Jennifer’s Story – A Parent’s Perspective

I traveled far and wide across the country to examine schools after Wilderness and spent two days at my top choices. I spent a lot of time with the students and the staff. Ultimately, it was the spring in the step of the girls I met that made me choose SRA. I kept hearing from the girls how they “loved” their school.

The important distinction for me in choosing SRA over the schools we considered is the extent to which self-worth and transformation from the inside out are the emphasis. This was not a school based on behavior modification, rather the total transformation of the individual, the love of self and compassion for others. And this turned out to be the overarching reality, not lip service.

Because I live part time in Scottsdale, I was often at the school, took part in all of the family therapy, parent trainings, programs for families and visited the school frequently. I became close with a number of my daughter’s friends and witnessed their progress over time, and I got to know almost everyone on the staff from the cook to the therapists and the athletic director to the people who worked the nightshift in the dorms. I learned that each of the staff members goes through the trainings, so personal development is their focus not only for the students, but for themselves, and their contribution is not so much a “job”, as it is a mission of love.

When I reflect on the past, before Wilderness and SRA, and how depression, isolation, anxiety, obsessive relationships, long hours on her computer loomed over my daughter and all of us, ultimately, how she hated life, hated others and hated herself, I am grateful, full of joy and relief. She is loving, happy, funny and enjoys herself. She is working hard in school. She’s in ongoing therapy that she treasures. She loves her new school, she’s developing herself as a dancer and an artist, she has a wide circle of friends, she sets firm boundaries as to interacting with kids at school. She doesn’t spend time with students who engage in dissident behavior or bad attitudes. She has not gone back to her bad choices; we monitor this carefully. Twice, she has “owned up” with us of her own volition, once, when she broke an agreement with us, and once when she broke a rule at the school, and we resolved each of these infractions together as a family. Also, we have learned to set structure, keep our agreements as parents and say “no”, whereas, before, we indulged unhealthy behavior in order to keep connection with her and maintain peace. This all happened at SRA.

Our daughter still refers to SRA as her home, as the place where she first learned to feel truly safe. This doesn’t make us jealous, because we feel the same way about SRA. The school continues to be a home for our family. Already, post graduation, we have turned to the staff to help us through a rough patch at her summer school. Their responses were wise, immediate and pragmatic.