add even more numbers to those totals.

4. Wendy loves painting her nails and has a nail polish collection that could rival any professional nail salon.

5. Wendy's favorite color is leopard print. You name it, she's got it in leopard print.

AUGUST 2019:  COLORADO RIVER TRIP                                                                                                                                                          

In late July Moonridge Academy students, therapists, and mentors spent 4 days on the Colorado River outside of Moab.  Adventure Therapy at it's best. The opportunity to learn a perfect the DBT Skill Validation through group therapy sessions and activities on the river.  Not to mention running rapids, waterfights, belly whomping (it’s a thing), and just so much more. Thank you to our Adventure Therapy Director Ruth, our clinical team and staff mentors. Not to mention Worldwide Expeditions in Moab. Moonridge Academy excels at disgusing life-changing, soul-excavating, often painful work as having a good time.  We believe that the more a student plays, explores, builds mastery, connects with nature and peers, the more she open she will be at making those adjustments towards a healthier, more balanced life.  It is wonderfuf to watch our clinical team model this for our students.  


July 2019:  Grand Opening of New Academic and Clinical Building                                                                                       

Moonridge Academy has a New Academic and Clinical Building and we couldn't be more thrilled!!!  If you've been to Moonridge, you've likely already fallen in love with the charm of the beautiful home and the happy vibes of highly energetic "tweenagers" who are always excited to greet visitors. But, you may have also noticed that we needed more space for school and offices. 

Wednesday July 17th was a long awaited day at Moonridge Academy--the grand opening of our new academic and clinical building!   And it was so very heartwarming to have two of our team--TJ Penrod and Laurie Barrett (who have been at Moonridge the longest) cut the red ribbon for us. We are literally giddy with excitement to add this beautiful new, green-built building to our campus providing therapy offices for our amazing clinical team, a clinical conference room, school rooms, study hall, administrative offices, and not to mention a covered porch for outside activities. We also created a new riding arena to bring equine therapy and horseback riding skills closer to the other parts of our campus.  Life at Moonridge Academy just got better!



June 2019:  Moonridge Academy Earns Gold Status as a Research Designated Program With NATSAP

Moonridge Academy was among the the first programs within NATSAP (National Association of Therapeutic Schools and Programs) to become a Research Designated Program. Recently NATSAP divided their research programs into three levels--Gold, Silver, and Bronze. Moonridge Academy is excited to announce that we have received Gold Status--the highest of the three! Moonridge Academy knows that outcome research is important - being able to qualify and prove and that treatment works, as well as receiving constant feedback and indicators for improvement, helps us assure families that their work and investment is well placed. Moonridge Academy is excited to continue to partner with NATSAP and Petree Consulting to ensure we provide the highest quality of care to our students and their families.  

May 2019:  New Academic and Clinical Building Close to Completion                                                        

If you've been to Moonridge, you've likely already fallen in love with the charm of the beautiful home and the happy vibes of highly energetic "tweenagers" who are always excited to greet visitors, talk about themselves, and maybe even offer some unsolicited fashion advice (ah, the developing filters of a 12 year old....).  But, you may have also noticed that we need more space for school and offices. 

Well, it's happening!  Our gorgeous new building right across the campus will feature spacious classrooms, a study hall, conference rooms, therapist offices, a few administrative offices, and one fabulous covered patio right off the new and improved playground! This is an energy efficient building that will enhance the learning and healing that Moonridge Academy excels at.  Everyone--students, therapists, and staff alike--are so excited for this.

And....with this new space, we will be adding just a few additional beds to our main house finally being able to serve a few more kids that need us.  Thank you for supporting our program in getting here.  Come tour and visit anytime, and let us know if you have a student and family we can help! 


