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New Perspectives - Jun, 2000 Issue #70 

Achievement Valley Ranch
Westmoreland, Tennessee
Eric and Martha Larson

Founded in 2000, Achievement Valley Ranch is a long-term program that emphasizes family values and Christian principles. They accept male and female students 13-17 years old that meet one or more of the following criteria: acting out, ADD/ADHD, low motivation or self-esteem, poor grades with the ability to achieve more, drug or alcohol use, poor peer choices, and/or are lacking in socially acceptable communication skills. They do not accept applicants who are in crisis, have severe emotional disorders, or anyone involved with criminal activity or violence. Achievement Valley Ranch strives to help young men and women get back on track by providing the “next step.”

Program Director, Eric Larson, has experience in adolescent training and counseling. He has worked with mentally and physically challenged clients in a sheltered workshop, teaching them life’s skills and the abilities to find careers/training in mainstream society. He has also been a counselor for a behavioral modification ranch, a tech/counselor within the juvenile correctional system, and a school counselor. Beyond this experience, Eric has a Masters degree in Psychology, and is a Certified School Counselor. He also has a Bachelors degree in Psychology, with a minor in Sociology.

Martha Larson, Achievement Valley Ranch’s Admissions Director, and the mother of two teenage boys, is also a certified medical assistant. Martha is a caring and loving Christian woman, devoted to helping youth achieve their life’s goals. As a single mother, her eldest son was sent to a behavioral ranch because of his maladaptive behaviors, finished the program, and fell back into his old behaviors. This experience motivated her to create support groups for parents whose children were returning from behavioral programs, and to help their children find ways to receive the behavioral and scholastic help they needed.

The average time the students’ stay at Achievement Valley Ranch is 6-18 months. During this time there are three phases. During Phase I, the assessment phase, students’ academic achievement and behavior is evaluated in order to determine what they need to get back on track. Then they are enrolled in accredited distance- learning classes in the home that are tailored to meet their level of education and abilities. In addition to their coursework, the students are responsible for certain chores, and are granted privileges based on how well they fulfill their responsibilities. They also have experiential learning opportunities through fishing, camping, hiking, sports, and computer usage. After 180 days, each student is evaluated for emotional and behavioral growth.

In Phase II, the students, their parents, and the staff decide if the students will continue the distance learning at Achievement Valley Ranch, or whether they will have the opportunity to enroll in the local high school while residing at Achievement Valley Ranch. This decision is based on the student’s self-discipline, academic progress, the quality of family relationships.

Students reach the Phase III stage once they have attained socially acceptable behavior patterns, have good family relationships, and are back on track with their education. The student is then reunited with family members and makes the transition back to their home environment.

Achievement Valley Ranch strives to create success the three areas: positive behavior, spiritual balance, and a well-rounded education. “When there is hope in the future, there is power in the present. Each young person who has a firm foundation of success [in these areas] will have the power to rise above the level of mediocrity, and attain their life’s goals.”