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Schools, Programs & Visit Reports- Dec, 1993 (#25) 

NORTHSTAR CENTER
Bend, Oregon
Dennis Crowell, Director
Jane Stewart, Admissions
503-385-8657
Lon Visit: September 8, 1993

Walking into Northstar Center's roomy, old style tudor house when the students are all there is much like entering a busy beehive. The productive energy level is high, students are busy taking care of their responsibilities, and staff are constantly being asked for advice, comments, and/or direction. That's not a good time to carry on a discussion with a staff member, but it is a good time to get a feel of the energy.

The house was selected partly because of its roominess, and partly because it is close to both downtown and the local community college. That makes it convenient for both attending classes and getting to the jobs, internships and/or community service that each student is responsible for.

Northstar Center is designed to provide a transition for young people of both sexes ages 17-24 who need more structure and direction than is available in a community or at college. The goal was to create a functional family environment, run on common sense, where young people could have enough structure to accomplish, and enough freedom to learn how to function independently - in short a transition period for those not quite ready to go out on their own.

The students have a lot of freedom within the structure of responsibilities and expectations. The freedom is to allow them the room to test their independence as adults, mistakes and all, while the responsibilities and expectations are such that the staff have an early warning system so they can intervene with a student long before things fall totally apart.

The structure can be described in four parts. The first is a strong positive peer pressure. The students watch out for and work with each other in the context they all know that little lapses can quickly become serious problems that would threaten the peer's future.

Second, all students have house duties which rotate, including a student house manager and assistant manager. This is to teach responsibility and the basic mundane living skills necessary for independent living.

Third, all students have school responsibilities. For most this is attending the local community college, but other options are available when they make sense for a particular student. Support, advice and direction is provided for each to become a successful student, which includes study time and skills, attending classes regularly, etc.

Fourth is work responsibilities. The purpose is to learn the work ethic and all that goes into being able to successfully hold down a job. The staff have a wide range of contacts throughout the community so the students can start by doing community service type work. Next for most students would be to participate in a career type internship, and gradually work into entry level jobs. Many people in the community like to see a Northstar student come their way because they know the staff will be providing effective support to make sure the student is successful. The students are not given a free ride, they must apply for each job and earn the opportunity just like any other young person looking for work.

Every student that comes to Northstar starts with a one year agreement, and the stay could be longer. They first move into the main house, the old roomy tudor style house. The stay here averages about six months and consists of learning how to handle their responsibilities, some counseling on their personal issues, personal skills such as budgeting and shopping for value, and focusing on the direction they want to go for the rest of their life. When they are ready to live a little more independently, the student moves into a transition apartment for 4-6 weeks or their own apartment. Having their own apartment is basically practicing living on their own while still staying in contact with the main house and being overseen by staff.

An ideal student is one who has been floundering. He/she may or may not have graduated from high school. The program works with students of average or above intelligence with one or more of the following: codependency, substance abuse issues in recovery, depression, learning disabilities, abandonment issues, abuse issues and low self-esteem. The program screens out students with a history of excessive violence, or serious psychiatric problems. Several of their current students have tried college and bombed out because they were not able to handle the independence. The parents of the students at Northstar Center very well might have been those who had been tearing their hair out because their child just would not get with it, or were unable to keep play and responsibility in balance. Northstar Center provides the little extra structure and support those children need to get through the transition.

Copyright 1993, Woodbury Reports, Inc. (This article may be reproduced without prior approval if the copyright notice and proper publication and author attribution accompanies the copy.)

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