February 2, 2002
To: Mr. Hardy Myers, DA.
District Attorneys Office
Dear Mr. Hardy,
I received a call yesterday from Meghan Parker, the mother of Sophie Sawyer, who is currently a student at The Obsidian Trails Wilderness
School, with the news that the school was being investigated by the Division of Family and Youth Services and that parents of students
were being called to come and get their children. I have since heard conflicting reports that the school was being closed, that it wasnít
being closed, etc. I am writing to you today in support of the Obsidian Trails School, as a parent whose son just graduated from the
school ten days ago.
My son spent 76 days in the field in the forest, with one week in the desert outside of Bend. It was rainy, sunny, cold, snowy and windy;
just what one would expect of a wilderness program that is teaching outdoor survival skills and responsibility for oneself. It is a
very challenging program that came highly recommended to us from other parents who had enrolled their thirteen year-old daughter in
the program. We were fully aware of the Obsidian Trails Program and attended a three-day workshop with Greg Bodenhamer at the time we
enrolled our son. If it was not a program that we agreed with or thought was not safe for our child, we would not have chosen it, nor
would we have kept him in the program if we had not agreed with the philosophy of the school after attending the three- day class.
I am a Registered Nurse and work at a Juvenile Detention and Treatment Facility in Bethel, Alaska. I work with the same kind of children
that are enrolled in the Obsidian School. Our residents range in age from ten to nineteen years of age. Detention residents usually
stay at The Bethel Youth Facility for thirty days or less, and the treatment residents usually have a one to two year institutional
order. I also have six children of my own, who have a lot of winter camping experience and outdoor fishing and hunting experience. This
program was along the same lines as the kind of recreation we do regularly in Alaska. We received a weekly call from the director of
the school, Joel Lisson, who spent time in the field each week and met with each student. Joel is a registered nurse also, and did a
health review each week, and called us to let us know how Seth was doing. We felt that we were kept well informed. We also felt that
the counselor student ratio was very good and that Seth received a lot of attention.
We went to Bend for our sonís graduation on 1-22-02, and spent the night out in the desert, where we set up the same kind of shelters
they use, cooked over a camp fire like they do and experience first hand how they lived for the past few months. It was great! Our children
graduated with new attitudes of respect and pride for what they have accomplished. All of the parents were very thankful to the staff
and to the school for the great accomplishments their children achieved. Obsidian Trails is an excellent program that has excellent
results. My son did not like going through this program, and at the same time, says it was the best thing that ever happened to him.
We have no complaints or regrets for having sent him there; and if I were to need such a program again, I would not hesitate to send
a child to Obsidian Trails, or to recommend anyone else to do the same.
My husband and I will be available if you need more information about Obsidian Trails School. Our phone number is (907) 543-4334.
Deborah Fairbanks, R.N.