Students are mentored by experienced, caring outdoor instructors and each small group is supported by a therapist. At Explorations, we prioritize students emotional and physical safety and allow them to explore self-imposed limitations hands-on through adventure activities and individual and group therapy.
Penny James, BS
Certified Parent Coach
Penny co-founded Explorations in 1989 with a vision that one size does not fit all. Thus, at the root of every Explorations program and experience is the commitment to individualized care.
With over 30 years direct care experience, Penny's perspective is rare. Having lived in residence with hundreds of students, Penny brings a realistic, firsthand knowledge of teens and how and when they make choices that shift their lives. Penny is involved in all aspects of every offering, and is committed to put her signature on the work done every day at Explorations.
Trained as an educator, Penny believes that students want to learn and feel competent when they 'get it'. It is her belief that placing teens in challenging environments - while simultaneously extending trust and providing side-by-side adult support - allows the student to learn by doing and restores lost confidence. Penny uses this experiential model at Explorations to provide opportunities for teens to embrace their successes and learn from their mistakes in hands-on, real life ways. An innovator in the field of non-traditional, therapeutic, learning environments, Penny brings tremendous passion, creativity and commitment to her work with teens and families.
Penny served for 10 years on the Board of Directors for the National Association of Therapeutic Schools and Programs (NATSAP) for two separate terms (2000 – 2008, 2015 - 2017). While serving the NATSAP Board, Penny championed a committee that established Best Practice Standards for small programs. Penny currently serves on the Governor-appointed Montana Board of Private Alternative Adolescent Residential or Outdoor Programs (PAARP). She was appointed in 2008, following her involvement in legislative advocacy to create licensure standards for therapeutic programs in Montana. Penny is an elected Trustee for her local school district and has served in that role for 19 years. She holds a B.S. in Education from Nebraska Wesleyan University and is a Certified Parent Coach.
Penny is the mother of three adult children and enjoys traveling to visit them. In her time away from Explorations, Penny enjoys live music, landscaping, decorating, and traveling with her partner, Jim.
Larry Culp, MS
Family Systems Specialist
Since the early 1980's Larry has cultivated the use of nature as a restorative tool to facilitate emotional growth. He uses the outdoors as a therapeutic milieu that allows him to access an array of resources to examine and assist in the clarification and resolution of persons in distress.
Larry has an MS in Correctional Rehabilitation Counseling from Southern Illinois University. Following graduate school, Larry taught Sociology and Crime and Delinquency at the University of Montana. In 1982, Larry left UM and began working with troubled youth in various capacities. In 1988 he was one of the founders of Loveland Farms Inc., a residential facility working primarily with adolescent females and their families. He also operated wilderness trips for both adults and adolescents. Larry has spent countless hours in the wilderness, supporting the emotions and emerging changes that inevitably occur within teens when they live with nature. Larry is an authentic and sensitive facilitator in his work with students and families.
Larry is a firm believer in the out-of-doors as a change agent. Larry is available to work individually with families in need, helping them identify and resolve behaviors that have contributed to a breakdown in the family structure. Larry's approach to assisting people in understanding the dynamics of their behavior comes from an educative perspective in the hopes that dysfunctional behaviors can be replaced with learned responses that have a positive outcome.
Mark Hewitt, BS
Mark is the Program Director at Explorations and has worked with teens in therapeutic settings for over 20 years. Mark enjoys working with students, families and staff members while being part of the leadership team at Explorations. Having served in various roles such as Dean of Students in therapeutic boarding schools, Mark knows the ins and outs of student life and the needs of families while participating in this process.
Mark is passionate about many of the things that take place behind the scenes at Explorations such as training, staff development, risk management and program management. However, he has tremendous experience working side-by-side students in residential and outdoor environments and enjoys being a part of the dynamic positive growth in students and families. Mark’s strengths are his perseverance and patience, his commitment to teamwork, and his calm demeanor which all lend themselves to forming strong and important relationships with those around him. Mark holds a B. S. in Social Sciences and is currently working toward his M.BA. Mark holds certifications and is an AEGIS and Restorative Practices trainer. Both models meet best practice standards, improve safety, teach crisis intervention and communication techniques to improve and repair relationships between individuals and within communities.
Mark is married to his wife Cyrena and has 4 children. An avid fisherman and outdoorsman, you can find him streamside or out in the mountains with his family when he is away from Explorations.
Victor Houser, M.D.
