Nurturing Community – Northwest Passage



As published in the Intercounty Leader on April 5, 2023


Northwest Passage is a nonprofit organization dedicated to restoring hope through innovative mental health services for children and families. Northwest Passage has become a national leader in residential mental health assessment and treatment for youth experiencing severe and complex emotional and behavioral disruptions. The organization has two residential facilities. Riverside, situated on 70 wooded acres bisected by the winding Clam River in Webster, serves males and gender-diverse adolescents ages 12-17. The Prairieview campus is located on 25 acres of rolling prairie in Frederic, and houses females and gender-diverse adolescents ages 12-17 as well as Northwest Passage’s Assessment Program which serves ages 6-17 including youth of all genders.


Northwest Passage’s success is due in large part to its high-impact experiential programming, including a powerful nature photography program, In a New Light, which is funded with private donations and grants. The program has provided an opportunity for Northwest Passage youth to travel around the country, and even internationally, capturing amazing sunsets, beautiful wildlife and serene wilderness scenes with their cameras. Along the way, many also captured

parts of themselves that were otherwise out of reach. Mark Elliott, Executive Director, said “Many of our kids’ lives have been defined by their mistakes, and they’ve never received positive feedback or acknowledgement for the good things they’ve done. When they take a photograph they can be proud of, then see that photograph displayed to the public and be so well received, it has the potential to tap into feelings they may have never experienced. Feelings like pride, self-confidence, and acceptance. That can be a defining moment in the lives of our kids.” The residents’ inspiring work is showcased at the one-of-a-kind Northwest Passage Gallery in Webster.


Since its genesis in 1978, Northwest Passage’s programming has focused on blending traditional mental health treatment with arts and nature-based therapy. Though the problems facing children and teens have evolved since 1978, the fundamental needs for self-respect, trust, relationships, and steady guidance remain the same. Above anything else, Northwest Passage’s goal is to restore hope in their clients. By investing in the lives of marginalized youth, they are influencing and changing how mental health is ultimately treated and viewed. The transformations seen are no less than extraordinary.

Learn more at or by visiting the Northwest Passage Gallery. The gallery is open to the public Thursday – Sunday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., or by appointment. Call 715-309-4254 for more information.


The Northwest Alliance Community Foundation is an affiliate of the St. Croix Valley Foundation. We support our area nonprofits with educational opportunities and grants. Please consider joining us by making a donation. See our website for more information:, or email: