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Schools & Program Visits - Sep, 1999 Issue #61 

Blue Hills Academy
Dewey, Arizona
Sonja Fullwood, Executive Director
Visit by Jodi Tuttle
August 16, 1999

Climbing the winding road to Blue Hills Academy, located on a ridge among the high chaparral, gave me no preparation me for the breathtaking view from the school. The newly built log home overlooking the small village of Humbolt, created a peaceful, rural atmosphere. I felt I was leaving behind all the pressures of daily life when I arrived.

Blue Hills Academy is a highly structured Emotional Growth Boarding School for young men, ages 12-17. This small program offers personalized attention, individual and group counseling sessions, structured family phone calls and monthly workshops to assist the young men in attaining a high degree of self-respect, confidence and awareness. It helps enhance the communications skills and self-esteem of their students, enabling them to build relationships with family members and peers.

Looking out from the patio of the house, one views not only the village below, but also the backdrop of the Bradshaw Mountains. On the lower acreage, one can see the student-build trails leading to the creek below. Projects like these trail-building projects assist students who have extra energy to burn.

Academics at Blue Hills include self-paced courses from Phoenix Special Programs. Students take the core courses of English, Mathematics, Science and Social Studies. They also may elect to take course work in Art, Spanish, German, Computer Applications, Music Appreciation, Humanities, Speech and Psychology. Blue Hills maintains high standards of academic achievement while supporting and encouraging each student to awaken a love of learning.

Students expressed great interest in the academic program. Each student works at his own pace with the assistance of certified teachers and a teacher’s aide. More than one student commented that they had discovered since arriving at Blue Hills that “school can be fun.” Most of them had a history of struggling in school and welcomed the self-paced learning system. They were also grateful that a teacher was always there to assist them with their own personal academic needs. One student shared that he liked not having to worry about missing homework since he could now work at his own pace. That was one of his major problems in his previous school.

Students also talked with great interest about the Evening Activity Program. Each night a specific activity occurs. One evening each week, students learn public speaking at Toastmasters. Other nights feature such activities as story telling and poetry writing, spelling and vocabulary bees, reading hour, educational board games and videos with a message. Sunday evening is special because an Improvisational Theater Company from Phoenix brings in Humanities Night. This includes theater, drumming, dance and other arts. Resident artists from Phoenix teach students various art projects. The highlight of this program is that a student tells his life story and actors present his the story in theatrical fashion.

The emotional growth component of the program includes individual and group counseling on a weekly “as needed” basis. The counselor determines the needs. A workbook from Sean Covey’s Seven Habits of Highly Effective Teens provides a structured presentation of concepts that support accountability, responsibility, and choice. Monthly experiential learning workshops offer kinesthetic learning opportunities to help the student further integrate the concepts in the workbook. In the latter phases of the program, Family Workshops provide intensive, experiential learning opportunities for both the student and parents.

A five-phase system provides levels of specific measurable outcomes as well as experiential and relational outcomes. The desired outcomes sequenced to ensure that students build a strong foundation for change, internalize their changes, and prepare themselves for the future. Blue Hills Academy is a place where young men stay for twelve to twenty four months. If they are diligent in working the program process, they should expect to come out of this small intensive program experiencing confidence, self-awareness and success.

Copyright © 1999, 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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