Visit Reports
MIDNIGHT MOUNTAIN: Life Skills Training Center
Visit Reports

Apr 27, 2006, 21:36

Boyds, Washington
Randy and Kim Krohn, Owners

Visit By: Loi Eberle, March 20, 2006

Nestled in a wooded area, we traveled well off the beaten path to reach the tranquil setting of Midnight Mountain Life Skills Training Center. Rippling streams meandered between snow-covered boulders near the road, as they journeyed to the newly budding plants, similar to the time of renewal and reconnection the program provides to its students. This was my second visit to this small peer community for young adults, ages 18-24. My primary goal this time was to visit John, one of my client-students. Although at the time of my visit, John was still working on obtaining his accredited high school diploma at Midnight Mountain, he has since completed his work there. It was a great joy for me to interact with him about his plans to start college and embark upon a new life.

Upon my arrival, Kim Krohn led me down a path to the community yurt where meals, academics and meetings take place. Looking somewhat like a shorter version of a modern day tepee, the inside of this large circular space felt warm and inviting, with a wood stove, couch, windows, computer, books and kitchen area. Randy, Kim, John and I sat down at the table to share the lunch they all helped to prepare. As we talked, I was encouraged to hear the clarity and insight John had developed during his five-month stay at Midnight Mountain.

After eating a delicious meal, I asked John to show me his projects. We entered the program's most recent building project, a small cabin with a beautifully built bunk bed and attractive windows that opened onto the woods and sky. I noticed John watching to see whether we tracked dirt into the cabin and learned that with the recent graduation of his roommate, the cleanliness of both cabin, the yurt and lounge were due to his good work. Next, John showed me the platforms he'd helped build to create a better outdoor woodworking area, and his first project, a small basketball court. He had also created a coat rack and a plaque that he welded - one of the new skills he recently learned. John commented on what a great experience it was for him to build something they wanted or needed.

John has nearly completed the "Pathways to Adulthood," Midnight Mountain's five-month residential program that guides adolescents in developing the necessary skills to successfully transition into responsible adulthood. During the five months, residents learn to set realistic goals for themselves, while the staff helps them to identify the negative messages and influences that previously sabotaged their success. This situation is ideal for someone needing to hear their own voice before being exposed to a much larger group setting. Midnight Mountain also offers an Adventure Semester, "Self-Discovery 101." This intensive six-week seminar is designed to provide students with an opportunity to gain the basic life skills necessary to meet the challenges presented by college, employment and personal relationships.

The connection between how a person lives, what they need to feel healthy, and how to provide for it is very simple and direct in both of the Midnight Mountain programs. Both Self-Discovery 101 and the Pathways to Adulthood program are designed to build self-confidence and self-esteem. These programs provide experiences that are designed to make "deposits" in a "confidence bank" that helps fuel experiences in other settings.

The Pathways to Adulthood program can accommodate eight young men and women in small cabins at the base camp where they learn to live a simple and responsible lifestyle. The residents earn their privileges based on a level system of growth that is designed to help them "become accountable, empowered and whole people." As residents move through the levels, they eventually gain privileges including having access to their own computer and music. The program includes an academic component, community service work, job training apprenticeships, as well as daily personal and group chores.

The Adventure Semester and Pathways to Adulthood take place outdoors. The Pathways to Adulthood residents participate in occasional recreational activities such as snowboarding, canoeing and rock climbing. However, these activities and the many seasonal excursions are the primary focus of the Adventure Semester. Randy and Kim Krohn operate both the five-month residential program and the six-week Adventure Semester with help from their very qualified son, Josh Swain and his wife, Tanis Shippy, who live onsite with their small child. Randy is a mental health professional with 20 years experience in traditional settings and 15 years in outdoor experiential settings. Kim has 23 years experience in community development, youth mentoring and experiential education. Josh has over 12 years of experience facilitating and guiding students and adults in a variety of outdoor experiential activities. Tanis is a certified teacher who draws on her experience in traditional classrooms and group facilitation to help residents prepare for high school completion or college credit through the accredited Blueprint correspondence program.

Midnight Mountain is truly a family style training center that enables residents to experience the outdoors in a more hospitable way. This approach fosters student empowerment as well as an appreciation and enjoyment of the wilderness. For example, students are responsible for getting their own equipment together and planning for the expeditions. The staff assists in this process by treating residents with unconditional positive regard and encouraging them in the development of responsibility. Through this climate of safety, students explore who they are and learn to live together in community that is consistent with the values of honesty, integrity, responsibility, accountability and holistic health. Obviously, potential residents must willingly participate in this kind of personal work and willingly maintain a safe environment for both themselves and others. If a resident truly engages in what is available to them at Midnight Mountain, I believe they will not only graduate, but also become role models for those who follow in their footsteps.

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