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Posted: Mar 14, 2006 11:01


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Spring Valley, Arizona
Mary Hickey - Admissions Director

Visit By: Kristie Campbell, December 15, 2005

We drove up to the administration building of Spring Ridge Academy on a cool, wind chilled, winter day in the middle of Arizona. Excitement filled the air as visitors arrived on campus, and the girls and staff busily prepared for an award ceremony that would open the two-day graduation process. After the award ceremony, the girls would participate in a well-prepared talent show for their families.

As we walked from the administration building down a long trail to the art building surrounded by excited girls and their families, we talked with Mary Hickey, Admissions Director, who pointed out new additions to the campus. The foundation of a new school building is nearly completed and a new soccer field was almost complete.

We entered the art building to find a large open room filled with all the Spring Ridge students, teachers, many parents of girls who would be graduating and some returning alumni. The ceremony began shortly after we arrived. One at a time, all the teachers went to the front of the room to present their awards. Some girls received multiple awards, many were graduates, but each time someone received an award, the room exploded with applause. At the end of the awards ceremony, there was a special inauguration of the National Honor Society at Spring Ridge Academy. Four students received National Honors that day, beginning what would hopefully become a trend among the girls and create a sense of normal high school honors in this private parent choice school.

The talent show followed the awards, and I was impressed at just how talented the girls were. Every girl participated in the show at some point, with songs, dancing and all around fun. After the production, we headed back up to the administration building and over to the cafeteria for lunch. At lunch, we sat with a group of curious girls who wanted to know everything about us. We explained a little about who we were and then the girls talked about themselves. As they talked about where they were from and how old they were, I listened and observed appearances, behaviors and eye contact. Those who had been there longer were open and genuine, but those who were recent arrivals seemed much more interested in hearing about us.

After lunch, we grabbed a couple girls at random to take us through the campus. The girls checked in with Mary and then led us through the school. We started at the administration building, through the cafeteria building and into the library/dorm building. The buildings are currently set in a horseshoe configuration, so we easily moved to and through each building. The library felt like an oversized den that was filled with books and tables. Leaving the library, we entered a hall that led to several dorms and a dorm laundry facility. The walls were decorated with pictures and projects graduates had left behind as a legacy to the girls currently attending.

We left the Phase I, II and III dorms and entered the next building, which housed the Phase IV and the 4 Real dorms, laundry facilities and several classrooms. Girls were in their rooms reading and relaxing, or in the hallway playing games, guitars and music.

As we toured dorms, the girls explained the phases to us. There are four phases at Spring Ridge, then a 4 Real phase, which allows the girls to transition back into the outside world. Since my visit, the 4 Real phase has been changed back to the Honor Code system. Students start in Phase I and progress through the levels as they integrate a series of skills and choices into their daily lives. Academics, community living, therapy, physical conditioning and family relationships are the components students work on throughout the program. In addition, each girl must take a creative movement/ dance class to learn to express feelings through movement and become comfortable with body image.

Spring Ridge Academy is appropriate for girls, ages 14-17, who exhibit low self-image, self-confidence or self-esteem, unsatisfactory peer group association, self-deprecating beliefs and attitudes, drug/ alcohol use, poor school performance, attitude and attendance, running away, lying, cheating, stealing, manipulation, lack of cooperation at home or school, depression and/ or verbal abusiveness.

We left the second dorm and headed back toward the administration building to finish our tour. As we walked down the path, groups of families were speckled around the campus as groups of soon-to-be graduates worked on their legacies. Girls were excitedly showing their parents the campus that had been their home for the last year and a half. The overall feeling was comfortable and at the same time exciting. We thanked the girls for our tour, said our goodbyes to Mary and the administrative staff. We left the school with the feeling that Spring Ridge Academy had done wonderful things for these troubled girls and their families.

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