Written by Briana Wipf, originally published by Great Falls Tribune on November 26, 2014

Stevie Slater, 11, left, Kira Clark, 10, center, and Alyson Mickelson, 13, graduated from services at Youth Dynamics on Wednesday. (Photo: TRIBUNE PHOTO/RION SANDERS)

Stevie Slater, 11, left, Kira Clark, 10, center, and Alyson Mickelson, 13, graduated from services at Youth Dynamics on Wednesday.
(Photo: TRIBUNE PHOTO/RION SANDERS)

In a small room on the fourth floor of Great Falls’ Columbus Center, seven children and youths and their families celebrated significant milestones Wednesday.

The children, 8 to 16, were clients of Youth Dynamics Inc., a statewide nonprofit service company that provides interventions to children and teens with behavioral health issues. They were all graduating at least one Youth Dynamics service; some were graduating from all services, including individual or family therapy or in-home services.

For Alyson Mickelson, working on her attitude with her family was her biggest issue.

“It was just spitefulness,” said Alyson, 13, “always having to have the last word.”

Kira Clark, 10, needed to learn how to deal with people, too — that being nice to people often means they’ll be nice to you and that it’s not all about her all the time.

Stevie Slater learned how to deal with difficult emotions like anger and sadness related to family issues. She’s learned to work through her emotions in a constructive way specifically through music.

“It helps me understand the world in a different perspective than other people would,” said Stevie, 11.

For all the clients who graduated, Wednesday’s small ceremony marked a big change, Youth Dynamics youth case manager and care manager Nick Henry said.

“The kids are proud to say they accomplished something,” Henry said as he put out a large cake decorated with yellow and blue ribbons with the word “Congratulations” written on it.

The graduation is also a happy moment for the other care managers at Youth Dynamics, some of whom have been working with the same child for years.

“It’s as much to acknowledge of the entire team role as it is the kids,” Henry said.

That team involves a lot of people — from care managers and therapists at Youth Dynamics to parents, other family, teachers and the clients themselves.

The clients who celebrated Wednesday were thankful for their newfound skills and how they have changed their relationships with their families.

“I’ve accomplished things I needed to do, like keeping my attitude in check,” said Kira, adding she gets along much better with her family than she used to.

Stevie, who enjoys listening to music and singing in the school choir, is happy she’s learned to cope with her difficult feelings. It’s helped her be a happier person and makes it easier for her to focus on schoolwork, something she loves. She gets straight-A’s, she says unequivocally. There’s no question about that.

Alyson went from having a hard time getting along with her family to living in a more harmonious home.

“I’m very proud of myself, working with (the program) and achieving my goals,” she said.

Those goals include getting good grades in school and being the best person she can be.

The clients also are incredibly excited to say they graduated, said Henry. Their accomplishment is recorded in diploma-like certificates handed out to each client.

“I’m really excited,” Kira said. “I’ve never really graduated from anything before.”

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