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Schools & Program Visits - Aug, 1993 Issue #23 

by Linda Shaffer
July 30-31 Visit

During a recent visit to Bend, Oregon, I came away with a good feeling about the healthy environments and opportunities available to adolescents, young adults and their families at Northstar Center, Mount Bachelor Academy, TREX, INC. and the J-BAR-J Ranch.

Jane Stewart,

Northstar's Tudor style house in downtown Bend has that comfortable feeling when you walk in the door that seems to work both for its young adult population and their parents as well. Like an independent house on a college campus --a homey kitchen and dining room, well kept student rooms, a comfy living room with a fireplace for spending time or having groups, a small private telephone room, and a green, flowered yard for cooking out and storing mountain bikes. And Central Oregon Community College , theaters and businesses within walking distance. Admissions Director and Counselor, Jane Stewart, and Program Director, Dennis Crowell, had a busy week in progress with four new students, but talked about the independent living style Northstar offers.

All students enter voluntarily and are involved in some combination of college, high school completion, work/internships, community service, main house living, apartment living, sports, wilderness expeditions, values clarification workshops, chores, 2 group sessions per week, and independent living classes. Accessibility by bike around the small college town of Bend seems to work well for Northstar's students. Some stay on in Bend after completion of the program to continue their college education and drop by or meet downtown casually with Northstar staff who can offer ongoing supportive resources --a result it appears of a very healthy educational and transitional year for young adults ages 17-24.

Sarah Koalkin,

Mount Bachelor Academy, designed by Executive Director Linda Houghton, has recently completed its new Lodge with a sunken cozy "pit" where all remove their shoes before entering to maintain a nice soft feel (and a clean carpet). Highlights of a visit to MBA for most visitors would probably be the new Lodge with its attractive living, dining and library facilities up on the hill next to the gymnasium, and the warm close feeling between students and staff - which is also extended to visitors. Another pleasing feature of the dining room is the white table cloths with each table set and attended to by a student "table head" for family style dining. Everyone waits to sit down until all have entered the room and have found their places. What the visitor sees is somewhat quiet teenage dining, but filled with energy. Students talk to visitors with ease and openness at MBA. One young man I encountered seemed destined for a lot of responsibility somewhere in the world as I saw him step in and take on internship type responsibilities with an ease and agreeableness that any family, school or business would love to have around. A visitor may get to see the comprehensive role of Academic Director, Pat Savage, and Admissions Director, Sarah Koalkin, and other staff as they are very much involved in the school not only administratively but hands on with each student and in the heart of the program.

Gabriel and Anne Rivera,

Visiting TREX,INC. meant for me sitting in a group with Gabriel, 4 teenagers and another staff member in a wooded setting near still snow-covered Mt. Bachelor at Sparks Lake. Also, it included spending time later with Gabriel and Anne and their three young children at their home.

What TREX offers basically is an assessment period of three weeks that includes a base camp, the wilderness, an "intensive" to identify and sort out the issues, some primitive living skills, plenty of groups, possibly a trip to the Oregon coast if appropriate and earned, and an assessment with recommendations of the type of environment that appears to make the most sense after TREX. There is a flexibility within the program to do some tailor making as is called for. TREX is not wilderness survival, the Rivera's point out. They maintain their program in locations that are fairly accessible. I'd say talk to Gabriel about specific needs of specific kids and he will put together the setting needed.

Rick O'Dell,

The J-BAR-J Ranch outside Bend offers some families an interim location for their son when leaving one program and entering another. They generally are looking at 1 to 3 days, but will consider each need individually. Their primary services are to offer a residential placement for male adolescents, most of whom are adjudicated youths but with some private placements.

Dinner was happening when I arrived and all were talkative and amicable. Everyone who was involved in clean up afterwards (vacuuming included) seemed to know who they were without any problem.

Most students stay at J-BAR-J for about 1 year and earn opportunities through a level system and group process. Level 1 dorm space is very basic (bed, dresser, nothing on the walls) with other levels bringing in added decor, living room and finally a shared apartment on the ranch.

Students attend classes both on and off the ranch in the public school system and contribute to the community in a variety of ways. One of the big events for students is their annual opportunity to have a job at the Michelob Classic Hunter Jumper Show putting up all the stalls, helping out with the cleaning, and interacting with the community through a food concession stand.

Rick O'Dell is the Director for all questions of placement, short-term and long-term. J-BAR-J expects to open a girls facility in Sisters, Oregon in the fall.

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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