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Schools & Program Visits - Aug, 1997 Issue #47

Robert Louis Stevenson Youth Academy
Apia, Western Samoa

Visit by Jodi Tuttle, Educational Consultant
St. George, UT (801) 656-1251
Jodi’s visit: January, 1997
David Smyth, RLSYA contact

Tranquility and peace flowed through me as I sat on this tropical island watching the waves break as they rolled into the beach. This unhurried, unspoiled atmosphere in Western Samoa offers a coeducational therapeutic residential school for adolescents between the ages of 13 and 18. Here young men and women are able to work on issues without negative pressure. 

The drive through the narrow streets of the local village to get to Robert Louis Stevenson Youth Academy (RLSYA) yielded a glimpse of the villagers worry free lifestyle. Their picturesque fales (houses) made of thatched roofs and poles, with chickens, pigs and piglets roaming freely throughout the neighborhood was a calming experience for me. Just at the entrance to the program an elderly man supervised a group of children, the smallest in the nude, playing in the creek. They became excited and presented many poses when we asked permission to take their picture. 

RLSYA utilizes a multi-disciplinary approach where a Program Director, physician, clinicians, teachers recreational counseling staff work together to help students reach their potential. The academic component is provided by Brigham Young University’s independent study program and is supervised by a certified teacher. In addition to the core subjects students also learn music, art and Samoan culture. 

The treatment portion of the program is three tiered. First, with safety as an issue a strong behavioral management component has been implemented. Once safety for the student is in place, treatment moves to an insight producing experiential mode. Students are encouraged to move past adolescent issues of rebellion and defiance into pre-adult issues of exploration and identity formation. The third component is one of “hands on” experiences. Off campus activities are aimed at addressing issues such as team building, denial, egocentrism, and drug free experiences. Students here move from repression to expression. Students participate in community service projects and job skills training so that on their own they will have learned responsibility, improved social awareness and a new appreciation for work. 

The program uses a behavioral level system based on each student’s ability to be in compliance with program goals. Students enter on the Orientation Level. This level gives a new student the opportunity to settle into his/her new surroundings, orient himself/herself with the program rules and expectations, become familiar with program staff and students. During this time the student will set goals and begin to work with the therapist on her/his treatment plan. Level One “ANUFE” students will be expected to give feedback to peers using appropriate program norms and utilize positive communication skills according to the positive peer culture. They will (A) learn and perform the Academy song; (B) learn and perform a fiafia dance and song. These are songs and dances of the local culture. 

A Level Two “TU’U FU’A” student is one who has demonstrated the appropriate behavior and is compliant with all level one expectations and learn more fiafia dances and songs. A Level Three “PEPE”student is one who has demonstrated the appropriate behaviors and is compliant with all previous level expectations. A Level Four “PULE NU’U” student has demonstrated the appropriate behavior and is compliant with all level three expectations. This student must present a personal reflections paper and finished all written requirements. Students on this level are eligible to become “Peer Leaders.” 

Students in the program are kids with great potential who have experienced episodic acting out. Students may exhibit one or more the following characteristics: low self esteem; drug and alcohol abuse; mood extremes; irresponsibility; been victimized by others; demonstrates problems with anger management and aggression; or denies and/or justifies unacceptable behaviors. The type of student who would not do well or benefit from enrollment at RLSYA are those who are actively psychotic, those who require extreme psychiatric treatment using multiple medications with close supervision, or severe Conduct Disorder. 

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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