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Schools & Program Visits - Oct, 1997 Issue #48

Cocolalla, Idaho 

Lon’s Visit: September 9, 1997
Tamara Jackman, Admissions

The heart of the Glacier Mountain program has been an intensive eight week outdoor therapeutic and academic program for adolescents ages 11-17. Having been in operation for more than two years, they have successfully gone through many of the inevitable start-up growing pains. They are persevering in finding what works best for the staff and the children. They are especially oriented towards the child with ADD/ADHD. 

They have two rural properties, one east of Sandpoint on the Pend Oreille river, and one north of Sandpoint. The north property is where their program is currently headquartered and where I visited. The main building is an expansive ranch house, complete with hot tub and swimming pool. They are still in the process of modifying the property to better suit their needs. Both the property and the inside of the building, including the dorms, were clean, well cared for and comfortable. 

When a student first arrives, he/she settles into the on- property camp site a couple hundred yards behind the main building. They live in tents in this “base camp” and learn personal issue skills in preparation for an outdoor expedition. Expeditions have been throughout the West, including the Grand Canyon, Hells Canyon, Yukon Territory, British Columbia, the Cascade Mountains, the Oregon Coast and many other places. The goal of both the base camp and the expedition is “to search out and focus upon the root cause of each child’s failure to pursue a constructive purpose in life. This is accomplished by taking advantage of the heightened emotional awareness which an outdoor environment produces. Adolescents find themselves in unfamiliar territory where manipulation is no longer possible and where the demonstration of the principles of cause and effect are constantly present.... They open themselves up to the lessons of nature in the richly endowed outdoor classroom of northern Idaho.”

For the remaining time after the expedition, the student takes on the responsibility and role of “senior” student helping the newer students learn the necessary lessons. This time is also an important time for “Transition,” which the staff feels is a vital part of any program that wants to make a permanent change in a child. Their transition includes a six month in-home follow up. 

Academics are an integral and important part of the program. Students start work on academics shortly after arrival, the program coordinating with the student’s previous school. Tutors are provided on a daily and nightly basis and lessons are taught on a one on one basis. The emphasis on academics increases as the student progresses through the program and shows readiness. 

Glacier Mountain has just been awarded accreditation as a school. Because of interest in a longer program from some parents whose children they have worked with, they have established a long term academic program with a structured emotional growth structure. 

“I like it here,” is what the young man I got to chat with told me, and indicated he would like to stay. He had had trouble both at home and at school before enrolling at Glacier Mountain, mostly by having poor motivation. His eye contact was still not very strong when I talked with him, having difficulty looking me in the eye and when he did, he still showed signs of fright. However, the student and the staff told me it had been impossible for him to establish any kind of eye contact when he arrived. However, successfully completing the program and earning a kind of “junior” staff or “intern” status has helped his sense of self worth considerably. 

Copyright © 1997, 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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