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Schools & Program Visits - Dec, 1998 Issue #55

Blue Ridge, Georgia
Amy (Soby) Forrest, Director of Admissions
Lon’s Visit: November 2, 1998 

With 187 acres of colorful Fall leaves still on the trees, Three Springs of Blue Ridge presented itself as a peaceful rural setting for adolescent healing. The grounds were well kept, and the buildings blended into the landscape. Looking across the campus, from time to time I saw groups of boys in constructive activities within an obviously tight structure. They lined up before going from one place to another, with a lot of attention being made on getting the line just right. 

During my day on campus, I saw a couple “Huddles”, which is when someone in a group calls a break from an activity to discuss and verbally process some issue that had come up. Any participating staff or student can call a “huddle.”

Three Springs at Blue Ridge started in 1993 as a Therapeutic Vocational Program (TVP) for low functioning boys ages 11 through 17. A common mix of enrolling students are behavior problems stemming from weak self-control (impulsivity), virtually no school achievement and fairly severe learning disabilities. 

Current enrollment in TVP is sixteen boys, with one cabin containing eight boys ages 14 and under, and one cabin for the eight boys ages 14 and up, forming two groups. The administration feels this is a very workable size for these students and they can maintain their effectiveness with up to 24 boys. 

Some time later, a second separate track was added to the campus for higher functioning boys, with similar behavior and academic problems, but using the Three Springs Outdoor Therapeutic Program (OTP) model, similar to the Paint Rocky Valley program in Alabama and the Duck River program in Tennessee. The 36 boys in this track are organized into three groups in three campsites. As with the other Three Springs OTPs, students divide their time between maintaining the campsites and their sleeping quarters on one hand, and academics and campus wide activities on the other. The two tracks (TVP & OTP) are kept separate for the most part. One exception is the academic program. Students from both tracks attend classes together. Director of Education Wade Nobles pointed out that an important element of their academics is to individualize the curriculum enough to meet the wide needs of the students, within a form similar to the traditional schooling they will be returning to when they go back home. 

The school has four teachers, each teacher covering one of the core contents: Language Arts, Math, Social Studies and Science. They hire teachers based on content preparation, and a willingness to qualify for a special education endorsement within three years. 

The other area the two tracks are combined is in the sports program. When a student from either track has earned the privilege, he can be on a school team that competes with other surrounding schools. 

Director of Admissions Amy Forrest points out that a major advantage of the Blue Ridge program is its small size. With only 51 students on both tracks, all staff and students know each other and the staff are better able to meet the individual needs of both students and their parents. 

Copyright © 1998, Woodbury Reports, Inc. (This article may be reproduced without prior approval if the copyright notice and proper publication and author attribution accompanies the copy.)

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