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Schools & Program Visits - Feb, 1999 Issue #56 

SunHawk Academy Residential
Treatment Program
St. George, Utah
Abe Dalley, Administrator, 435-656-3211
Visit by: Jodi Tuttle, Roving Reporter – 
(435) 656-12516
March, 1999 

A Residential Treatment Center with a series of emotional growth workshops, plus academic, therapeutic, and wilderness components? Yes, it’s true. The founders of SunHawk wanted Located inside the city of St. George, Utah, this twelve month coeducational program accepts students ages 13-17. The program is divided into one- month phases, each relating to one of the steps of NA/AA. A vital component of the program is a life skills training curriculum, which includes participation of all students in the life of a miniature town known as SunHawk City. Students practice life skills through work in a simulated bank, general store, newspaper, café and town hall, complete with a judicial system. Students open a checking account at the bank and learn to manage SunHawk City money. This gives each youth extensive exposure to the real life experiences that are needed in order to become a contributing member of society. 

The emotional growth component consists of a series of experientially based workshops for both students and families. The workshops provide an opportunity for individuals to replace behaviors that don’t work in their lives with new self-enhancing behaviors. They learn to love, accept, and respect themselves and others. Students realize the importance of boundaries and consequences to assist them in establishing a sense of independent responsibility. Each learns to find and express his/her own inner child through these workshop processes. Students leave the program knowing how to give and receive feedback and to become accountable for their own actions. 

SunHawk is indeed grateful that Jeannie Courtney, founder and CEO of Spring Ridge Academy, was kind enough to share her Family Dynamics program of workshops with them. Ms. Courtney not only provided the initial workshops, she trained SunHawk’s staff to produce them in the future. In addition, she provides ongoing guidance for the workshops that have been stellar at Spring Ridge Academy. 

The academic portion of the program consists of a combination of standard classes and self-paced learning. The school is currently in the process of accreditation through Northwest Association of Schools and Colleges. The opportunity to catch up is made available to those who are behind their age group in credits. 

The therapeutic component is directed by Clinical Director, Rick Moody, Ph.D. Youth and parents are provided the opportunity to interact weekly with clinicians in individual, group, and family counseling sessions. The staff is helpful in guiding each youth to better understand many of the issues associated with being a “teenager,” as well as helping parents to better understand their roles in parenting their children. 

The wilderness component is provided through Sojourn. The outdoor program is designed for impact and assess Sojourn for the first month and return near the end of the program to provide leadership for others. Students learn responsibility for their own behaviors through experiencing the basics of life in the backcountry, such as building fires for warmth and food. Each night, students gather around the campfire to process feelings and reflect on the lessons learned throughout the day. In the outdoors, where time slows down, students can easily change negative behaviors to those of self worth. 

How do students feel about the program? Students’ comments include, “I like the leadership portion that is provided;” “My communication skills have strengthened so that I can express how I’m feeling and I have more confidence in that expression.” One student said, “I don’t “need” a friendship relationship. I now know the difference between a healthy and a non-healthy relationship.”

When asked the most important thing the students had gained from the program, there was an overall consensus that the emotional growth component had the most impact on them. They all thought that this program had brought more closeness in relationships and more love and self respect for themselves and others. Also, high on the list was their newly developed family and relationship skills. They felt more love and respect for their parents and siblings, as well as gaining a feeling that they were appreciated and accepted by parents and siblings. Bottom line, students say that they now have a sense of who they are and can set goals with a new direction in life.

Copyright © 1999, 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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