April 2019:  Moonridge Students Experience International Trek to Portugal and Spain                      


Each year Moonridge Academy along with other CERTS Programs Kolob Canyon and Mountain Springs Preparatory Acadey provides an International Trek--an amazing way to experience new cultures, see fantastic sights, eat amazing food and take the learning outside the classroom.  This year our adventure took us to Portugal and Spain.  We discovered Lisbon exploring through downtown and the viewpoints and waterfront, navigating the subways and buses, Rossio Square, the Arch of Rua Augusta, San Jorge’s Castle, Alfama, The Lisbon Cathedral, the Oceanario (Aquarium), incredible food, even better gelato, the Monument to the Explorers, Belém Tower.  And stairs, lots and lots of stairs.  Getting out of the big city and into the countryside and Sintra, Portugal just grew more and more beautiful with each passing mile.  We loved Quinta Da Regaleira, an awe-inspiring estate complete with a castle, chapel, towers, spiraling wells to descend - and ascend,mini castles and an entire park of lush gardens and underground labyrinths.

Spain was next!  Seville during Holy Week is quite an experience.  We toured the Seville Cathedral, with a tour of the rooftop and city views, to the Plaza de España where some of us rented the small rowboats in the canal circling the front of the grand edifice.  The Plaza’s ornate style and bright tiled lampposts were truly iconic. A day in Malaga was next where we dipped our toes (or crazily for a few, their entire bodies) into the frigid Mediterranean Sea.  The final days of the Trek were spent in Madrid and Granada, a beautiful sprawling town, mixing old with new on every block.

For many of our students this was a once in a lifetime experience.  Many thanks to Jon Larsen, Executive Director at Mountain Springs Preparatory Academy who planned this amazing adventure.  We can't wait to see what next year brings!

March 2019:  Teacher Experience Enhances Academics                                                                                                                            

 TJ Penrod, Social Studies Teacher at CERTS Programs Kolob Canyon and Moonridge Academy is passionate about teaching his students. He is innovative and creative in his teaching method providing students a variety of modalities to fully experience history. He makes learning interesting, memorable and hands-on. TJ finds that this type of teaching is highly effective in a therapeutic learning environment such as residential treatment where students often arrive bringing a history of school refusal or a high degree of anxiety associated with academics. TJ is continually looking for new ideas to improve his own knowledge base to provide interesting information to his students in a way that they will effectively respond to.

TJ was recently selected as one of 28 teachers from hundreds of applicants across the state of Utah to participate this summer in the Driven 2 Teach Program. Driven 2 Teach explains their program as such, “The Driven 2 Teach program takes History teachers who specialize in American History or historical literature out of the classroom to the very places where history happened. The Driven 2 Teach program gives teachers an extended, hands-on learning experience unlike any other.” In order to apply for this incredible opportunity, TJ wrote a letter explaining why he particularly should participate and what opportunities he would give his students from this experience.

TJ will specifically be involved in the Civil War to Civil Rights seminar. This seminar will provide TJ with a deeper understanding of Civil Rights in American History. Driven 2 Teach explains that this seminar, “Provides teachers with a greater understanding of the rights of citizens to political, economic, and social freedom with equality for all with a focus on the African American struggle.” To prepare for the trip, TJ won’t just be packing his bags and buying road trip treats. He will need to read 6 assigned books and do homework himself completing a 6-credit college course in just 6 weeks.

The itinerary for the seminar includes some of the major locations for both the Civil War and Civil Rights Movement. Starting in Charleston, South Carolina, TJ will learn about and study the beginning of the slave trade, the institution of slavery and the Civil War. TJ and the other teachers will then go to Atlanta, Georgia, where they will study the history of African Americans and the role of Martin Luther King at the Martin Luther King National Museum. Tuskegee, Alabama and the Tuskegee Airmen National Historic Site will be the next stop. The seminar will consider these pilots as pioneers of the Civil Rights movement. TJ will also spend time in the George Washington Carver Museum. One aspect of the trip that is most exciting to TJ is the opportunity to travel to Selma, Birmingham, and Montgomery, Alabama to study at the Civil Rights Institute and the Rosa Parks Museum. TJ will visit the 16th Street Baptist Church and be given the opportunity to cross the Edmund Pettus Bridge with a woman who marched across the bridge with Martin Luther King Jr.

 TJ explains, “I fully intend to use this opportunity to improve and strengthen our amazing Social Studies programs at both schools. I will be able to bring this experience to our classrooms and really engage our students in the curriculum of Civil Rights.”   During the seminar and as well as upon his return, TJ will be developing nationally archived lesson plans that will benefit students at both Kolob Canyon and Moonridge Academy.

