Though Lon Woodbury, Founder/ President of Woodbury Reports, Inc., wrote up a visit report on Copper Canyon Academy (CCA) in the April 2005 edition of the Woodbury Reports, Inc. Newsletter, I am writing this from the student's perspective of the program rather than the staff.
As I sat down with a student I helped place at Copper Canyon 14 months ago, (we'll call her Sally to protect her anonymity) I asked her to help me, consultants and parents understand her perspective of the program.
My first question was simple. I asked her how she felt about me, a total stranger who had only worked with her parents, hadn't met her, but helped place her at CCA? Her enthusiastic response, "I am SO glad you chose this place! I am 180 degrees different from what I was like when I first came here! I am grateful that you chose this place."
I then asked her to think back and help me understand what was going on in her life before CCA. She said she was in an abusive relationship with a boy who was a heavy drinker, but she was so desperate to get attention from him that she began drinking more and more. "He was alcoholic and I became one."
"I thought I was in love with him," Sally said. "I would have done anything for him." She even made sure his room was clean and his homework was done, like his surrogate mother. She told me that he was so controlling he wouldn't let her wear certain clothes, or even wear her hair down because it would "cover up my beautiful face."
To her friends, everything was normal because it was common in her circle of friends to drink as much as possible. But they did not know the rest of the story. The two friends she did tell, who coincidently did not drink, got very upset and tried to get her away from her boyfriend.
However, even with all the drinking and chaos with her boyfriend, she was still able to maintain good grades in school. "Everything looked good on the outside." She went on to say, "I just needed to be perfect and I wasn't. So I figured that if I helped every one else, I would get closer to that standard. If I were perfect, I would have been #1 on his list, but I wasn't, alcohol was." So, in Sally's attempt to become #1, she would quit eating for days, or she would drink so much she'd get sick and he would have to take care of her. "It really made me feel loved, wanted and needed by him."
Two years before Sally enrolled at CCA she tried to commit suicide by overdosing on Tylenol. Her unsuccessful attempt landed her in the hospital for a couple of weeks, and her parents sent her to a wilderness program for four weeks. After the program, she did well for six months until she started seeing him again and getting back into drinking. She said she was glad she went to the wilderness program because she is thankful that she is alive and appreciative of what she did have at home.
I then asked her what was helpful to her at CCA. She said it was a mixture of several things. "There were all of these girls who had problems similar to the ones that I had. The support I got from them and the staff really makes the difference." She went on to say, "The other girls had drug problems and up to half have had bad relationships with boys like I had, some have social problems like I had, not knowing how to fit in." She said about 25 percent of the girls at CCA used self-mutilation as their way of "punishing," themselves.
The therapist at CCA had, and still has, a large impact on Sally. "I look forward to therapy." She told me that all of the girls couldn't have their therapy sessions that day because of the Ribbon Cutting ceremony being held, and the therapists had to be available to meet with the guests and were unable to keep their therapy appointments. "That really bummed us out." She said it isn't just the therapy. "Susannah is always around. It isn't just an hour a week. She is more like a good friend and a person, rather than just a therapist."
Sally said she loves school because a lot of it, like the culinary arts, is something she knows she will use in the future. "It gives it more of a purpose."
She then said that she thought the three seminars the girls go through are good too. "Mike Gurr, the facilitator, has this uncanny ability to read you like a book. He really helps you get in touch with yourself. In the first seminar, I found the "little girl" in me again! It was a huge awakening."
Each seminar consists of three hard, emotion packed days. In the first one, she learned to open up and trust others. "I was totally safe." In the second seminar, she realized how much she had missed out on in her life. "I wasn't even aware of my fašade." When she began discussing the third seminar, she sighed. It was then she said, that she began to have a purpose in life and the courage to be honest about who she is. That purpose is; "I am an irreplaceable woman who will wear her hair down and stand tall!" She again commented on the seminars by saying, "They are so powerful!" The parents have the opportunity to attend their own level 1 and 2 seminars, which helps bring them closer together as a family. Also, to be a student staffing member in the seminars after you go through, is a privilege that you work towards.
I asked her who her favorite staff person was and she was anguished as she thought about it. "The staff is so great, I couldn't really single anyone out."
I ask her what her goals are for the future. She said that she wants to go to a four year college, become certified as a massage therapist and eventually come back to CCA in order to give back to the school. She closed our talk with, "I love this place."
I left the interview feeling very good about Sally. She is a bright, caring and articulate young woman who has a bright future ahead of herself. I sent this essay to her for her own editing because I wanted to have it right.