All Kinds of News for October 09, 2019
Northwest Passage, a residential mental health treatment program for children located in Northwestern Wisconsin, is excited to share news of their recent expedition to Dry Tortugas National Park in partnership with the National Park Service.
In 2009, with support from an America’s Best Ideas grant from the National Park Foundation, Northwest Passage (NWP) developed a therapeutic nature photography program named ”In a New Light”. Residents were taught professional-level photography skills and honed them at their local national park, the St. Croix National Scenic Riverway, as well as in national parks throughout the country. The results of their work were displayed locally and nationally and rapidly gained recognition and acclaim.
In 2014, the program expanded to include the underwater environment of Northwest Wisconsin. With additional guidance from freshwater ecologist and National Park Service researcher and SCUBA rescue diver, Dr. Toben LaFrancois, Northwest Passage began a subsequent project dubbed “Under the Surface”. With rigorous safety training and intentional therapeutic design, they began exploring the underwater world of Wisconsin’s lakes and rivers. The benefit to NWP residents was immediately apparent and the project rapidly became an institution within the Northwest Passage program.
“Into the water I went, washing away the pain the scars left. I watched the memories float down the stream, away from my thoughts, away from me. Submerged in the peaceful currents, I let myself go for just a moment. As I rose up out of the water, the sun seemed to shine brighter. I knew I was going to be okay.” Jade, Northwest Passage resident, age 16.
In the summer of 2015, The Submerged Resources Center of the National Park Service, the division tasked with the conservation and care of underwater resources within the National Park System, sent their Deputy Chief and A/V specialist, Brett Seymour, and his team from Denver, CO to mentor the NWP photographers. From there a relationship grew and ultimately took the form of support for select NWP graduates to participate in underwater photography expeditions to Dry Tortugas National Park in Florida.
Three expeditions, in 2016, 2018, and 2019, have taken place to date (the 2017 expedition was canceled due to Hurricane Maria). Four graduates and one current resident recently returned from their expedition to the remote park in the Gulf of Mexico. Facilitated by Dr. LaFrancois, project leader Ian Karl, and NWP photography instructor Ben Treichel, the five photographers spent a week as VIP guests of the park exploring the coral reef ecosystem and photographing this national treasure.
“…There’s so much that happens [at Dry Tortugas National] that is unlike anything I’ll ever experience again, seeing baby sea turtles hatch, watching thunderstorms move through. There is a calming effect of being on the ocean, but actually being able to go under the surface, to see all the coral and fish, gliding effortlessly with your fins, I just love underwater photography here. I wish you could experience it….” Jack, 18, Northwest Passage Graduate
The group was hosted by the Dry Tortugas National Park staff, Brett Seymour and Susanna Pershern, and a team of experts in the fields of marine ecology, underwater ecology and diving. They stayed at and explored historic Fort Jefferson on Garden Key. Their underwater photography destinations included two shipwrecks, a coral reef at Loggerhead Key, and historic underwater structures surrounding Garden Key. They culminated their time at the park by sharing their work in a presentation with the National Park Service staff on the island. Their photography and stories are currently on display regionally and online at www.inanewlight.org.
About Northwest Passage
Northwest Passage is focused on blending traditional mental health treatment with arts and nature-based therapy to restore hope in their clients. By investing in the lives of marginalized youth, Northwest Passage is influencing and changing how mental health is ultimately treated and viewed. The transformations seen are no less than extraordinary.