Schools & Program Visits - June, 2002 Issue #94
SAN CRISTOBAL RANCH ACADEMY
Taos, New Mexico
Anthony S. Geraci, Jr. Ex. Dir.
Visit on March 2, 2002
By Lon Woodbury, C.E.P.
This program for boys 18 to 25 years old was started just 9 months
ago. They are located a few miles north of Taos, New Mexico on 113 acres of land that is bordered on three sides by national
forest. They also have access to 88,000 acres of private forestland a few miles away for some of their outdoor wilderness activities.
The property used to be an orphanage, so was suitable for a quick adaptation for their program.
They currently have eight boys who looked good and seemed to have settled into a comfortable routine at the ranch. I had a chance
to talk to two of them, who both seemed to be positive and intent on accomplishing the personal growth they had come there to achieve.
The key people running the ranch at this time are Executive Director Anthony Geraci, and Clinical Director Galen Sanchez.
When talking with them, I felt they were like two kids in a candy store. The opportunities they see and their plans for future growth
of the program generate an enthusiasm that seems contagious; the other staff and the kids respond with their own enthusiasm. The directors,
the other staff, and the kids are all involved in creating a new school in the wilderness under Anthony and Galen’s direction, which
in itself creates a challenge that generates community building and gives a healthy sense of common cause and self growth. In a very
real sense, Anthony and Galen are the program right now, which of course is adequate for their current size of eight kids. However,
they recognize the need for, and are involved in systemizing the program, by thinking through and writing down all the program elements
that will be needed as the program grows.
They are currently doing major renovations
of some of the currently unoccupied buildings and are expanding their relationship with the University of New Mexico in Taos.
Currently, one student is in phase three, a transitional phrase that consists of living in an apartment in Taos and attending classes
at the university. Monitoring is done by daily staff visits. Other students will move into town when they reach the level when they
can manage the responsibility of living relatively independently.
There are three phases in the program, each one being four months in length. The first two phases are on the campus and the last phase
involves semi-independent living in Taos. Throughout each phase the students learn basic life skills and are involved in academics
and what they call “Environmental Education,” which uses the student’s daily experiences to stimulate and enhance the educational
process. Other parts of the program include equine therapy, outdoor adventure, ranching, computer and language training.
Their philosophy states “We are a community that believes each of our residents can develop the honesty, integrity, respect, knowledge,
interpersonal and vocational skills needed to achieve direction through a solid work ethic and a desire to always improve. We trust
that an enriched environment, guided participation and productive mentorship will encourage our residents to take responsibility and
to be accountable for their own lives and relationships.”
There are active therapy groups and individual counseling that serves to support all the boys. Those with substance abuse problems
participate in local chapters of AA and NA as well. Support is individualized for each boy, with the staff working and supporting
his strengths and major interests. For example, the staff is encouraging one boy with musical ability to continue to develop his musical
skills by bringing his keyboard to the ranch. Another resident who has good skill in golf, has his golf clubs in the corner of his
room. In a sense, they are able to considerably individualize the program for each student.
The students’ days are full; they prepare their own meals, usually as a group, keep their living space clean, work on their academics,
do ranch work, and ride horses, both as part of equine therapy and just for fun. They also participate in counseling. They were on
a trail ride when we arrived on the property, shortly before fixing their lunch. In our property tour, we saw their large greenhouse,
which already have vegetables sprouting, and the barn that is being converted to a wood workshop and for art projects.
Although a new program, the Ranch presents a healthy environment for young men and it is looking forward to extensive and steady growth
in the future.