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The Cedar Spectrum

Private Boarding High School Boy Sparring

Evan spars with another Shotokan student during a training in Salt Lake City with Sensei Amadou Niang.

Boarding School Karate Team Trains in Salt Lake City

By James, Cedar Ridge Academy Junior and Karate Team Member
Published in 
The Cedar Spectrum March 2011 

Last month the other members of the Cedar Ridge Karate Team and I got ready to go to Salt Lake for a variety of activities planned for the day.  We were all going to train with Sensei Amadou Niang, fifth degree black belt, and his students at his dojo in Salt Lake, which for me was an exciting experience that I was more than ready for.  I began having mixed feelings of excitement, and worry after I had noticed myself getting increasingly sick.  Despite this, I was still determined to train and get as much as I could out of this experience as I could. 

 The bus ride over for me was a time to catch up on some rest in an attempt to feel better or even just have more energy so I could push myself through the four hours of karate that was planned.  Most of the other people attending this seemed to have strong feelings of excitement, laced with a small amount anxiety for whatever their reasons may be.  Conversations about any subject that came to people’s minds were basically the whole bus trip for the majority of us while a few people had a more therapeutic tone to the conversation.  This continued for the whole three or four hours on the bus, not including the bathroom stops we occasionally made, until we arrived at Amadou’s dojo at a Salt Lake City recreation center

    Before everyone got off the bus, Nicolette and Sensei Rob gave us some pointers based off their past experiences of training with Amadou.  I appreciated some parts of this, like the tip of not telling the Sensei if you were tired because his response would be telling you to do five hundred jumping jacks.  Other than this, we discussed what would be considered disrespectful in the dojo and how we could avoid it, which to me was something I wanted to avoid.  We got off the bus, walked into the rec center and into to Amadou’s dojo.  I was a little surprised by how small this was after being use to training in a full size gym and wondered how this was going to work with all the people who were there.  I soon found out that it was more than enough room, given the amount of people, while I observed everyone beginning warm ups at Amadou’s instruction. 

    After taping my ankle up, I jumped into the training, beginning with laps around the dojo.  With my sickness this was a difficult task to keep up with the running, the suicides, jumping jacks and even some of the stretching.  My drive to do karate kept me going through the first part of this workout; however, I ended up with a pretty bad fever and some breathing problems so I had to sit the rest of the time.  This was a huge disappointment for me considering this was something I was looking forward to the previous two weeks.

     I sat on the side watching everyone else participate in the training, and I thought to myself, ‘There’s still quite a bit of knowledge I can get out of this experience just by watching.’  With that in mind, I continued to watch each of the different stages that Sensei Amadou took everyone through.  The first of these stages was some combinations for freestyle sparring.  A couple of these combinations I remember learning from Sensei Rob, but the others were new to me and it was fascinating to learn these new techniques.  After some practice with that, they started up the freestyle between two students at a time.  This part of the training was the most fun for me to observe, and the subtle differences between our two dojos was noticeable to me.  After all the matches, I still had my feelings of disappointment, which was soon gone with Amadou approaching me to ask me what was going on.  His appreciation for me coming and the thoughtfulness he showed was something I did not expect and it was much more than a pleasant surprise for me.  Feeling even better emotionally and physically, I continued to watch with increased interest while Amadou instructed them through the kata, Heian Godan.  It was cool for me to see his feedback on the kata and it was something that I planned to apply the next time I performed it.  


    I wanted to join in with the training since I was feeling better, but the next break that there was for me to ask, was the end of the training.  Everyone was told to sit down and Amadou began to give out different items representing an achievement for each person.  One girl got her certificate for her first black belt and another boy got his second junior black belt which is one away from his full black belt.  Everyone from our dojo got a red stripe on their belt for coming out to the training and to my surprise, Amadou called me up first to get mine.  I felt so good about the fact that he would do this for me even though I was not able to participate in the full training.  I guess I learned that people notice a lot when I push myself although I may not be aware of it.  I ended up getting quite a bit out of this experience, learning that I could learn without doing and actually be recognized for it.

    The rest of this trip was not as meaningful to me as this specific event was, but I enjoyed the time to kick it nonetheless.  We ate dinner at the Chinese Gourmet buffet, which was definitely a nice change from eating at Cedar Ridge.  I’ve always enjoyed some kind of change in the routine every once in a while and this was just that for me.  I ate probably more than I should have there, but what can I say, that kind of stuff happens sometimes.  I enjoyed all the conversations I had with people like Jamie and Nicolette about the day and different things that were on my mind throughout the time on the bus and at dinner.

