By Ali G.
One of the ways I learned best at the Family School was being stripped of everything I used to know: my old clothes, music and friends, my drugs and drinking, my preconceived notions and my sloppy and irresponsible habits. Taking away those things which used to chain me down left room to develop new ways of life and new principles.
Before arriving at the school, some students will learn this in the extreme by attending a Wilderness Program. Boys and girls attend wilderness programs for two to three months on average, and learn survival skills, communication tactics and emotional coping skills, among many others.
“Each program is slightly different,” says Wilderness alumni Benji S. “but most kids in wildernesses shower once or twice, hike most days of the week, eat oats, rice and lentils, learn how to make fires and set traps and learn how to express their emotions in a healthy way.”
Director of Admissions and individual counselor Jeff Brain realizes the value of the personal, spiritual and emotional work that students accomplish in these Wilderness programs. Because of this, with the new summer schedule, Jeff decided to offer a Wilderness program, recreating the experiences these kids had in these programs, building on what they learned there, as well as offering the unique experience to those kids who were not enrolled in a wilderness prior to coming to the school.
Dave V. is one of these students who didn’t attend a Wilderness program, but whose eagerness to succeed programmatically and his love for the outdoors automatically moved him to sign up for Jeff’s Wilderness offering.
“Not only was it a fun time, but it was a very important bonding experience,” says Dave. “We hiked 8 miles in the first week, and came upon a pond with a water fall in the middle of the woods. It was truly beautiful and unforgettable. We swam, and had reflection time, in which I thought about all the positive things I’ve done and continue to try. The biggest impact it had on me was to remind me not to cloud my mind with drugs so I can remember experiences like this. I loved the Wilderness trip and I deeply thank Jeff Brain for making it happen for us.”