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Origins

The inception of Makana was in response to a dispiriting realization that many of our professional colleagues in wilderness therapy and adolescent therapy were having at the same time. This realization was that the wilderness was having a positive, meaningful effect on young people. Nevertheless, it was only the beginning stage of the transformation needed for teens to maintain "lasting" change. We struggled to find any follow-up program that we could confidently recommend to families with children coming out of a wilderness program. Unfortunately, the bar set for aftercare programs has been set too low; and we could no longer watch as our young wilderness graduates transitioned into programs that only failed them.

Our founding partners and the executive team came together to disrupt the industry of adolescent therapy schools. Jacob Pope and Sharon Clegg formed a nonprofit organization that quickly attracted others qualified with the common mission to create the best wilderness aftercare program in the world.

Our goal is "lasting outcomes." We answer to no investor or profit bottom-line. We are driven by our triple-bottom-line objective. Our mission is personal – to each person on our staff. Our promise and our gift to our struggling youth and their families is lasting change and a hopeful future.

Makana group of girls

The Gift

Makana is a Hawaiian term meaning “gift.” The gift we offer is hope. The suffering we all experience is a result of failing hope. We’re here to help the teen who has accepted the label of “hopeless” or “bad”, and the parent who is feeling despair and fear for the future. Relief comes from reframing the labels we’ve put on what we’ve done, who we are, and what’s possible. This takes time and practice but it can become habitual to think positively about what’s possible and even about the lessons of the past. When that happens, the intrinsic engine of aspiration is ignited and a young person becomes much more than recovered but thriving – a parent becomes more than relieved but proud and full of hope.

Rising Above the Status Quo

Behavioral Correction

Most programs facilitate a “levels system” that only results in behavior change while they’re in the system.

Immersive Therapy Model

Our modalities systematically and progressively develop a lasting, intrinsic desire to change, grow, and achieve.

Passive Learning Environment

Many long-term care programs struggle with apathetic staff and students—a disengaged mind doesn’t learn. This leaves their graduates prey to too many external influences too soon.

Engaged Learning Environment

We are here to serve youth who are experiencing hardship but who are most capable of change and come willingly (see Enrollment Process).

Perpetual “Therapizing”

Many youth go from program to program indefinitely. Children are left feeling abandoned and check out. Sadly, this leads to a prevailing attitude that some people cannot be helped, and lifelong therapy is to be expected.

Progressive Capacity Building

Our program is designed to transition gradually into independence and true leadership. We maintain the highest expectations of happiness and success. After graduation, support continues at home and alumni are not considered truly “Makana Leaders” until they are giving back as mentors.

“Frankencare” Syndrome

Youth frequently get transitioned from program to program with conflicting methods and mixed messages. Students who have experienced this often communicate abandonment trauma and a sense of worthlessness.

Continuum Of Care

We offer a “continuum of care” that moves from the most basic self-awareness, to self-actualization, to capable leadership skills. Our curriculum is designed to iteratively develop habits and skills that will lead to high-performing adults.

Little Training For Parents & Family

Parent and family support is either left out of the equation or offered as general support. Other positive home relationships are typically not even acknowledged.

Content With Status Quo

New learning and therapy models are slow to be adopted or dismissed as “unproven”, despite mounting evidence that so many traditional methods are not working.

Content With Status Quo

New learning and therapy models are slow to be adopted or dismissed as “unproven”, despite mounting evidence that so many traditional methods are not working.

Leading Edge Personal Development

Our curriculum is based on emerging science, progressive techniques, and a holistic approach to personal development. We focus on the “4 Dimensions of Wellness” that include mental, physical, social, and emotional growth.

The Bar Is Set Far Too Low

Most programs simply aim to keep youth out of trouble.

Hardship Is A Catalyst To Greatness

We know that greatness frequently comes out of life’s hardest challenges. Our expectation for each student is to become high-performing, world-class leaders.

The Makana Way

A Mission With Heart

Makana students playing on the courtMakana students playing on the court

Makana’s mission is to help struggling youth overcome resistance to help, gain a knowledge of their intrinsic value, establish healthy habits, and gain the skills and experience they need to find success as they define it for themselves. We are called to help the whole family with parent training and therapy. We promise to challenge the status quo and raise the bar for the help available to young people in crisis.

We believe that the trauma and difficulties our youth face can be the very reason they achieve greatness. We will always see our students as people regardless of their circumstances or behaviors, that they might see the greatness in themselves. We address the health of our students holistically with our 4 dimensions of wellbeing: physical, social, mental, and emotional.

