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Schools & Program Visits - Aug, 1999 Issue #60  

Bahia de Kino, Mexico
John Andersen, Ex. Dir.

Visit by Sandra Kidd, Educational Consultant
June, 1999
Austin, Texas

A beautiful beachfront Mexican villa located on the Sea of Cortez in a quaint fishing village and American retirement community called Bahia de Kino is the location for Positive Impact, a new residential specialty program for adolescent boys between the ages of 12 to 18. Here the boys work and live as a “community of family” while learning new cognitive thinking and positive behavioral patterns through mentoring and leadership development. The average length of stay is from six to eighteen months and thanks to the Mexican economy the program is more affordable to some parents.

A profile of an appropriate candidate is a boy who has one or more of the following situations: a sense of adventure though often misguided and overly risky, substance abuse, a belief that parents and other authority figures are dispensable, suffers from loss of a Father-figure or needs male mentoring, needs life skill development, has a sense of entitlement, underachieves in school, is unable to make positive choices, or is involved in a negative peer subculture. The directors of the program believe that removing the boys from their natural, familiar environments forces them to have an “imbalance,” and their exposure to a new, foreign culture makes them receptive to change and reflection, which then “creates balance” within their lives.

A team of professionals called life coaches guides this process. Even though Positive Impact is a new program, the professionals who are involved in the program each have many years of experience working with troubled youth. They clearly know how to facilitate changes in attitudes and behaviors. This team includes J. John Anderson, M.S., Executive Director, Keith A. Breiland, M.D., Medical Director, Michael Cumming, M.S., Program Director, and Craig Rogers, Residential Living Coordinator.

I observed a GGI (Guided Group Interaction) that was led by Mike and Craig and was impressed with the genuine interest and concern they had for the boys in counseling them. They were good at recognizing destructive thinking and behavior that had become patterns for them, and helping them restructure their approach to positive, solution-focused living and coping skills. This process of counseling is called “Positive Peer Environment.” It teaches the boys how to: identify problems, accept responsibility for their actions, and work towards a positive “win-win” resolution. This philosophy and five levels of STEPS (Service, Treatment, Education, Purpose, Success) enable the boys to examine issues of trust, honesty, integrity, leadership, value, clarification, and problem solving.

They are taught the self development by caring and serving others. They help each other with the cleaning and cooking in the house as well as doing many hours of community service. They illustrated this attitude to my colleague, Susan Skelton, and me when we entered the house for the first time and each boy introduced himself to us and asked how he could serve us. This is an amazing change of attitude for some of the boys who were used to being negative and self-serving.

The boys attend school on site. Each boy has an IEP that is designed to help him catch up for failed or missing credits and to continue taking subjects to graduate from high school. The courses are offered through an accredited school in the United States. There is also a lot of experiential education. We took a boat to a neighboring island and enjoyed watching the boys make a presentation on the ecology of the island. They also showed me the mountain they climb and where they go snorkeling for recreation. They will soon add scuba diving to their activities. The boys have very full days from early morning until night. Because of the heat, recreational activities take place in the morning and with the other chores, schoolwork, and community service spaced throughout the remainder of the day. There is a siesta every afternoon. Remember, it’s Mexico!

Family involvement is also a key element to the program. Intensive, weekend family retreat sessions at Kion Bay occur approximately every two months. In addition, modern Internet technology enables parents to see and talk to their son while having a weekly family therapy session. Impressive…. In fact, I would say that Positive Impact had an overall positive impression on me.

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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