Child & Adolescent Psychiatrist
Dr. Houser is a Child & Adolescent psychiatrist who has worked with Explorations students for nearly 20 years. Dr. Houser meets regularly with all students at Explorations and not only manages medications, but develops relationships with our students during their stay. Dr. Houser is a consulting member of our treatment team and an invaluable resource to students and families at Explorations.
Bruce Boudousquie, MS, LCPC
Bruce has worked with children, adolescents and young adults for over 20 years. Bruce’s experience ranges from being a field instructor in wilderness settings, a therapeutic recreation specialist, a psychosocial rehabilitation specialist and a therapist to children and adolescents in school and residential settings. At Explorations, Bruce conducts individual therapy, family therapy and group sessions with our students and their families. Bruce earned his A. A. in Outdoor Recreation, his B.S. in Recreation with a minor in Therapeutic Recreation, and a Masters in Counseling with an emphasis in Marriage & Family Counseling.
Bruce enjoys working in this field and believes in the power of relationships and is commitment to building and strengthening the family unit. He hopes to be able to serve your son or daughter in a manner that will benefit your relationships and help encourage growth towards your goals and potential.
Bruce is married to his wife Sherrie and they have five children and three grandchildren. Bruce enjoys hard work, the outdoors and recreational pursuits. He is a man committed to the service of others and spends much of his free time assisting those in need.
Amy Henderson, B.S, M.Ed.
Amy joins the Explorations team with 12 years as an educator and 3 years as a school guidance counselor. She holds a B.S. in Education with a Counseling endorsement and also earned a Master’s in Education Counseling. As a therapist at Explorations, Amy conducts group sessions and also meets individually with students. Because of her experience as a guidance counselor in the school system, Amy also brings her expertise for post-high school planning to those students transitioning.
Amy believes that working with adolescents is a wonderful – and sometimes challenging -opportunity. She believes those who work with teens are afforded the unique glimpse into the brief time when young people begin to realize their potential. She believes all of us at Explorations are fortunate to be a part of those moments in a young person’s life.
Amy is a native Montanan who enjoys the outdoors, reading and quilting. She has two children who keep her very busy and very happy. In her free time, you can find Amy alongside a stream, fishing, or hiking in the woods with her kids.
Dianne Hanna, B.A.
Dianne is passionate about learning and academic success! She has worked for Explorations as a Tutor/Educational Specialist since 1994 and is a graduate of Washington State University.
Dianne has a wealth of experience working with non-traditional learners both in the classroom and in individualized learning environments. She has spent many years working with at-risk students, encouraging them to become better students by making good choices and planning for a future that requires continual learning. Dianne has extensive history in Title-1 programs, which target and support low income schools and ensure all students have access to educational opportunities. She has worked with another college enrichment program, Upward Bound, and helped to pilot one of the oldest and most successful Alternative Learning Centers in Montana high schools.
She, and her husband Jim, are the proud parents of a son who earned a degree in Mechanical Engineering at Montana State University and whose current job takes him to destinations around the globe. Dianne is a master quilter, an artist and enjoys every moment she gets to spend with her granddaughter!
Sarah Polmounter, BA
Adventure Education Coordinator
Sarah brings a passion for the outdoors to every element of her work with teens! Sarah has worked in wilderness and adventure environments with young people and is an experienced outdoor professional. Always keeping safety as her first priority, Sarah also brings enthusiasm and joy to her work with students in the outdoors.
Sarah serves as the Adventure Education Coordinator at Explorations and develops and implements weekly programming for our residential students and coordinates our Summer Adventure Program. She is also experienced in work with families and has planned and facilitated experiential education activities to align with a family’s therapeutic process.
Sarah holds a B.A. in Sociology. She is a certified Wilderness First Responder, an American Red Cross Lifeguard and Lifeguard Instructor, and holds certifications in Single Pitch Rock Instruction and AIARE Level 1(avalanche hazard management). Sarah is proficient at many outdoor pursuits and able to instruct rock-climbing, skiing, snowboarding, hiking, paddle-boarding, and mountain-biking. She is also an avid volunteer and involves students in a variety of service opportunities.
Sarah is an incredible cook – both indoors and in the field. During her time away from work, she likes to just play outside!
Ron has worked professionally with at-risk adolescents for nearly 10 years. Ron is an seasoned and versatile Residential Counselor and specializes in teaching life skills such as vehicle maintenance,cooking, home maintenance and building projects. He also provides oversight and is the direct supervisor to students who hold on site jobs at Explorations. Ron works side-by-side with Explorations students on a daily basis and has participated in every aspect of residential life. Ron plans and implements annual service projects, during which he teaches the gift of giving.
