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Schools & Program Visits - July, 2002 Issue #95 

Mt. Carmel
Powell, Wyoming
Jerry & Mickey Schneider, Directors
(307) 645-3322

Visited on June 27, 2002
By Loi Eberle, M.A.,
Educational Consultant
Editor of Woodbury Reports

In some ways arriving at the town of Cody, Wyoming seemed almost a surprise, after driving through miles of vast rolling hills and sagebrush. The town itself has a variety of motels, stores and Western-style entertainment options, including the famous Buffalo Bill Museum, known for its elegant portrayal of the area’s history. My visit of the Mt. Carmel Youth Ranch began right across from the Buffalo Bill museum, at West Park Hospital, a pleasant looking complex that might seem a little out-of-character on this western- frontier. I had learned that this area is surprisingly hard hit by alcoholism and drug addiction, taking the dubious honor of having the highest incidence in the state. In a log building next to the West Park hospital is the Cedar Mountain Center, which offers “treatment for alcoholism and drug dependency and treatment for family members.

The Cedar Mountain Center at West Park Hospital in Cody was the first stop on my visit to Mt. Carmel Youth Ranch because of the interaction between these two programs, which had begun earlier this year. I had arranged to meet Angie Woodward, daughter of Jerry Schneider, the director of Mt. Carmel Ranch at the Cedar Mountain Center, where she introduced me to Ivan Kuderling, the Director of the Cedar Mountain Center, and Dr. Scott Pollard, M.D., the Psychiatrist at their Behavioral Health Clinic. They explained to me how Mt. Carmel uses Cedar Mountain’s assessment services and psychiatric hospital setting, if needed. Most of the interaction, however, takes place at Mt. Carmel itself, where Dr. Pollard monitors medication and supervises Licensed Clinical Social Workers from Cedar Mountain who do therapy each week with the adolescent boys in the field. Sometimes Dr. Pollard also makes the 30-mile drive to Mt. Carmel’s Sunrise cow camp in the surrounding mountains to meet with the boys who had been identified as needing assessment and medication management.

When speaking with Dr. Pollard about his work with Mt. Carmel, it became quite clear to me that he was enthusiastic about the benefit of conducting therapy in the field. Not only did he work with Mt. Carmel’s program participants, some of his clients from The Cedar Mountain Center were also involved in a wilderness program that was operated by Mt. Carmel. He was also quite involved in family therapy and was open to incorporating Native American traditions and nutrition as part of his therapeutic work. Mt. Carmel’s association with the Cedar Mountain Center has also provided the benefit of being able to enroll boys in the wilderness program who had more involved therapeutic histories, who would benefit from the ranch environment, but who need more extensive services.

After our conversation, I had become convinced the cow camp and the ranch were where all the action was taking place, so Angie and I decided it was time to drive out there. During our ride I learned that Angie, a registered nurse who has worked ICU for over 10 years, had left that world to help her family operate Mt. Carmel, describing them lovingly as “cowboys”. As we drove, she told me some of Mt. Carmel’s history. I learned the Schneider's began taking troubled youth into their home while they were raising their own six children, over twenty five years ago. Jerry suffered a severe head injury and partial paralysis as a result of being thrown and kicked by a horse. Amazingly, as the adolescent boys became involved in helping Jerry mount and dismount his horse and rope cattle, it helped them to become more compassionate. As word spread of their good progress with the adolescent boys, more people asked for their children to stay at Schneider Ranch. Eventually they became more formalized as a program and incorporated last year as a non-profit, using the name, Mt. Carmel. Currently the ranch has 40,000 acres through long-term leases of range and farmland, with 30 horses, 25 buffalo, and a herd of 500 cattle.