February 2019:  Moonridge Therapists Present at NATSAP Conference and Moonridge Receives Continuing Accreditation  

Our Clinical Team was in full force at the NATSAP (National Association of Therapeutic Schools and Programs) Annual Conference in San Antonia, TX. They shared their expertise and experience with other professionals who work in the spectrum of treatment. Executive Director Jack Hinman presented with Robbi O'Kelley from one of our sister schools, La Europa Academy. They provided a session "Understanding and Treating Disorders of Over-Control". Primary Therapist, Annette Pelletier hosted a session for attendees, "Choice+Action=Change: The Combined Use of Reality and Adventure Therapy". Clinical Director, Lacey Heinzelman participated on a panel discussion. Panelists responded to the question, "What Are We Actually Doing to Help Gender Non-Conforming Kids?"

Congratulations to Academic Director Susan Mackert and her exemplary academic team. They just completed their accreditation renewal through Advanced Ed receiving another 3 years of accreditation. The accreditation team spent 2 days at Moonridge extensively reviewing the entire academic program. The feedback was extremely positive with the accreditation team finding our teachers to be nurturing, innovative and communicative. We feel so grateful for these amazing teachers!

January 2019:  Moonridge Welcomes New Therapist Annette Pelletier                                                                                       

We're thrilled  to announce Annette Pelletier, LCSW, CTRTC as the newest member of the Moonridge Academy Clinical Team.  Annette comes to Moonridge Academy with a great deal of experience.  Annette received her Master’s Degree in Social Work at Texas State University in San Marcos, TX.  Annette is skilled at treating a variety of conditions such as depression, anxiety, family relational issues, eating disorders, attachment disorders, substance abuse disorders, and emerging personality disorders. Annette specializes in the treatment of those who have experienced complex trauma.  She utilizes a combination of trauma-focused cognitive behavior therapy, Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR), reality therapy, motivational interviewing, equine-assisted psychotherapy, and experiential/adventure-based interventions. Annette is certified in choice theory and reality therapy through the William Glasser Institute.   Annette also received EMDR training through the EMDR Institute, where she received her certification of completion for EMDR Part 1 and part 2. Additionally, Annette has attended training in trauma-focused equine assisted psychotherapy approach and most recently completed a specialized training in the use of equine-connected EMDR.


Annette is excited to start working with the younger students at Moonridge, "I love helping young women to see their worth; to help them recognize they are enough, always have been enough, and always will be enough. I enjoy helping them navigate how to express their thoughts and feelings more openly and using their voice to show up in their lives in a more authentic way. The greatest reward for me in this work are the relationships I get to build with these amazing young women and their families". 

Additionally, Annette loves outdoor recreation which aligns well with Moonridge Academy's emphasis on adventure therapy.  When asked what she loves doing in her free time, Annette said, "Rock climbing and my family are my passions outside of my work. I love traveling to get to cool climbing areas and love how I can push myself beyond what I believed to be my limit or how I can take it slow and casual to just enjoy the moment. Other things I enjoy doing are just being outside in nature, camping, hiking, kayaking, stand up paddle boarding, Latin dancing, reading, and going to the beach. Additionally, I have a great love of animals."

You can contact Annette at annette@moonridgeacademy.com

December 2018:  Breaking Groud on new Academic and Clinical Building                                                        

 After years in the making, Moonridge Academy broke ground on December 11th of their new Academic and Clinical Building!  This new building will add classroom space, office space and therapy space.  There will also be a lovely outdoor covered patio for outside activities.  Moonridge Academy is working with Choice Builders in Cedar City to construct this wonderful new addition to the Moonridge campus.   Lacey Heinzelman and Susan Mackert our Clinical and Academic Directors were thrilled to officially shovel the first scoop of dirt. Tawny Thomas our former Executive Director worked so hard on this project and will continue to do so with the help and support of our new Executive Director Jack Hinman as this project continues. Our staff and students are excited for this new space!!!


