Archived Q&A and Reviews
Re: Wilderness program for angry, defiant 14-year-old
This response addresses both posts on Wilderness programs. When we reviewed wilderness programs, we had a child like yours--not into anything bad, just difficult and unmotivated, and shooting himself in the foot over and over again at school. We were not thrilled about mixing him in with a Wilderness program that included teens with far more serious problems. We sent him to NAWA Academy http://www.nawaacademy.org/ for 1.5 years. It's out in the woods near French Gulch, and they learn a lot about wilderness rescue while also doing classroom work. Although he has mixed feelings about the experience, he acknowledges he gained a lot from the experience. First, the school offered him many leadership opportunities and he became responsible for himself as well as very aware of helping others. Second, while he felt he was not challenged enough in school there (although he had never taken advantage of the challenges at his public school) he learned how to put together an essay and how to do research--two skills that put him in good shape when he went on to College. Third, he did their International Academy for one semester and loved it. The costs have close to doubled since he went (in 2001/02), but compared to a wilderness program, it may be in the same ballpark. I think if we had sent him at the beginning of his highschool years instead of the end, he might well have been able to come home and finish up in the public school. When he was going there NAWA had summer programs that might give some of the experience you are looking for. relieved mom
Re: your summer camp experience?
Our adopted son who is an ESL learner with learning issues recently returned from the NAWA Academy Summer Camp that lasted a month and it was a really valuable experience for him. At first, he did not see how a camp could combine outdoor activities with academic work and make it fun. He loves the outdoors and NAWA takes the kids on week long adventures where they do rock climbing, water rafting, backpacking, caving and more. Part of the more is that they work with the kids using outdoor team building activities like swift water rescue so they learn how to work as a team, trust each other and ultimately build their self-esteem and self- confidence. They hold circle meetings where they get the kids to open up, talk about issues that come up and learn how to problem solve and work better together. Out in the woods they spend some daily time doing some school work they are focused on. After five day s out they return to base camp (French Gulch, CA) where they do longer days of school work with a teacher who closely works with them. After school, they have time for other recreation, watching movies and riding bikes. He really connected with his two outdoor counselors and his teacher, as they clearly know what they are doing. After being hesitant about going, he now wants to go back next summer. The best endorsement of any program. NAWA Academy is located near Redding, CA in the Trinity Alps. http://www.nawaacademy.org/ david
Does anyone have experience w/NAWA? If so, how long did your child attend? We are looking at it for a 14-y-o boy with significant learning differences, including dyslexia. anon
Hi Anon, My 16 year old daughter is just completing her first year at Nawa (11th grade.) She started last summer with one of their month-long summer progams followed by Fall enrollment at Nawa Academy (the boarding school) Next year, she will be enrolled in their International Program. She is highly intelligent but struggles with severe ADD, a mood disorder and various other impediments to learning. The public school was not willing or able to accommodate her needs and she was on a rapid downward spiral both academically and socially. The associated decline in self-esteem led to its own host of problems. It would take me an hour to fully explain all the ways in which Nawa has succeeded in completely turning her life around in every way. She has already made up several failed courses and is thriving academically, emotionally and socially. I would be more than happy to discuss Nawa at length with you by phone and can put you in touch with parents of boys in the Bay Area who attend Nawa. Sending my daughter to Nawa was the best decision I have ever made. S.
My son recently finished one semester at NAWA, which is a boarding school in Northern California for grades 7-12. The school states they work well with kids that have ADD or ADHD, but that was not our experience. They also claim to be an outdoor based program, but my son did very little outdoor things. Let's see--where do I start? They water down the academics, the kids are bored after school (they have no homework) and spend an inappropriate time watching television. Their cabins are unsupervised, and they are filthy. The night staff is apparently checking on the kids regularly, but I doubt it. My son had holes eaten in his shoes from rats. Many of the kids have their personal items stolen. My son states that all but 5 kids at the school smoke. We sent him there out of desperation, hoping it would be a good solution. My husband and I are so upset about the way the school is run, and regret ever sending our son there. If you are considering sending your child there, please get an educational consultant. We did, and found a terrific school for our son to attend for highschool. Feel free to email me if you want more info. Julie
Re: Residential school for teen with emotional problems
I agree with the other parents who have recommended evaluations and counseling before selecting a school, but I want to mention a school I haven't seen in the archives. My son is at a boarding school that I think is a good intermediate step for a teen with problems but not necessarily in need of a full therapeutic environment with other troubled teens. The school is NAWA Academy, in French Gulch, about 25-30 miles outside of Redding. (http://www.nawa-academy.com) The school has about 40 kids on campus plus another dozen or two in traveling programs that spend short periods there every couple of weeks. The school seems particularly geared to work with kids who don't do well in traditional classrooms (e.g. ADHD, some learning disabilities) or whose emotional concerns keep them from focusing. Our son was too tired to get out of bed and go to school, stayed home ''sick'' once or twice a week, and cut classes when he went. He seemed to have no stamina for completing tasks, and kept downsizing his expectations (from UC to state college to community college...) The school focuses on ''experiential learning.'' They have classroom work but also do many applied activities. All academic requirements are confined to the school day; late afternoons and evenings offer a variety of organized activities, but students can also do individual things like computer time (limited), tv (not much reception, but there are videos and a few channels), read, hike or bike. One of the directors is a licensed counselor and was very helpful to my son in his early months there. All of the staff seem well trained in meeting the needs of teens with problems. The school also requires the students to take part in team building and leadership activities on the weekends. We have seen huge growth in maturity in our son, he has learned to love the outdoors again (a love he abandoned at about age 9 in favor of computer games), and he is now taking responsibility for his own learning and doing very well (going beyond the assignments, when we used to struggle to get him to do a minimum number of assignments). The directors in the past ran programs for students with severe emotional problems. They would give an honest assessment of whether they could expect to help a prospective student or not. One more thing--our son is a senior; the school goes from 7th through 12th grade.