During my visit to V3 Tucson in October, I attended an elegant sit-down dinner cooked by the students that was presented complete with crystal, silver, china and a linen table cloth. I came away from the meal with a strong sense of family, stability and commitment from everyone in attendance including the 11 young men and women attending the program. Gale Earl, or “Grandma,” President Marni Standen, Director Ann Bruno (formerly Mirasol) and the AA sponsors were also in attendance at the formal dinner that is prepared each week for the staff, sponsors and invited members of the community.
Arriving early, I had a chance to tour the suburban homes and grounds, much of which were renovated and built by the youth. The program renovations included a new dining room, ramada and storage shed with a new workshop in the future plans. The student and staff investment in the program was visible through their gracious greetings and the obvious pride they had in showing the facilities. There was an overall sense of cooperation, which even included the care the students provided for the three dogs living on the property.
The program is for students ages 18-25 and currently includes online education opportunities through the University of Nebraska and an athletics component with fitness and country club tennis coaching for all. Students also participate in community service projects for Habitat For Humanity and Alcoholics Anonymous, where they set up and serve at the Alcathon, as well as their chore rotations on the property. A large part of the curriculum includes construction with more venues being explored. Each Thursday and Saturday, Outdoor Therapist Jerry Harmon coordinates camping, rock climbing and various other activities. Students’ who reach the three-month mark in their approximate nine-month stay at V3, participate in Family Workshops run by Selina Garces.
Only one of the students is court ordered to attend the program, but he and Gale say that although the “bar is high,” he is reaching for it. With a maximum of 15 students at the program at any given time, all of the students help to raise the bar when a new student arrives, and the kids I spoke with said they like the program. I would recommend V3 for the addicted youth without serious mental instability. All students participate in regular visits to the psychologist who also comes to the home and AA meetings twice daily in the community with sponsors. There is one student who is looking forward to staying on as a staff member after completing the program. At V3, I sensed love, integrity and a sense of appreciation that one cannot get kicked out no matter what because the choice is always left up to the student.