    Now it was time to go to the Energy Solutions arena and watch the Jazz play the Thunder.  This was my first pro basketball game and I was excited to say the least.  We had forty minutes to wait until the game started so I decided to kick back and listen to some of the music that was being played.  After some time to think to myself, I sat up straight in my chair to watch the action down on the court. The start of the game was great seeing as I was rooting for the Jazz.  They were consistently ahead of the Thunder the whole first half of the game and this was my expectation for the rest of the game.  My hopes ended up being crushed though by the Thunder hitting like sixty percent of the threes they shot in the third and fourth quarters.  This was disappointing for me, but the experience is still one that made it all worth while.

    We left the arena to get back on the bus and drive back to Cedar Ridge.  I ended up falling asleep most of the time back and I went straight to bed when we arrived back at my home.  This is an opportunity that I would never choose to pass up and I hope there is more similar to this in the future for me.  It was nice being able to relax, talk to people who I don’t usually get to talk with and to learn about different aspects of karate that I was not aware of.  Overall, I’m appreciative that I got to go on this and I hold onto those feelings whenever I think about that activity.

Boarding School Weights Class

Cedar Ridge Academy Boarding School students gather in the weight 'room' of the school, a large metal shop that houses something similar to the weight room in a professional gym. Weights is part of a comprehensive physical program offered at the boarding school.

Cedar Ridge Academy's Physical Program

By Swift, student enrolled in basketball and weights
Published in The Cedar Spectrum, January 2011

At Cedar Ridge Academy, the students have a variety of physical activities to choose from to help keep them active and healthy. The students can choose from karate as well as a number of other sports which include basketball, volleyball, and softball. Also, students can choose to participate in P90X, a conditioning workout, as well as weight lifting. Any of these physical activities chosen by a student will help them on their way to becoming a healthier and more active person. 


    Karate, which is taught by Rob Nielson, program owner and therapist, occurs three days out of the week on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays. Karate is proven to be the best physical activity for the developing brain since it activates nine out of the ten neuro linguistic neurons. Karate also has a positive effect on ADD/ADHD and nonverbal learning issues. Overall, karate is a very beneficial and healthy activity to participate in.

   Basketball is the most popular sport here among the students at Cedar Ridge. It is led by veteran coach and therapist, Wes Nielson. Wes has been coaching for about thirteen years now and his experience as a coach has only improved. Last season, his team went undefeated and won the league. This year, there are big expectations to match last season’s championship. As for the activity itself, basketball is played four days out of the week, Tuesday, Thursday, Friday and Sunday. And yet the boys still tend to find extra playing time from day to day.

    Volleyball is another available sport for the girls to participate in. During the volleyball season, girls who are eligible can join and play on the team which competes in town. They are coached by Christine Haggerty, one of the beloved teachers and co-owners of the program. The volleyball PE is led by Brent Crane, another therapist here at Cedar Ridge. Each Tuesday and Thursday, the girls play volleyball from 10:30 to 12:00. Volleyball is a great sport to play.

    Softball is the sport that a majority of students tend to participate in. If students are eligible, then they are able to go on softball trips, some of which are overnight. Students have a lot of fun playing softball and it is a good way to get out and enjoy the spring sunshine.

    P90X! The best way to get in shape and have your muscles ripped after a month! P90X is led by Christine, one of the hardcore participants in the strength training and conditioning workout. Students who choose to participate in P90X work out twice a week on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 9:00 to 10:30. It is the perfect workout for those who are trying to get stronger and look great.

    The last physical activity that students can choose from is weight lifting with Wes. Just like all of the other PEs, it is on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 10:30 to 12:00. Weight lifting is held up at Rob’s shed, a huge airplane hangar where there are weight machines, dumbbells and free weights to choose from. The workout style is up to the students since it is just like going to a public gym. They can choose to work out hard, or casually lift weights—it’s all up to them.

    Becoming healthy at Cedar Ridge isn’t just about therapy; it is about staying physically active, too. Whether it is martial arts or sports, exercise is a big part of developing a strong and fit character. Physical education is mandatory for all students, but it eventually becomes not just a requirement of the program, but something fun and enjoyable.

    Being involved in the activities here will help students remain active when they leave and continue living a healthy lifestyle.

Boarding School Boy Tutors Girl

Cedar Ridge Academy student tutors a girl a the local middle school.

Cedar Ridge Academy Helps Make STARS

By Porter and Noah, STAR Reading Tutors
Published in
The Cedar Spectrum , December 2010


Here at Cedar Ridge Academy we have recently been going to Roosevelt Middle School participating in a program called STAR Reading. Basically, a select group of kids have chosen to help middle school students in Roosevelt to become better at reading.  This has been a very good experience for quite a few students, including Marilyn, Noah, Porter, Morgan, Nicolette, Nisty, Shelby, and Rafael.