Ron is a third-generation Montanan who enjoys the beautiful outdoors. He spends much of his spare time fishing, hunting and cooking/preparing original recipes. Ron is also a proud parent and the grandparent of a beautiful girl! Young at heart, Ron believes that everyone deserves to be loved and treated with the great respect despite their circumstances. He displays a positive attitude in his daily life and considers it a privilege to share in the lives of others.
Residential Counselor/Mentor/Outdoor Instructor
Tristan works as a Residential & Outdoor Counselor & Mentor, teaching life skills and participating in recreational activities with our students. Tristan has interfaced with Explorations students for over 20 years and has made and maintained relationships with many former students. After attending college, working in the construction industry and traveling internationally, Tristan came to Explorations to share his talents and perspective. Known for his patience, his willingness to listen and an ability to create authentic moments in his work with our students, Tristan provides relevant feedback that challenges our students to find their inner, hidden strengths.
Tristan enjoys travel, fashion, and live music. He loves to explore outside and enjoys hiking, biking, canoeing, and skiing. Tristan is an athlete and engages in a variety of sports activities. An experienced photographer, Tristan shoots a variety of photos including portraits, landscapes and events. He has spent time in Nepal, photographing images on the Annapurna circuit for a Nepalese trekking company. His photography has also been featured by Montana Fish Wildlife & Parks, a variety of Instagram photography pages and the University of Montana and Montana State social media platforms.
Alysoun Johnston, BA
Alysoun has worked with adolescents in therapeutic boarding environments for 15 years. Her career has led her from the classroom to the great outdoors and allowed her to develop a diverse skill set. Alysoun’s background includes writing and editing curriculum and textbooks, developing experiential education textbooks, leading experiential education courses, teaching AP courses and heading the recreation department for an all-girls school. She is an editor and research consultant and taught Social Science courses at a therapeutic boarding school for over 10 years. Alysoun has obtained continuing education certifications in NVLD, ADHD and Executive Functioning.
In addition to her work with students in the classroom, Alysoun has a wealth of experience in outdoor classrooms. Her recreational interests include whitewater rafting, marathon running, hiking, skiing (Alpine, Nordic & Skate), canoeing, horseback trail riding and fly fishing. She is a certified Wilderness First Responder and also certified in crisis intervention by CPI.
A new mother to a beautiful girl, Alysoun enjoys time with her family and tries to wedge in time to garden or run whitewater!
Residential Counselor/Mentor/Outdoor Instructor
Maggie enjoys a unique perspective about Explorations and its students. Having been a part of the lives of many students and their families over the years, Maggie approaches her work with adolescents from the perspective of someone who has lived at Explorations. Maggie is avid about the outdoors and what it has to offer and has accompanied our students down the Salmon River, through the Alberton Gorge, to the Prince William Sound, and canoed the Missouri River. She is a part time Residential Counselor and also supports Explorations students off campus as a Mentor for college tours and extra-curricular activities.
Administrative Assistant & Office Manager
Carol comes to Explorations with a wealth of experience in office management, having owned and operated her own businesses and managed many others. Carol is proficient at all aspects of her job – from taking that first phone call from parents to processing every document that comes to Explorations. She is the master coordinator of the student and staff calendars and has the needed eye for detail to ensure that things move smoothly. Carol is often the glue that holds things together! Carol and her husband have 4 children, 11 grandkids and 9 great grandchildren! During her time away from work, Carol spends time with her family and enjoys working in her yard and flowerbeds and camping in the summer.
Assistant Admissions Counselor
Ramsay knows the ins and outs of Explorations like few others. She has been an integral part of a family-owned, family-loved, and family-operated program for young people and their families since its inception. Ramsay has witnessed the growth and change of hundreds of individuals at Explorations and shared residence with students for 19 years. She has worked directly with students and parents in various roles and is committed to helping families through that difficult first call when they reach out for help.
Ramsay currently is attending Seattle Central Community College and works at an art exhibition gallery for a nationally known artist. She serves as an Alumni Liaison and Assistant Admissions Counselor for Explorations. Ramsay enjoys international travel, sailing, cooking, spending time with family and exploring new destinations with her fiance.
Explorations collaborates with professional outdoor guides for many of our summer expeditions. Professionals chosen to partner with Explorations meet the highest safety and training standards, are qualified in wilderness first aid and are experienced working with youth in the outdoor classroom!