Skip to main content

Brittany Is Smiling

Guest Blogger
Jennifer C. Jones


Brittany is smiling. Her large, liquid brown eyes shine but there is a certain sadness in them as well. You can barely see the scars on her arms.

“I was cutting myself,” she admits matter-of-factly. “I guess that’s why they sent me to RedCliff. I tried suicide twice.”





Just 15 years old, she grew up in an abusive home. An aunt stepped in and took Brittany to live with her. But the girl’s problems persisted. She threatened her niece with wilderness intervention but Brittany, rebellious, depressed, and dabbling in drugs, never thought she’d follow through. Until the day when her aunt handed her over to two escorts and tearfully told her niece, “This is the hardest thing I've ever had to do.”

Brittany spent more than four months in the harsh wilderness. She refused to pass off her course work because, as she explains, “I really thought the rest of my family would guilt trip my aunt into coming and getting me.” Her aunt held fast.

Today Brittany is a student at Discovery Academy, a therapeutic boarding school located in Provo, Utah. She’s working on her high school diploma, starring in the school play and continuing therapy.

Although a few Discovery students have never experienced a wilderness program, the Academy serves as a transitional stage for students who are hoping to turn newfound understanding into practical life skills. It combines the best therapeutic intervention with academic programs specifically tailored to the child’s needs. Students can earn high school credit as well as take advanced courses and college entrance exams.

DA’s academic program is based on a holistic approach that combines competency-based learning with student directed progress goals and group learning activities.

Max Thomas, an English instructor, explains, “A lot of kids might have ADD, ADHD, problems focusing. They can come here and they deal with it, they learn to work around it. They walk out of here knowing how to study, how to not be distracted, and how to have some success.”

Equine Therapy is another hallmark. Simply put, it means helping students understand through experience. Raoul Willard is a Discovery Academy therapist and equine instructor. “What horses do very well is reflect the feelings of the people working with them. In the first one or two sessions the kids will almost always connect with a horse that is similar to them.” Willard says Discovery students learn much more than horsemanship. “They learn about themselves. They learn about life.”

“I'm a completely different person,” Brittany says with conviction. “I have so many skills and talents I was just letting go to waste. Sometimes I still struggle with depression but I've learned how to be successful. People don’t look at me now and say, ‘She’s a person that needs help.’ Now they look at me and say, ‘She’s a person that’s strong.’ In a way, I guess I feel special. I’m glad my aunt thought I was worth saving.”

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

Fishing...It's really about relationships!

By Stephen C. Schultz Spring is in the air and that well known feeling of wanting to get out of the house and go fishing is surging through my body. I found myself in a sporting goods store the other day perusing the fishing lure isle. I was in the yard after mowing the lawn and realized I was walking around my small 12 foot fishing boat that is still covered from winter. I have had people ask me over the years, "What's so fun about fishing?". They usually follow that question up with, "It's so boring!". From my perspective, they couldn't be further from the truth. Fishing represents so much more than being entertained. It's time in the wilderness with fresh air and solitude. It's time to think and ponder on life's problems.  It time to express gratitude and count your blessings. There is also the satisfaction of reading the water, observing a hatch and placing a lure or fly in the perfect spot. It's the excitement of the fish

An Open Letter to Parents Researching RedCliff Ascent

By Stephen C. Schultz "We will be known forever by the tracks we leave." Having been raised in Oregon, I spent the majority of my childhood and teenage year’s steelhead fishing the coastal waters, climbing the Middle Sister in the Cascade Mountain Range, drifting the McKenzie River and hiking the Pacific Crest Trail.  I have mentioned to friends, family and colleagues on many occasions;   “From a therapeutic standpoint, there is no better place to have a student’s issues manifested quickly than in a wilderness setting.” The question then becomes, “Why do therapeutic issues rise to the surface in an Outdoor Behavioral Healthcare program like RedCliff Ascent ?” Throughout the years of teenage development, most teens spend a lot of time with friends. These friends think the same, dress the same, act the same, listen to the same music and sometimes get into the same types of trouble. Some teens also develop patterns of communication and ma

"Sugar and Spice" - A Child's Kindness

By Stephen C. Schultz I recall a childhood rhyme that went something like this; “…sugar and spice and everything nice…that’s what little girls are made of!” As the father of three daughters and one son, there is no doubt about the truthfulness of that saying. I was in San Diego a couple of weeks ago with my family. We were down at Seaport Village right on the bay having lunch. It was a beautiful day, sun shining, light breeze and we were eating on an outside deck. We were engaged in a conversation about what we wanted to do later that day when I noticed my youngest daughter, a fifth grader, was focused on something else. So, I turned to see what she was gazing at. She was following the movements of a transient man who had walked up onto the deck and was systematically searching the garbage cans for food. He was looking in each receptacle and reaching in to move the contents around. At one can, his hand came out with a partially eaten sandwich of some kind. He reached back