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Dear Boundless Families:

I was up at the boarding school the past few days, taking it all in. It looked like the set of a Hansel and Gretel fairy tale. Deep and fluffy snow draped our 600 acres in a cozy purity that is an ideal metaphor for your kids’ frame of mind.

It’s become clean living for the lot. The daily routine of wholesome food, an abundance of exercise, an academic grind that no one shirks, and hanging out playing games around the hearth. Who ever thought life could be so wholesome?

Ari is repeatedly challenging me, the resident crokinole champion (its a board game and thankfully not a pasta eating contest). Like a predator, he waits in the wings for my arrival. He denies any effort on my part to show mercy, seeking an honest victory.  It didn’t come. His face turns red with frustration. Ari is known to be a fierce competitor that cannot take losing. I see the steam leaking from his cranium. I tell him he needs to learn to lose before he can win. Deep down, no one gives a shit who wins. That failure and success are the same because they both spawn new directions. Movement is all that matters. His neurons fire as he processes this.

This is one of countless life lessons being experienced every day here.

I head to the kitchen and see Andrea, JJ and a few others hovering over a stove, doing their bit for the “Cook and Clean” dinner fest. Staff screw off during these moments. We are teaching life skills. But it’s clear students don’t regard this as “education”. They are simply mastering their pasta, and take great pride in its preparation. It’s feels like family.

I overhear Nicki, one of our mental health counsellors, respond to a casual “How’s it going?” query from Adrian, the head honcho of operations at Boundless.

“Oh, you know”, she replies in a casual cowgirl tone as if she’s about to round up little doges, “Lots of needs today”.

It’s her calmness that strikes me, and gives a clue as to the profound student transformations that are going on. It’s the ability to navigate your own baggage that define the small battles won around here. Just another day of drama overcome. Now git along and do your chores.

The kids repeatedly ask me to do another Stevening – fireside evening programs I run to get kids thinking about all kinds of stuff – but alas, it’s not to be this visit. “Maybe next visit”, I say to Chance. “What do you think the topic should be”.

“Our futures”.

This response is in line with our emphasis on preparing kids for next steps – especially getting jobs. But I know Chance is not thinking about jobs – he’s thinking about how not to fall back on bad habits when he returns. Your kids know that this clean-living lifestyle is changing them. They may push back against our rigid structure and relentless demands to “own your shit”, but they understand that this is the way forward. Now if they can impose the structure on themselves, that will be a game changer.

My observations of the students overwhelm me. Alex has shed 30 pounds since September and looks like a Greek warrior.

Seth has emerged as a brilliant speaker and spiritual group leader.

Will is is struggling to accept he is actually likeable. The boy who was born to evoke eye rolls in others has found his way into people’s hearts despite himself. A conspiracy theorist by nature, can he ever accept that there is indeed a conspiracy to support him, and to love him? His clumsiness in being liked is so endearing. Sometimes he”l refuse a handshake from me and pull me in for a hug. I am careful to conceal my misty eyes. He would wince at the emotion.

Omari, the 16-year old post-pubescent Socrates of the tribe, is spewing his tidbits of wisdom to anyone that will listen. These utterances are getting more brilliant as time ticks away.

Maryam is learning to display they’re blinding smile without concealing it with they’re hands.

Millie is just plowing along on day 300 and something, leaving all kinds of existential crises in her wake, making her the quiet but steady pulse of the group.

Brillian, who claims his name was conceived without the “t” by his dad whilst his pa was on the toilet, has become quick best friends with David, the biggest mensch of the clan. In fact, best friends about.

Of all the groups we have had over the years in the boarding school, this one may be the most cohesive I have seen. The corona virus and plunging stocks mean nothing in our little bubble of Boundless. I muse with the kids that maybe in 6 weeks I won’t be able to shake their hand. The whole dilemma is not on their radar yet, and maybe that’s a good thing. For now.

Thanks for sending your wonderful kids to us.