Visit by Lon Woodbury, MA, April 2010
Moonridge Academy is a girls' school for 16 girls, ages 12-15. Located in a large, old, well-kept farm house on several acres, the view from the living room is fantastic. The house looks out over the valley to the snowcapped mountain range towering in the distance. Moonridge Academy is a CERTS program (Certified Educational, Recreational, Therapeutic Schools and Programs), under the same ownership as Kolob Canyon, La Europa Academy and Mountain Springs Preparatory Academy.
We were shown the building from top to bottom. The main floor consists of a large living room area and kitchen. The dorm rooms were the main areas of interest and appeared very spacious. Upstairs were the group and therapy rooms; the lowest level contained more dorm rooms and the school. Stan Stewart, the academic director, gave a detailed description of the classes and education philosophy, which, because of their small student body, was basically direct instruction and one on one student teacher time. Stan had been in public education and was well aware of some of its weaknesses. As a result, he is committed to avoiding those weaknesses in the education of the girls at Moonridge Academy.
Several girls were away at the time of our visit; however we met with the five girls who were home. They described their school to us in a pre-teen giggly girl way. Each explained that her relationships with the others was sisterly; with good bonding and support for each other mixed in with typical sister type squabbles. Their eye contact was good for the most part and they were friendly and enthusiastic, especially about the possibility of any new girls enrolling.
Craig Rodabough is the Clinical Director and he explained that the typical Moonridge student can be described as easily distracted, needing some intense clinical intervention from time to time. Their philosophy is what they call therapeutic/ relationship based, meaning using therapeutic interventions for some complicated issues within a structure of strong relationship building. Aspergers and anxiety disorders are common among the student body.
Outside, on the other side of the massive lawn, are a barn and stables with three miniature horses. The girls care for the horses and handle all the typical farm jobs. Part of the girls' responsibility includes training the horses. The girls wanted to give us a demonstration of the jumps they were teaching the horses in (running alongside them since the horses weren't big enough for anybody to ride). I don't know who was having the most fun, the horses or the girls, but all had a good time and the girls were learning how to build safe relationships through involvement with the horses. It was explained that using mini-horses is perfect for girls this age since the horses are not big enough to hurt anybody by something like stepping on a foot, but provide all the horse personality and characteristics that equine therapy is based on.
The environment was calm and peaceful and the girls seemed to be responding very well at Moonridge while working on their issues.