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Joseph, OR

Director Introduces Palmer Adventures

DB Palmer, MA (cand.)
Executive Director/Co-founder
Adventure Academy USA

June 26, 2006

As an educator, you probably love the work that you do. You work with thriving classrooms and each kid always makes the right choices, academically and personally. They never stray from the path that you, and their equally perfect parents, have instructed them to follow. I should state the obvious here and note that this would not be the norm for almost every educator and family. Family life is difficult. The parents of your youth group members are living increasingly unsustainable lifestyles amidst an apparent explosion of distractions and dangers. From portable music players, infamous online chat-rooms, television, music, and movies; it is apparent that contemporary culture has taken a dive, all-but off the deep end. Add to these distractions the rapid rise in behavioral diagnoses and substance misuse among teenagers. What we have built is a recipe for disaster within far too many Christian families. These are disasters that most academies, boarding schools, and public school systems do not have the resources, or ability, to counteract.

What about these teens on the edge? They may still be involved in your school, at least on the fringe; but you know that they are slipping away. What can you do as an educator to address these needs? An answer may be doing some research into alternative intervention programs. You may have seen the television show brat camp. I have worked first hand in programs of this sort for around ten years. I have seen amazing turn-arounds with teens and families who were on the brink of disaster. The level of work that several of these programs perform is incredible. But, in understanding and teaching teens about what choices they have made, actions that were ineffective, and emotions that have been masked and distorted; God's message is overlooked far too often. There are just not many quality Christian-based programs out there.

Now, you may be thinking, "Hey, I know what I'm doing." Let me offer, in humility, that most educators are not equipped to deal with teens at this stage. There are really too many entrenched behaviors and family dynamics for an untrained outsider to pick up on. Just as a mechanic would be more appropriate to work on your school's van, an experienced intervention program is the tool of choice in this situation. If then you say, "Well, okay…but the last thing I'd refer a parent to is a secularly-based intervention!" You don't have to, anymore! There are a few excellent programs out there worth checking out.

When my wife and I founded Palmer Adventures, almost one year ago, it was the beginning of the fulfillment of ten years of goal-oriented work. We've spent that time working and studying all across the board. We began as camp counselors, Bible Study leaders, youth ministry staff, undergraduates studying Recreation Management; progressed to wilderness therapy instructors, adventure guides; transitioned into case management, mental health, and community development; directed programs in academic settings like boarding schools and therapeutic foster placements; and now raising a family of our own, we are directing the ministry that God clarified in us even before we began dating over a decade ago. What a blessing the time has been and what joy we possess in seeing this fulfilled.

Palmer Adventures, which operates Adventure Academy USA, accepts students for 1-2 semesters and offers accredited academics, Christian mentors, and as the name indicates, incorporates a dynamic adventure program to facilitate interest in the larger goal of spiritual renewal. Students are challenged to create a portfolio of their trips and co-design each of there outings with program staff leaders. Palmer Adventures uses cutting edge information technology to manage risk while incorporating primitive skills lessons to foster a sense of connection to a group. Trips are almost unlimited, with unique options such as: dogsledding, winter camping, coastal canoeing, backpacking, mountain biking, and rock-climbing as standard trips; the Adventure Academy USA quickly gets the attention of students who have slacked off at home. After all, this program was designed for success.

But, it's not just adventure in amazing locations that makes Adventure Academy USA so unique… it's the staff culture. Each staff member is hired, not only for their experience and training, which is substantial, but primarily on their ability to mentor teens toward spiritual renewal. Staff to student ratios are kept very low to ensure that every teen is given the attention and direction that they need. These are not your ordinary troubled teen employees. Adventure Academy USA staff members are excited and passionate about working with each teen. It is my privilege to work among them.

If you are considering suspension or expulsion of a student due to poor conduct, breach in your school's honor code, or know families that are struggling with their teen's choices, please take the time to inform them that there are programs that can help. We can assist in the academic and spiritual recovery of your student, and get them on track to return to your school. Don't make the mistake of letting these kids slip through the cracks. They may not often seem it, but they are too precious to ignore. Do your homework and get to know a few programs that will work to address behavioral issues that these teens are choosing. You'll do your families a service by offering this information. Who knows… maybe eventually you'll have the ideal classroom after all?

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