 November 2018:  Equine Therapy--A Therapist's Perspective                                                                            

Maren Hirschi, who is one of the primary therapist at Kolob Canyon RTC (Moonridge Academy's big sister school) is a gifted Equine Assisted Counselor.  Recently she wrote this article about her experiences with Equine Therapy for the NATSAP Newsletter.

When I was 16, my grandfather told me, “A horse can really learn to love a girl.”  It’s a powerful love.

A few weeks ago, our Equine Director, Anndi, and I were doing an Equine Therapy session with a family who was on campus visiting their daughter.  At the end of the session, Mom said, “It brings everything out into the open because it’s obvious.”

Adolescents in treatment are a tough and often closed off crowd.  Okay, anybody who is in residential or inpatient treatment probably falls into this category.  Regardless of how they look on the outside.  In the years that I have been doing this work, I have seen many treatment weeks and months spent breaking down the walls built by the masterful architect of hurt.  While we of course have a lot of tools in our toolbox to help us break through these walls , ie the therapeutic relationship, DBT, CBT, journaling, art, music, etc…, I have discovered a masterful co-therapist capable of crushing those walls in just a few sessions; sometimes this happens in just a few moments.

This Equine Therapy co-therapist of mine is a horse.  When I was trained in equine assisted counseling techniques under the Pegasus Model, the first thing I remember hearing was “The horse gives you what you need every time.”  Sure.  And, what other magic tricks does the horse do?  They talked of the horse being a mirror of a human’s experiences and emotions.  My co-worker, Craig, and I were paired together for an equine session demo during our training.  Our job was to get Lady through a track drawn in the dirt of the arena without touching her (only the lead ropes) or talking to each other.  She couldn’t step on the line of the track or we’d have to start over.  Lady, Craig, and I did this really easily the first time.  Lady walked through the track while looking back and forth from Craig to me.  Craig and I barely looked at each other and kept our focus on Lady and the task.  And that was it.  No big deal.  So I thought. Until the next pair tried do the same thing and couldn’t.  Lady was reflecting the great team that Craig and I are.  She knew she could trust us because we trust each other, and she and sensed that.

Okay, a horse acts as a mirror.  But, going so far as to rat a kid out who had been self-harming?  What other magic tricks does the horse do?  Then, one morning in February - after my team and I had been tubing on icy tubing hills at a local ski resort with our students and parents, I went to visit my equine buddy Hollywood.  I might get a little bit…playful when I’m on the tubing hills with our families.  While tubing, I hit my knee a time or two on the ice while diving onto my tube but didn’t really think anything of it; I just got up and went again.  Because it was fun.  When I approached Hollywood in his stall that afternoon, he got really antsy.  His eyes got big and he was doing this little prancing dance.  Hollywood had never acted like this for me before – he was my tall, lanky snuggle buddy who always acted pleased to see me.  So, of course I stepped into his stall.  What else would I do when my equine buddy who weighs at least 1,000 pounds more than me is upset?  The second I did, he calmed down and put his head next to my knees.  In the moment, I still couldn’t figure out what Hollywood’s damage was.  He was acting bizarre.  When I got home and changed out of my work clothes, I discovered my knees were black and blue from the morning’s fun.  Hollywood knew.  Now, I fully believed.

When I first started using equine assisted counseling, I did so because I love experiential therapy, I have always loved horses, I love being outside, and I hate sitting in my office.  I quickly saw it for what I thought it was: an opportunity do experiential therapy, with a horse and outside (not in my office).  AND, I got paid for it.  While these are all good reasons to use equine assisted counseling, it didn’t take long for me to realize that equine assisted counseling is so much more than those things.  It is a powerful, powerful approach.  It’s the backdoor approach that a client can’t ignore or pretend isn’t happening for a variety of reasons including: 

  1. Horses really do give me what I need every time.
  2. Horses always live in the moment. They don’t hold grudges, don’t get stuck in the past, and don’t future trip.  They aren’t worried about what I did 10 minutes ago or what I might do in 10 more minutes.  They care about where I am at right now.
  3. You can’t bullshit with a horse. You just can’t.  They see right through that.

