Five clans mark a student’s progress through the MA program, reflecting shifts in maturity and defining privileges that higher clan status earns. Students begin at Earth clan and graduate when they reach Sky Clan. To earn promotion to the next clan requires mastery of a prior clan’s curriculum and challenges, which entail sustained demonstrations of consideration, empathy, planfulness, self-reliance and less selfish moral reasoning.
Earth Clan: An orientation stage. Before moving on, a student joins her team, gets to work at school, accepts the rules, and settles into the community as a willing member. In Earth clan group, each week, she joins others to consider the challenges and problems of new students.
Moon Clan: An introspective stage. Here a student is invited to review his own history, to sort out what he thinks about himself, to clarify his opinions, values, ambitions and struggles. In Moon clan group, he is invited to contemplate these matters with others. Students ready to begin the first level addictions course (an educational seminar) do so. Students call their parents each week, albeit we put the hot family issues on hold.
Sun Clan: A focus on relationships. By Sun clan a students must be successfully juggling the various tasks of adolescence: academic, athletic and interpersonal. They are expected to be doing chores willingly, living graciously with other team members. Individual therapy sessions support an active renegotiation of important relationships, starting with parents and family. Sun clan’s seminar concerns family, friendship and romantic love. At Sun clan, students who recognize they are at risk join a second-level addictions course, a seminar that intensively supports a student’s personal struggle to avoid addiction. A first brief visit home generally takes place at the end of Sun Clan.
Star Clan: A consolidation stage. By the end of Sun clan a new “approach” to adolescent tasks should have become apparent. Star clan students function as mature young men and women. They handle responsibilities with skill and self-discipline, help organize team and community activities, and lead on the team and in other groups (e.g., Student Council). They mentor new students, supervise team chores, and uphold community rules and values. In Star clan, students become accustomed to their own competence, as young adults, and get past their experience as themselves as self-preoccupied, disorganized failures. Star clan students may join the very selective third-level addictions group, if elected by fellow students. Star clan students make longer visits home and work out mutual expectations with their parents in anticipation of graduation. They create “relapse prevention plans” to reduce the risks of post-graduate stumbles.
In Star clan our younger students reside at the ranch to earn needed high-school credits and to prepare to return home with parents. Older students move into Sky House in town, where they can practice living independently with other senior students—to practice making themselves at home in a new place, and to learn to hold down a job, to participate in an intimate pre-collegiate community, and to take college courses at Flathead Valley Community College.
Sky Clan. Transition and Graduation: Students who have met the challenges of Star clan may prepare, during Sky Clan, for the transition to whatever comes next—a return home; conventional boarding school; a gap year or post-grad year in a prep school; or college. The task in Sky clan is to finish up, to get ready, and to say good-bye to all that this community has come to mean.