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New Perspectives - Jan, 2001 Issue #77 

The Montcalm School
Albion, Michigan
Harry Wilson, Dean of Students
(517) 629-5591
wilsonh@montcalmschool.org  

The Montcalm School, a residential program for 13 to 18 year old boys, has recently been opened by the Starr Commonwealth, which was founded in 1913. This not-for-profit, private-referral, residential treatment school accepts boys who are struggling with family conflict, or who have ADD/ADHD/attention issues, learning disabilities/differences, are passively non-compliant, oppositional, or who have substance abuse or other behavioral issues. Students with suicidal ideation, adoption issues, attachment disorders, or PTSD, including sexual trauma, are suitable for admission as well, however, the school does not offer relevant services for these particular issues. 

They accept and are appropriate for resistive participants who may be willing to stay only by reason of adverse consequences if they choose not to however the boys must be willing to sign themselves in and give their own consent to be there. Those who leave contrary to parent desires, are tracked, monitored and confronted with consequences of departure, usually leading to a safe return.

The environment at The Montcalm School is different. As part of the residential experience, young people live and learn with their peers in homes called cottages. They prepare their own meals, do laundry, complete cottage chores, and take part in group and individual treatment sessions. Students attend a standard-length school day Monday through Friday. Each cottage is equipped with computers to extend the learning experience beyond the classroom. Weekends are typically reserved for family visits, service learning, recreation or other opportunities. To foster spiritual growth, boys are encouraged to attend a non-denominational service every Sunday in the Chapel-in-the-Woods.

Intellectual development is key to any child's growth and success. Each boy is evaluated and assessed upon arrival to determine his educational strengths. We capitalize on the child's learning style and adapt our methods to it. Certified teachers lead the classrooms, and a diversity of educational services are available to meet each student's needs, including those which address behavioral or educational difficulties. Students participate in "adventure education," including rock climbing, canoeing and confidence-building initiatives such as indoor and outdoor ropes courses. Visual arts, music education and ministry arts programs are also available. The Montcalm School provides computer-equipped classrooms to aid in the learning process. Their staff members are well trained and keep current in their fields through continuing education, advanced degrees, licensing and certification. The Montcalm School provides its students opportunities ranging from obtaining a basic diploma to advanced education experiences through local colleges. 

Campus athletic opportunities, which allow students to develop physically, include among other things, a well-equipped fitness center, swimming pool, full basketball court, and a field for track and soccer. The campus is located on 350 acres just off Interstate-94 in southern Michigan. Surrounded by farmland and nestled between the rural communities of Albion and Marshall, Michigan, the campus is about halfway between Chicago and Detroit. The Montcalm School fosters a "positive peer culture." Within their groups, the boys encourage each other to become better, more socially interested and responsible people. We view problems as opportunities for growth and challenge each child to help their peers. To help with this culture, treatment and learning groups are kept small and personalized. 

Service learning is an important part of what we do. We believe a child cannot effectively develop and grow in a vacuum apart from community influences. Nearly nine decades of experience working with youth have proven that children grow when they can see their roles in a larger community.

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