When I find myself struggling to help a kid start being open, honest, genuine, and sincere with themselves, me, their peers, parents, etc…, Anndi and I take the kid to the arena.  I have witnessed magic happening over and over and over and over.  The horse speaks to the kid in a way I can’t and nobody else has been able to either.   Just today, I watched Princess refuse to be ignored by a kid who was trying to be determined to not make a connection.  Princess literally wrapped herself around the kid.  The kid didn’t have much of a choice besides making a connection in the moment.  Princess’ willingness to give us what we needed in the moment opened the door to some important work that I’m fairly sure this kid was determined to not do.  She started the work because it was obvious in the moment.  I have dozens of stories like this.

Besides the individual sessions, Anndi and I do family and group sessions.  We do family sessions as often as we can when we have families on campus.  The dynamics that play out during family and group equine sessions are both eye opening (because it’s obvious) and powerful.  One of my favorite groups happened a few weeks ago.  At first, all of the group dynamics from the milieu were playing out, and it was chaos.  We gave them an opportunity to try the task again after having had a chance to process the chaos.  Once again, it was magic.  The group was able to immediately go back and correct the chaos in order to complete a task that initially seemed impossible.

In her book, Harnessing The Power of Equine Assisted Therapy, K.S. Trotter said, “Not enough can be said about the power individuals feel when they are successful in getting a 1,200-pound horse that could easily overpower them to respond to them.”  When we start having more safe experiences of doing the impossible such as getting a horse to do something you ask it to, accomplishing the unimaginable work of things along the lines of loving oneself and maintaining solid relationships with family and peers becomes imaginable enough that we stop avoiding that work. Or, at least, we slow down our avoidance of the work.

I no longer use Equine Therapy (solely) as a way to get out of my office (although, that perk is still strong).  I now use equine assisted counseling for the powerful tool it is.  Even though I have witnessed the power of equine assisted counseling, I continue to be awed by the work that happens in the space that horses willingly share with us.


 October 2018:  Moonridge Students Compete at Utah Shakespeare Festival                                                 

In her efforts to ensure that Moonridge Academy provides students with an excellent academic experience, Susan Mackert, the Academic Director recently made some exciting additions. New teachers have been hired and a new drama class has been added to the class schedule. Over a year ago, students started working with professional actors to learn the art of improvisational comedy. Moonridge Academy will now be offering a more traditional drama class that focuses on the fundamentals of performing Shakespeare, as well as more modern works. In addition to classroom teaching, students will attend professional, community, and children's theatrical performances, and participate in workshops at the Utah Shakespeare Festival.  

In the process of adding this drama class, Moonridge Academy hired a new drama teacher, Taylor Hall. Taylor loves the arts of storytelling and drama. He is deeply involved with several local theatre programs including Cedar Valley Community Theatre, Southern Utah University, and Cedar City Children's Musical Theatre. Taylor also works as an Education Assistant for the Utah Shakespeare Festival, teaching tots and teens alike. Taylor said, “My favorite part about working at Moonridge Academy is watching the students help each other, and even help themselves, to learn and grow.”

Students at Moonridge Academy competed in the Southern Utah University Shakespeare Festival Student Competition. Our new drama coach helped them prepare to perform a scene from Hamlet. Drama Coach, Taylor Hall said of the experience, "Taking my Moonridge students to Shakespeare Competition was a huge success! Most of them have never acted before, let alone tackled Hamlet. I can't show you their faces but I couldn't be more proud of them!". Our drama program has grown greatly in the past months, providing new opportunities for students to participate in plays and learn more about the classics.


 September 2018:  Transitioning Home After Treatment:  CERTS Parent Education                              

As a parent with a child in residential treatment, you are most likely planning for the day when your son/daughter will be transitioning home after residential treatment.  Many parents look forward to this day while also feeling concerned about what to expect.  As a parent you need to be work to live today as you would like to live as a family in the future.  Recently Ariel Rhoades, Dean of Student Life at Mountain Springs Preparatory Academy provided a parent education webinar about planning for transitioning home after residential treatment.  Her helpful webinar provided parents with lessons about what to expect when their child transitions home as well as things they can be doing not only to prepare for that transition, but for the day when their child will be at home.  Ariel suggests that parents should use the time while their child is in treatment to learn about their parenting philosophy and approach.  Practice that while your child is in treatment.