We seek to be thought leaders as science unveils a new understanding of the human brain, body, emotional health. We are eager to implement any new modality that proves to be beneficial to the lasting progress of our students and their families. Our emerging generation deserves better. We are here to answer the call.

We Answer to Outcomes

Triple Bottom Line Nonprofit

Even in an industry where the promise is to help people, most programs are ultimately striving for a profitable bottom line in the traditional sense. We’ve been witness to the reality that when money and financially-driven decision-makers are the top of the hierarchy of an organization, it is nearly impossible to create an organization the acts first in the interest of the customer or client – even harder to act in the interest of the wider community and planet (regardless of inspiring mission statements).

We created our program as a non-profit to keep ourselves honest. We don’t answer to any investor or shareholder that wants to see increasing profits. We measure success first by the positive outcomes of the families we serve, then to our global community, our mother earth, and our financial health so we can keep doing the work.

Makana family enjoying each other's company

Social
Bottom Line(People)

Our primary objective is to create measurable outcomes for our clients. Some examples of how we do this is tracking physical gains and sleep quality, daily academic progress tracking, and data-driven psychological testing. We continually innovate ways to help our students and their families feel more joy and positivity for their future. This creates a profound rippling effect through the network effect. Each student reaches thousands of lives on many levels. Our outcomes are measured in the number of qualified leaders we introduce to the world.

Beautiful lake house and green trees

Environmental
Bottom Line(The Planet)

We believe that all things are connected. Our students come from wilderness therapy programs where they’ve experienced a profound connection to nature and its impact on their wellbeing. As an institution, we aim to be an example to our students, other educational institutions, and the business world at large. We measure our success on environmental bottom line indicators such as our carbon footprint, the care of our 100+ acre property, and service to public lands that serve as teachers to our rising generation.

Contractors on a job site

Financial
Bottom Line(Profit)

While we are a licensed nonprofit organization, we aim to create economic yields with our business model. We are not a charity that requires donations in order to continue doing our work. What we do with our economic yields is where we differ from for-profit educational institutions. We are committed to putting our proceeds to work for the benefit of our students and families through facility upgrades, attracting the best staff, learning opportunities, and the expansion of our mission to serve more families.

A Dream Team Of Caring Pros

Board of Directors

Mark Nelson

CFO, Board Member

Mark Nelson

CFO, Board Member

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Currently, Mark Nelson has not published any biographical information. Check back later for any updates.
Kristina Paider

Board Member

Kristina Paider

Board Member

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Justin Kaaiakamanu

Board Member

Justin Kaaiakamanu

Board Member

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Currently, Justin Kaaiakamanu has not published any biographical information. Check back later for any updates.
Beth Hillman

Parent Program Director, Board Member

Beth Hillman

Parent Program Director, Board Member

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Beth Hillman is a mother of five, an Arbinger Facilitator and a Parent Coach, whose lifes work is to guide parents to a better way and rebuild family relationships knowing that inner peace is always an option. Beth serves parents by teaching emotional adulthood, how to honor the struggle, how to empower their children to solve their own problems, and how to see greatness in them so they can see it in themselves.

Advisory Committee

Sara Hunt-Perkins

Chair

Sara Hunt-Perkins

Chair

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Currently, Sara Hunt-Perkins has not published any biographical information. Check back later for any updates.
James Hampton

Co-Chair

James Hampton

Co-Chair

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Executive Team

Jacob Pope

Executive Director

Jacob Pope

Executive Director

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Adventures have taken Jacob Pope all over the world; living outside the United States more than in it. This has broadened his perspective of not only culture and business practices but also the human struggles that come with both poverty and prosperity. As a young adult, Jacob's thinking and worldview were profoundly shaped by working with the Arbinger Institute. From there he served as COO for the Anasazi Foundation, and most recently as the Executive Director for WinGate Wilderness Therapy.It was in this last position that he struggled to address the genuine concerns of parents grappling with "What next?" in aftercare for their child. It was the pain of this daily plea for help that drove our team to create a solution - Makana Leadership Academy. From inception to launch, this nonprofit has inspired all who have been exposed to it. The cause is full of purpose and the need for it is acute. Each of us at Makana shares a sense of conviction, perhaps one could even say; we feel inspired to carry this torch. Helping others become leaders is much bigger than any of us. We say to those who have struggled, are struggling, or simply seeking a gap-year experience - we feel you and want to work with you.
Matt Blodgett

