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Schools & Program Visits - Sept, 2000 Issue #73 

High Peaks Wilderness
Troy Bird
East Roosevelt, Utah

Visited By Steve Bozak, CEP, member IECA
(518-373-8069, www.bozak.org, steve@bozak.org

Salt Lake City is the place from where a child is picked up and brought to the High Peaks Wilderness. There the changes begin even the first day as the child starts to leave behind some negative influences. The children said they arrived with just the clothes they were wearing, everything else they needed would be given to them. They don’t need much and there is lots of time to work on their issues and earn credit for their schoolwork. 

There were five boys in the group I observed, all a little dusty but no worse for wear. Yes, they said the food was sometimes lousy and they had some cold nights but they also said they knew why they were there. Each one introduced himself, telling me where he was from and what he was working on during his stay at High Peaks. Their quick responses, giving little or no thought to answers made me think they were giving answers from the heart – there was no attitude or anger now in their voices. 

One boy was said to be a runner, but he would only go as far as “over the hill and out of site” and then would soon come back each time! Weeks ago these same kids were disagreeable and angry. Now when asked what they do all day they quickly and positively answer, “read our books and study.” Why? “There is nothing else to do!” — no radio, no TV, no computers, just the two counselors and the outdoors. Proudly they will show you how they can quickly make a fire the old Indian style. It really works! The kids are not roughing it, but are well taken care of, with plenty of food and camping gear. 

When asked what they miss being out here, agreeing that they miss their parents and are working on correcting their behavior so they may be reunited with family. No one seemed angry about being there but all agreed they didn’t choose to be there! It was good for them to be in this wilderness with the counselors for the time needed. Out in the wilderness, they could hang out or be lazy if they wanted to; they had a lot of time for everything. Sure, they are sitting around playing with sand and sticks, making little fires, and having lots of time to think about what got them here! 

Purely an outdoor wilderness treatment center, the base camp (office) isn’t much to look at, as it was under construction and soon to be finished. High Peaks Wilderness Program is a coed therapy treatment program for at-risk kids who are 13-17 years, and young adults who are 18-25 years of age. Removing them from the negative environments of their past, they are guided through a process of emotional growth using positive reinforcement, behavioral management techniques, education and adventure. They are taught positive assertiveness, acceptance, safety awareness, how to be proactive and how to develop the problem solving skills needed to live healthy and successful lives. 

A licensed therapist hikes out weekly for individual sessions. There are planned daily learning activities and each night before bed they have a campfire meeting where each student goes over his or her day. The students receive feedback from their peers and staff that lets the student know how they are doing on a daily basis. One, two or three months later these kids are on their way into a more traditional atmosphere. 

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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