 Expect It:  Regression

When your child moves from more structure to less structure, you are giving them the opportunity to make more choices.  With those choices comes the option to make poor choices.  While this is understandably difficult for parents to watch, it is part of the process.  Ariel encourages parents to reframe the word regression to "I have met my child where they are at, rather than wish they were somewhere else".  Failure often leads to success.  Mistakes and poor choices are on opportunity for growth and learning.  Be willing and able to accept your child's poor choices and guide them as a parent to better solutions.  Ariel suggests the following four steps:

  1. To the extent possible, manage your own emotional reactivity:  Let your responsibility to parent trump the emotional response that "yet another" mistake has been made.
  2. Praise and reward honesty:  Even if your child has made a poor choice, but tells you about it, reward their attempt at letting you know a bad choice has been made.
  3. Use the least structure that is necessary to solve the problem
  4. Include your child in decision making about solutions and consequences

 Internalization:  A Lofty Goal as Teens Transition Home After Residential Treatment

Watch for holding too high of a standard too soon.  This process of internalization will take time.  External motivators are a part of life and it is OK if these are still major motivators for your child.   Brain formation is not complete until a person is 25 years old with regard to strong connections in the pre-frontal lobe.  This means that as parents we will need to provide support and structure for our young adult children.  This doesn't mean they have failed at residential treatment.  Treatment has provided seeds towards internalization in the future.

Phases of Change: Transitioning Home After Residential Treatment

  1.  Excitement:  This happens in the weeks and months before a child comes home and for a time period soon after they come home.  This phase can include both excitement and anxiety.
  2. Honeymoon:  Initially parents and students have a great deal of hope when they first come home.  Lessons and skills have been learned which students will do well at first to follow.  However once a student starts to have some difficulties, they might begin to feel a loss of confidence.
  3. Testing:   As teens make decisions (both good and bad), this phase is often filled with both confusion and optimism.  Things will go well and things might be a bit bumpy.  As parents it is important to provide support without getting too discouraged.  Challenges and opportunities will arise.  This is a time to help build trust and respect.
  4. Confidence:  As teens grow through making decisions and using the skills they have acquired in treatment, they will begin to gain confidence.  At times their confidence might be low and at others it might be high.  Parents need to provide both encouragement and caution for their teen.  Both you and your teen will have decision points as they gain confidence.  Expect things to be a bit bumpy at times.  It might be smart to prepare for challenges that might occur and how you might respond to these challenges.  Learn to work together as a parenting team so you have a united front.

 Develop a Support Network

While your child has been in treatment you have had a fantastic support system.  You will still need that once your child comes home.  Because recovery is an ongoing process, Ariel suggests that you create the following network:

  • Prior Family Therapist
  • Current Family Therapist
  • Personal Individual Therapists
  • Parenting coach or mentor
  • Spouse or Partner
  • Extended Family
  • Friends
  • Support Groups

 Develop a Home Contract:

A Home Contract helps both teen and parent think ahead about key areas in which you and your child need limits, support and guidance.  If a contract is planned ahead of time it allows for direct and active discussions.  Ideally a Home Contract provides a means to practice for life outside of treatment that still integrates personal insights, improved behaviors and new values.  This critical as a teen transitions from the structure of residential treatment to the structure of home.

 Think and Plan Now For Transitioning Home After Residential Treatment:

Planning is different than worrying, second guessing and playing out the worst case scenario.  Parents need to be adaptable during the treatment process.  This could mean a willingness to expand and retract on home visits while a teen is still in treatment as well as the ability to expand and retract after they return home. 


 August 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. 

  June 1, 2018:  OUR NEW CLINICAL DIRECTOR                                                                                                           

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!” 

 May 2018:  LAURIE BARRETT CELEBRATES 14 YEARS AT MOONRIDGE!                                                                  


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.


 April 2018:  APRIL ADVENTURE TO SNOW CANYON                                                                               

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.