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New Perspectives - Aug, 1998 Issue #53

MOUNTAIN VIEW HOUSE
An Annex to Squaw Valley Academy
Olympic Valley, California
By: Andy Biederman, Asst. Headmaster
530-583-1558
http://www.sva.org 

Last year we started an off-campus house for students who wanted a chance to prove themselves and be admitted to our regular program. Students earned their way out of the program by moving through the levels of the behavioral system in four to twelve weeks. The dorm parents are trained in counseling psychology and are effective in running behavioral programs. We are also using the house for disciplinary actions rather than always suspending or expelling students. We have found that our entire discipline system has benefited from this program. 

The challenge is that some adolescents have created difficulties for themselves with occasional regrettable behavior or poor attitude toward school, parents, and others. These mildly at-risk students are not bad kids and certainly not delinquent nor heavy drug users nor runaways. Often they are above average in ability, did well in school and sports until the ninth or tenth grades, and will grow out of this adolescent phase of lethargy and resentment. However, if left to their own devices to mature slowly and without adult intervention, they may not be well prepared for college and will have lost an important education stage, never to be recovered. With a tarnished or mediocre high school record, these students have difficulty getting back into mainstream academic programs, much less into top-level public school programs or good colleges. 

At Squaw Valley Academy, and especially at the Annex, we provide positive support in a structured environment, with the attraction of healthy mountain sports (we are five miles from Lake Tahoe and have 28 ski lifts within two miles of campus). Given these attractions and supportive adult help, we find that students often make the choice to change, get back on track, and take charge of and responsibility for his or her own education. 

While living at the Squaw Valley Academy annex, the resident student maintains a college-preparatory curriculum and attends daily classes at the Academy. The program prepares the student emotionally and behaviorally for our traditional boarding program. We expect the student to demonstrate an understanding of his/her issues in a controlled, small-group environment before moving to our main campus and into our dormitories. The average stay in the off-campus program varies from student to student. Some students may be able to work their way into our main program in eight weeks or less, while others may take three months or longer. 

Compared to other alternatives, this program best serves the student who has the ability and desire to pursue a college education, would enjoy myriad non-competitive mountain sports and activities, and would be assured of college acceptance within a normal time frame. 

It seems there is a need for this type of transitional program also for students coming out of treatment programs looking for a fresh start. If they make it through this first step, then they have gained access to a traditional boarding school with a solid academic reputation. Fifteen of our graduates this year were accepted into 56 colleges and universities last year. 

Copyright 1998, 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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