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Schools & Program Visits - Dec, 2001 Issue #88 

Running Springs, California
Diana Boyer, Admissions Manager

[Lon’s visit on July 25, 2001]

It had been almost ten years since I last visited CEDU High School, but the atmosphere and some of the buildings hadn’t really changed. Especially the lodge at CEDU High School was very much the same in my previous visits. Elsewhere though, much had changed. The addition of the CEDU Middle School adjacent to CEDU High School of course has an impact, most obvious by both the remodeled buildings, and by the brand new buildings. The swimming pool by the high school lodge had been repaired so it was usable at the time of this visit, which hadn’t always been the case. The farm was not as prominent as I remember in previous visits. In some ways this reflects the change in philosophy over the years, in other ways, it’s just the normal evolution of a school during the decade between my visits.

To really understand CEDU, it is necessary to understand some of its history. It achieved prominence in the 1970s and 1980s as an alternative way to deal with teens with problems. In the 1970s there were two commonly accepted ways to intervene with a teen with serious behavioral problems: there was either some type of intervention by the juvenile justice system in the form of punishment, or some hospital or residential treatment center was used to attempt to cure the disorder or disease. CEDU demonstrated what they felt was a better way to help children who did not have serious pathology. They proceeded to prove the effectiveness of their approach by means of a rapid expansion in their enrollment and the birth of several sister and spin off schools. Instead of talking about therapeutic interventions, they talked of “whole child education” and used four curriculums to address academic, emotional growth, wilderness and physical needs. Creating a tightly structured environment where the students could clearly see and learn from the consequences of their actions, they succeeded in looking like, acting like and being licensed as, a residential boarding school. This vision has had a tremendous impact on the whole network of emotional growth/therapeutic boarding schools and programs, including the overall patient environment of quality clinical residential treatment centers and psychiatric hospitals around the country.

The CEDU Whole Child Curriculum is still active much as it has always been; the students still participate in the Propheets and Raps. These all-day and 3 hour groups are a major part of the emotional growth curriculum to work on personal issues. Physical education is still an important part of each student’s day; each student still has wilderness treks, to take advantage of the unique teaching ability of a wilderness experience. All this is the traditional CEDU curriculum that was developed originally in the early 1970s. The school over the last ten years has increased their therapeutic capability to provide additional support for students who need formal counseling or therapeutic interventions.

About two and half years ago, I was told, a decision was made to emphasize academics and from what I saw, academics was an important part of each student’s day. I spent a brief time with the very energetic Academic Director Greg Hitchcock, who since that time has been appointed Headmaster for both CEDU High School and CEDU Middle School. He expressed great pride in the growing strength of their academic curriculum. They have adopted the Multiple IQ orientation, with a strong arts bent, to meet the needs and challenge all their students academically, regardless of their grade level. Overall, the atmosphere of CEDU High School was more similar to a college prep boarding school than a treatment center or “school for troubled teens.”

Throughout the time I was there, the students in both schools seemed engaged and active, not only during physical activities and in the classroom, but also during individual counseling sessions, when meeting with staff and of course, while hanging out just before and after lunch.

Perhaps the best way to describe CEDU Middle School is to contrast it with the High School. When the Middle School was founded in 1991, staff took the CEDU philosophy and modified it to working with younger students, largely pre-teens. So while the High School has primarily peer-driven group activities and raps that can be rather confrontational when needed, the Middle School is more adult driven, since that age still needs more adult attention. Consequently, the middle school approach is seen as “softer”. The high school emphasizes working with the students, and includes their parents as part of the family system, while the Middle School is more parent oriented, working more with students and parents to bring them back together as a family unit. The importance of children’s play has always been an important ingredient of the CEDU philosophy, as shown for example in the Children’s Propheet. CEDU considers play and toys to be even more important for the preteen children, so in the Middle School, opportunities for play and the availability of toys, is very important.

A day visiting CEDU is both challenging and refreshing, a good sign there is the sense of safety that leads to healing and personal growth on the part of the students.

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