    To get into more detail, I will take you through the steps of what we do with the kids while helping them read. First, we meet up with our reading buddies and start out by reading several pages in a book that they choose. Then we stop and go through what they read and ask them what they got out of it. We ask them basic questions like, “Who is the main character?” and “Where does this take place?”. Then we ask them to choose a few words that they don’t understand and we write them on a flashcard and go over them. At the end they read off a paper with 100 random words and we time them to see how many words per minute they can read. That pretty much sums up what we do with our reading buddies.

    Overall, the STAR Reading program is an awesome opportunity for us to spend time with kids and actually help them out. Also, it is just fun to get off campus and have time to talk and hang out in a more relaxed environment.

Cedar Ridge Academy student works on children's book for local elementary

Design for Success--Flexible Curriculum

By Christine Haggerty, Dean of Academics
Published in the
The Cedar Spectrum, November 2010

     The academic design of Cedar Ridge Academy has always worked with the ebb and flow of therapy. Time frames are individual, just as comprehension and learning style depend upon the educational background, motivation, and inner workings of each student.

Therapeutic progress does not conveniently follow the traditional academic schedule of semesters. Actually, most of life does not arrange itself around spring break and parent conferences. Life flows. It changes on its own in response to the natural rhythms of the human experience.

Learning also has its own rhythm in response to the nature and discipline of individuals. 'Doing time' in a traditional classroom has worked for so few of our students in their home setting that it would make no sense to duplicate it at our school. We have a system that flows, covering ground in direct relation to mastery and hard work.

Before students can make rapid progress in credits at Cedar Ridge Academy, they need to address two specific areas of learning:

Content Knowledge    

Content knowledge consists of information specific to the different subject areas. Content knowledge in biology involves understanding the history behind the Punnet Square, and how flowers are pollenated. English content involves the basic parts of a story, and understanding differences in genres such as fiction and nonfiction.

When a student misses information in a content area because he or she ditched class, slept through class, or attended class high or intoxicated, they end up with gaps in their content knowledge. 

It is after their son or daughter failed enough classes for enough semesters that many parents recognize that their child needs to be sent to a more appropriate setting in order to have a chance at any kind of future.
It is this clear threat to their student's future that prompts many parents to take final, definitive action on the behalf of their son or daughter.

A gap in content knowledge through any of the grades causes difficulty for many students to progress in the subject areas because those students are missing information they need to move on. Trying to learn in the content areas with missing pre-knowledge is like trying to build a house on a hole; students must fill in the holes in their knowledge so that they have something on which to build new knowledge.

Learning Strategies

     Another common learning situation among our incoming students is a lack of learning strategies. For many of them, school was easy through the elementary grades. Once they hit junior high and school required discipline, just picking up the content in class was no longer enough. Now they were expected to do homework, many of them failing suddenly because they didn't turn in work--not because they couldn't understand the material. As parents, and guardians, you know the rest of the story.

Strengthening learning strategies begins with identifying a student's learning strengths. I'm not sure why, but most of our students come in with the following two qualities: their auditory vocabulary is greater than their visual vocabulary and the two are not synced; and, they are highly verbal. The vocabulary gap is addressed through students reading text out loud to match the auditory and visual pieces into a comprehensive vocabulary. The verbal strength and vocabulary are both addressed in pair or group discussion; students discussing work in any area are using their verbal strength to process subject content and content specific vocabulary.

As a result, our curriculum employs a lot of projects and we encourage group work. Progress through the courses is guaged at achieving an 80% minimum on each assignment, but, more than that, progress is based on what an individual student needs to practice or learn regardless of the grade.

Initially, students struggle. They move at what seems like a sluggish pace at accumulating credits. During the first six months, students are figuring out how to be students. Many of them are motivated to get school done, but they are discouraged by their lack of study skills. Others see their transcript and figuratively weep over their lack of credits, feeling hopeless about ever graduating.

Cedar Ridge Academy is not a magical cure for students who are struggling in school. It is a solid chance, certainly. It is an opportunity for students to secure their prospects for a good future.

But it is also hard work. We do a thorough job in our content areas. We work and rework assignments. But, we also provide the support, experience, and relationships our students need to succeed now and in their futures.

The Cedar Spectrum, November 2010.

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Cedar Ridge Academy admits students of any gender, race, religion, sexual orientation, or national or ethnic origin to all rights, privileges, programs, and activities generally accorded or made available to students at the school. It does not discriminate on the basis of gender, race, color, religion, sexual orientation, or national or ethnic origin in administration of its educational policies, scholarship, athletic and other school-administered programs.
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