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Schools & Program Visits - Feb, 1994 Issue #26 

Running Springs, California
Saul Rudman, Admissions
Visit by Tom Croke, Fall 1993 

In one of my relatively unusual forays into the West, I had the opportunity to visit the CEDU group of schools (CEDU, CEDU Middle School, and Hilltop) in Running Springs, California. Since CEDU is one of the best known special purpose schools, I will just focus on what I found new and surprising. 

The most exciting part of my visit was CEDU Middle School. As staff were proud to acknowledge, this is a program still evolving. This is not a euphemism for describing a program badly in need of further development. They acknowledge that CEDU Middle confronted a period of uncertainty and negative feedback. They are justifiably proud of the way the program has jelled since then. 

From what I see, I must concur. This program has found its direction, utilizing the best of the CEDU principles of education, personal growth, and behavioral correction, as we have come to know them over the years, but with some new twists. Within the program we can still find the traditional (but less confrontative) CEDU "rap" ?? under leadership of a credentialed mental health professional. But we also find a team conference including a consulting pediatric psychiatrist ?? the same psychiatrist who will be the attending physician if the student requires admission to a psychiatric hospital. The best of alternative disciplines, such as play therapy for the younger children and use of medications for ADHD and mood disorders, are put into use when needed. This is virtually unprecedented cooperation between multiple traditions, which has required a great deal of creativity and energy to merge. 

I got the impression that when CEDU middle opened, an attempt was made to do everything according to the original CEDU tradition, reduced to a younger age level. This did not seem to work as well with the more complex issues which present in younger children placed in a residential setting. Still committed to the principles and procedures which have made the CEDU organization great, and not wanting to evolve into a medical model Residential Treatment Center, the task confronting the staff was to find a way to apply the CEDU principles as well as possible to this population. 

The students I observed ranged from nine years old up to sixteen (Since my visit, CEDU has capped ages at CEDU Middle School at fifteen). The nine year olds had trouble making good use of the rap, but were also involved in play therapy. The sixteen year olds appeared to be pretty much at age level, but were reported as having lacked the requisite maturity levels to be placed in the upper, or secondary school, at the time of admission. The wide age range presents its own challenges, but every student appeared to be dealt with at his/her own level of maturity. 

The program presented a broad continuum from which staff could select appropriate interventions, as would be appropriate to each student. There was a strong sense of a program still evolving, which will use today's experience to become a better program tomorrow. But there is no question that CEDU offers an alternative for a latency age child or early adolescent to gain all the advantages of the CEDU tradition, many advantages of more traditional care, in a very warm nurturing setting. 

CEDU Middle School shares a campus with the original CEDU secondary school. It is a beautiful mountainside setting, which surprised me. I was not expecting the beautiful lush green vegetation and the cool mountain air. 

CEDU (High School) and Hilltop deserve brief mention. Visiting CEDU a year after my first visit to Rocky Mountain Academy (RMA), CEDU's sister school in North Idaho, I was surprised to see the degree to which CEDU is also integrating other therapeutic disciplines. Availability of a psychotherapist, introduction of twelve step work for those with addictive behaviors, and an upgrading of the academic program were all apparently new innovations. Interviewing Bill Valentine, [since this visit Bill has moved to be the Director of Hilltop] who sponsors the twelve step work on campus (and two of his students), and calling on my own background in addictions, I was extremely impressed by the balance I sensed as CEDU offered genuine twelve step group support, balanced with a reserve in not moving too quickly and maintaining the CEDU tradition. 

I was also pleasantly surprised to see how far CEDU has gone to provide a sensitive environment for students with sexual identity issues. This is a population not often considered, but one needing very sensitive support. 

CEDU is apparently working on a goal to become the most academically competitive of the structured boarding schools. I did not have time on the CEDU campus to evaluate how far they have gone toward meeting that goal, but there was evidence of greater academic emphasis than I had seen at Rocky Mountain Academy a year earlier. 

Special purpose schools are a niche business, where I get suspicious of anyone trying to be all things to all people. But I was truly impressed with the breadth of the population CEDU can serve effectively. 

Hilltop brought the fewest surprises. I was surprised that the campus did not directly abut the CEDU campus, though it is in the same small town. The group experience was more leader directed than I had expected with structured goal oriented exercises which seemed like part of a personal growth curriculum ?? unlike rap groups at CEDU and RMA. The students seemed to be more dependent than oppositional, but that is just an impression. Maybe with greater age, they simply lacked some of the "zing" of the kids who populate the structured boarding schools at secondary level. But Hilltop is just what it is advertised to be. 

I very much enjoyed my trip to CEDU, regretting only that I had not allowed enough time to do justice to three very distinct facilities. I would comfortably refer to any of the three, and encourage all consultants to visit. Just leave enough time to do it right. 

Copyright 1994, 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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