Strategic Dev. Director

Matt Blodgett

Strategic Dev. Director

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Garry Waterman

Clinical Director

Garry Waterman

Clinical Director

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Garry Waterman received his master's degree in Social Work from the University of Michigan after serving in the army to provide his services to military personnel. He has worked with at-risk students for 25 years in a public-school system. Garry is a Licensed Master Social Worker (LMSW) and a member of the Academy of Certified Social Workers (ACSW). Gary uses insight, empathy, and science-based methods to help his clients gain a positive self-image and optimistic outlook on life. He has a unique ability to gain the trust of young people and let them lead their healing journey as he offers helpful methods for their recovery from the various issues that our young people face.
Sharon Clegg

Curriculum, Compliance Director, Board Member

Sharon Clegg

Curriculum, Compliance Director, Board Member

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Audrey Waterman

Operations, Leadership Development

Audrey Waterman

Operations, Leadership Development

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Michelle Anderson

Academic Director

Michelle Anderson

Academic Director

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Michelle is passionate about helping youth awaken their curiosity and find their vision of what's possible for themselves. As an experienced special education director, she has a mastery of various learning modalities and has incorporated valuable life, social, and transitional skills into the Makana program. Michelle and her team of experienced certified teachers do an amazing job of keeping students focused on daily progress toward their goals through experiential lessons, daily progress tracking, and coordination with our clinical team and the home staff.
Michelle Smith

Human Resources Director

Michelle Smith

Human Resources Director

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Kristin Anderson

Finance Director

Kristin Anderson

Finance Director

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Gheen Hillman

Marketing Manager

Gheen Hillman

Marketing Manager

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Loreto Di Cesare

Cinematographer

Loreto Di Cesare

Cinematographer

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Clinical Team

April Christman

Primary Therapist

April Christman

Primary Therapist

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Patrick Thomas

Primary Therapist

Patrick Thomas

Primary Therapist

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Lara Kravet

Primary Therapist

Lara Kravet

Primary Therapist

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Malissa Takacs

Director of Aftercare

Malissa Takacs

Director of Aftercare

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Malissa is a licensed counselor and social worker that has worked in the field of college admissions and counseling for two decades. Currently in her 6th year as an international college counselor, Switzerland and Singapore are her two most recent "homes". Previously, she spent 8 years at Carlbrook School, a therapeutic college preparatory boarding school in Virginia, where she served as Director of College Counseling. In her counseling roles, she has given oversight to all aspects of the college counseling and post-graduation processes, working closely with students and assisting with the annual submission of hundreds of applications to institutions around the world.Malissa has visited over 100 colleges and is a member of both the National (US) and International Association of College Admission Counseling organizations. Prior to her time in college counseling, Malissa worked as a school-based therapist and in US university admissions. She has earned a master's degree in Higher Education from the University of Virginia, a master's degree in Social Work/Children Youth and Families from Case Western Reserve University (OH), and a Certificate of College Counseling from UCLA.

Academic Team

Mark Wait

Athletic Director

Mark Wait

Athletic Director

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Sunshine Bellon

Literature, Health Teacher

Sunshine Bellon

Literature, Health Teacher

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Miles Spiker

Experiential Learning

Miles Spiker

Experiential Learning

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Miles has built a career around helping others with the unique focus of wilderness, music, craftsmanship and experiential education. He brings seven years of experience working with youth in wilderness and adventure therapy as well as in an international boarding school setting. As a lifelong student of music, nature and the art of play, he has found them to be three of the most influential forces that continue to empower him to be a strong leader.Beyond the outward benefits and joys of these three elements, Miles sees that they are also powerful motifs that help contribute to the process of healing, self-discovery, and growth. After spending around 900 field days working as a mentor, he has gained an awareness of what it takes to help encourage and inspire the leaders of tomorrow.
Megan Pope

Leadership Ambassador, Tutor

Megan Pope

Leadership Ambassador, Tutor

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Josh Steadman

Art Curriculum Advisor

Josh Steadman

Art Curriculum Advisor

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Home Team

Seth Gottlieb

Student Services Manager

Seth Gottlieb

Student Services Manager

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Sarah Komisar

Home Manager

Sarah Komisar

Home Manager

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Michael Secrest

Home Manager

Michael Secrest

Home Manager

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“The secret to finding the deeper level in the other is finding the deeper level in yourself. Withouth finding it in youself, you cannot see it in the other.”

— Eckhart Tolle

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