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Schools & Program Visits - Jul, 2000 Issue #71 

AIM House
Daniel Conroy
, Director
Boulder, CO 80307

Visit Report By Carol Maxym, Ph.D.

One of the very first things to happen when a young adult enters AIM House, a new 18+ transition program in Boulder, Colorado, is to begin to map out his/her steps towards transitioning out of the program and into the next stage of his/her life. The program was opened in January, 2000, by Daniel Conroy and his wife Mae Martin. Daniel is the director and Mae is one of the mentors and also teaches yoga classes. 

Using a mentoring model, AIM House strives to create individualized programs to allow young adults to complete their high school education, begin college, and/or enter the job market by means of internships, vocational training, or actual job placement. The program is structured, but less so than some other similar programs. It does not use a level or point system, nor does not have a strong therapeutic feel per se, although therapy is available. Rather, it uses personal responsibility and accountability towards the community to help the participants achieve real independence.

It is designed to serve young adults who have been in other residential programs, whether successfully graduated or not, and/or for whom college and/or independent living just aren’t working. Its location in Boulder, however, makes it unsuitable for individuals who are still actively struggling with substance abuse issues or who are not amenable to being there. The monthly fee for AIM House is higher than some other transitional programs ($4500), but Daniel points out that parents are not obliged to sign a contract for any particular length of time. “Because we seek individual solutions, the length of stay is variable-between four months and a year.”

The program is currently only for males, but will become coed in August. Daniel and Mae are being careful not to let the program grow too quickly. Eventually they would like to have 24 students, but for the next year or so, will hold the number to 12. Daniel is candid when he says that he has already had to make changes to his original plan. He has realized, for example, that it will be more conducive to learning independent living skills to have the students live in shared apartments instead of the big, family house he had originally envisioned. “In some cases, having the kids in a house and family-like atmosphere is too likely to recreate the problems the kids had experienced in their family situation. This way they can learn to live in a community, but without falling into the old traps of their family systems.”

The physical plant is simple and useful: a block of apartments (which I saw only from the outside) and a central meeting place which also houses the offices and therapy room. This AIM House center is an open, airy, and attractively contemporary loft about 10 walking minutes from the Colorado University campus. It is here that group therapy happens twice a week and where a computer bank with high speed internet access is to be installed soon. The internet access, eventually with 12 terminals, will allow students to finish high school degrees, work towards a GED or just study. (Because the students will be working next to each other, Daniel assumes that the use of the internet will be self- monitoring in a positive peer culture.) 

Students can also take classes at CU, but more likely they will be taking classes at Front Range Community College. Boulder is a beautiful small city in the foothills of the Rocky Mountains, about 45 minutes from Denver. It has a character very much its own - Big 12 football combined old hippy, new environmental, high tech, artistic, and cowboy-western roots into something very distinctly “Boulder.” Daniel is committed to using the outdoors for recreation and for experiential therapy, both in group and individual situations. He is also cognizant of the advantages as well as the disadvantages of the type of community he has chosen for the program. Daniel has lived in Boulder for many years and is well connected in the community, which gives him a distinct advantage for helping students to find the resources, internships, and jobs they will need to transition out of the program and into college and/or independent living. Most of all, however, it is Daniel’s personal warmth and passion for his work which make this program exciting and definitely one to watch. Like Chrysalis, Summit Achievement Academy, Positive Impact and others, AIM House promises to be one of the growing number of new, small, independent programs, envisioned and founded by a younger generation of committed, idealistic, educated, and talented people who may well set the tone for the next stage in residential, therapeutic/emotional growth education and treatment.

Copyright © 2000, 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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