Typically, they work with boys ages 12-18 who have low self-esteem, defiant behavior, and possibly, Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD) or Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), mild to moderate depression, difficulty dealing with fear, anger and authority, school failure or permanent suspension from school, gang or cult involvement, and alcohol/drug abuse. At first a boy enters Mt. Carmel’s individualized 21-day adventure program. During that time, Dr. Pollard, along with a Licensed Clinical Social Worker from Cedar Mountain, and the boy’s family, decide the appropriate level of program for the boy. Some of the boys who complete the adventure program are referred to the “Sunrise cow camp” which takes place from May through October. A total of ten boys are invited to participate in the 18-month residential program at the ranch in Powell, Wyoming. On the next mountain range, about 60 miles away, Angie also has started the Trinity Wilderness Trails, a Christian program for girls that combines wilderness therapy with animal therapy.

Since I had driven to Cody by way of Beartooth pass, I had seen some amazingly beautiful country, and had already driven the many miles of curving, spectacular canyons, descending from the historic “Dead Indian Pass”. Angie explained that some of the country I had passed through was where some of the boys and ranch managers/counselors were currently herding their cattle. She pointed to the distant hillside where some of the cattle were able to graze due to the elegant watering system the boys had constructed under the talented supervision of ranch director, Jerry Schneider. She said even the Forest Service was amazed that Mt. Carmel was able to water their cattle on that distant hillside, from the water system where we were standing. She also showed me Jerry’s horse, that although large in size, was quite gentle and was trained to kneel so that Jerry could mount him.

There was a small bunkhouse for the boys staying at the cow camp that was characteristic of busy, working guys who had little time for housekeeping. Next door was the cooking shack, of necessity in a separate building to keep the food, and thus the bears, away from the campers. Since all the guys were out with the cattle, after admiring the view, we drove over to the residential program in Powell, home of the The Studer Family Bunkhouse. Lon Woodbury, and his daughter, Kristie Vollar had visited the dedication of this building last year, which was built thanks to the donation of funds from the ranch’s benefactor. [See related article]

After a long drive, seemingly in the middle of nowhere, it was very refreshing to arrive at an oasis of houses and fenced yards, where their air-conditioned, beautifully designed Studer Bunkhouse was located. Angie had the adolescents boys who were in the bunkhouse introduce themselves. They were friendly and well-mannered, with bright eyes. There were also two former residents there who had returned for a visit, having adopted the Schneiders as a second family. Angie explained that it often happens that former residents come for a visit, which she feels speaks highly of their experience while at the ranch. I also met Jerry’s son and another ranch staff, who were busy working with some of the other boys outside. I could tell by the firmness of their handshake that the hard work developed more than just their character!

Angie had told me before we arrived that most residents at Mt. Carmel have failed three or four programs before arriving there, but they respond to this program. She said the kids don’t think they’re getting therapy, since so much of it takes place through out the day. They also read from the Bible each day, and although they have received residents from a variety of religious traditions, the boys cooperate with this aspect of the program. She emphasized that part of their criteria for success is to help the residents develop an obedient relationship with God.

We finished talking with the boys and director, Jerry Schneider, a charming man who seemed well loved by the boys. Then Angie showed me the classroom upstairs that housed the computers for the boy’s classes. They use the nationally accredited Seton program, which has a variety of levels of difficulty, from remedial to college level. The Seton teachers, I learned, speak with the boys over the phone about their class work.

After being shown the boy’s bedrooms, large bathrooms and laundry room, where they do their own laundry, I was also shown the rodeo ropes. Angie explained that some of the kids had developed the level of trust and skill to participate in the local rodeo, with their parent’s permission. She spoke about one of their residents who was rather shy and struggling academically, who was of so proud of himself for taking third place in the local rodeo, the other day.

It was a long drive back to civilization, and I can imagine even more so in the blowing-snow of winter. I had just met kids from urban areas who had never been in such a place before, yet they responded to this setting and these people. This place is an unusual blend of a God-fearing cattle ranch, family values, hard work, simple living and therapeutic support. I was very pleasantly surprised and grateful that this is available, and could see how some kids could really thrive in this environment.

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