There is nothing better than when a career path leads a person exactly where they are meant to be, doing exactly what they are meant to do. That is the case for Jim Natural. Jim has spent his entire career helping kids. He began working with children as a public-school teacher in New England where environmental education was mandated as part of the region’s curriculum. Jim worked for one of the outdoor education programs designed to help children learn more about the environment, while engaging in outdoor educational experiences. He found working in a group setting with a new group of children each week exciting. Inspired by this work, Jim researched Pressley Ridge and the innovative Ohiopyle Wilderness program, a therapeutic wilderness camp located in the woods of Fayette County, Pennsylvania.
In 1981, he began working at the Pressley Ridge Ohiopyle Wilderness School. The camp provided intensive mental and behavioral treatment, for boys in a wilderness setting, offering juveniles a place to learn discipline and hands on skills who might not thrive in traditional placement centers.
Little did Jim know when he joined Pressley Ridge as a front-line teacher/counselor, it would be a decision that would change the trajectory of his career and his life. During his tenure, Jim became an integral part of the growth of the Ohiopyle Wilderness program. Working with many others, the goal was to get the Ohiopyle Education program accredited by the Middle States Association.
Jim worked at the Ohiopyle Wilderness program for 28 years until the day it closed in 2008. “I would have never left there had it stayed open. Being a part of that program and working with the kids was very fulfilling to me,” said Jim.
When the wilderness program closed, Jim transitioned to the Pressley Ridge training team and became a Life Space Crisis Intervention (LSCI) trainer. LSCI is a brain-based, trauma-informed, relationship-building verbal strategy that helps turn a crisis situation into a learning opportunity for young people who exhibit challenging behaviors.
“These are children who don’t trust adults because the adults in their lives have hurt them in some way. The training helps as you work to build that trust and show them that you care. A child’s behavior is not always their choice. Many times, they are acting out because of something that happened to them,” said Jim.
Now, 40 years later, Jim is retiring from Pressley Ridge. Over these past four decades, Jim has experienced firsthand how Pressley Ridge has expanded and added to their host of programs that effectively improve the lives of children and families. This success would not be possible without the deep-seeded passion and dedication of people like Jim Natural.
Jim will never forget the children who have touched his life over the years and is comforted to know that the work of Pressley Ridge continues. Jim’s new journey will lead him to the water as a full-time fisherman.
Upon his retirement, Pressley Ridge is thankful for all that Jim has done to help so many kids feel safe and learn how to trust adults again. As careers go, Jim Natural was led to exactly the right place to do exactly what he was meant to do, and for that so many people are grateful.