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Schools & Program Visits - Sept, 2000 Issue #73 

Whitmore, California
Suny Weir, Admissions Director

Visit Report By Loi Eberle on July 19, 2000

Leaving the freeway and taking a series of progressively more remote roads until I ended up driving down a narrow road, cloistered in the Northern California woods, I was completely taken by surprise when I came upon the elegant beauty of the Cascade campus. I suppose I should have guessed, given the reputation of the high caliber of quality academic and emotional growth work that is conducted on this campus. 

I was taken on a tour through a number of attractive wood exterior buildings situated around a pond and well-kept grounds. Each building tastefully reflected the artistic ethic that pervaded the program. Student artwork and prints of works by the great masters adorned the public areas. I felt almost like I was on an elegant college campus. The campus is situated on 250 acres of forest and meadows, surrounded by wilderness areas and a national park. It includes faculty and student housing, a dining hall and library, a complex dedicated exclusively for counseling, well equipped classrooms, science and computer laboratories, fine and performing arts centers and sports and recreation facilities including courts, fields, tracks and a climbing wall. 

As I toured the campus, I wanted to stay and talk at length to the teaching and counseling staff I met. Each one was interesting, knowledgeable, and willing to share. The art teacher showed me his personal work that was gallery quality, and indeed, he was featured in a few. The counselors spoke with the same degree of competence regarding their knowledge of the phases of emotional growth work the students worked through in their groups and periodic seminars. Since they were on their summer class schedule, some teachers were not present at the time of my visit, but I was able to tell from the student displays in their the classrooms, how an effort was being made to teach the material in a way that would address a variety of learning styles. 

Since it was a hot California day, many of the students were enjoying the outdoor pool. Those I observed looked physically fit, well groomed and happy. The students I was given the opportunity to meet spoke with gratitude about their experience at Cascade, though they also acknowledged that they hadn’t felt that way at the beginning. I asked what had made the difference for them. They told me it was the emotional growth work that they had done on an ongoing basis in the groups and in the seminars. They also seemed to feel confident about starting the next step in their education, upon graduation, and expressed academic plans that seemed realistic. 

Admittedly, the student I had placed there, who had only been there a few months after a shorter-term intervention, said he didn’t like the “program” aspect, with every minute structured. Given the fact he was soon to be 18 and had already been successful in a shorter-term intervention, perhaps he was ready for more autonomy. However like many other students in that age group who are outspoken about wanting more freedom, their behavior indicates they actually need more structure. Indeed, it is Cascade’s structure that balances the high amount of creativity the students are encouraged to express in their academic and emotional work. Sunny Weir, Admissions Director, said they were willing to work with students who turn 18 while in the program, if the students are committed to completing their work. This coed program accepts students thirteen to eighteen years of age who aspire to attend college, even though their social, emotional and educational problems have inhibited success in previous environments. 

Cascade is a longer program, requiring twenty-four months to complete all the phases of the emotional growth and academic work. Some parents opt to not have their child stay the entire twenty- four months. In cases where students prematurely leave the program, they are often deeply in touch with their issues, yet they have not yet acquired all the tools they need to be able to resolve them. 

Students who complete the entire program have had the opportunity to experience an interesting and varied academic and artistic program, intramural competitive sports, wilderness activities, and the opportunity to attend a good college. I asked the academic advisor. 

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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