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Boarding School Spotlight: CERTS Mountain Springs Preparatory Academy

Certified Educational, Recreational, and Therapeutic Schools and Programs (CERTS) is a group of schools specializing in residential treatment programs designed for a variety of student needs such as behavioral issues, drug problems, depression, and more. Among its offerings is Mountain Springs Preparatory Academy boarding school, which acts as a transitional program between residential treatment and care and going back home or to a traditional school.

Mountain Springs minimum length of stay is four months (one semester), explains Jon Larsen, LMFT, Head of School. "The average length of stay is probably closer to eight months, but we can accommodate a shorter stay. Our focus is on being flexible to the needs of the student and parents."

With an average teacher to student ratio of 1 to 6 and around-the-clock supervision, parents can rest assured that Mountain Springs students get the academic attention and social support they require. "The intimate, nurturing environment allows students, who traditionally fall through the cracks in larger settings, to succeed and thrive," says Larsen.

Here are some other things to know about CERTS and Mountain Springs Preparatory Academy:

What types of students attend Mountain Springs Prep Academy?
"We only take students coming out of Residential Treatment Centers or Wilderness Programs, who have received some level of treatment for substance abuse or behavior problems and who are in need of a step-down level of care," explains Larsen. "Our program is focused on helping students transition from those higher levels of structure back to "real life" whether that be home, college, independent living, etc."

How involved and informed are parents in their teen's progress at Mountain Springs Prep?
Mountain Springs Prep has regular family weekends where parents participate in workshops. In addition, family therapy is a regular part of the therapy process and is conducted by therapists in person during visits or via phone. Home visits are also allowed periodically.

"Parents are updated regularly by the Dean of Student Life who meets with the students and who works on goals with the students around personal and family progress," says Larsen. "In addition, a thorough written progress report is sent out monthly to parents with feedback from staff, teachers, and the therapist."

What are some unique methods used to help students improve academically and socially during their time of transition?

  • Character development groups - Focus on skill building, social development, values training and independent living skills.

  • Mentoring - Each student is assigned a staff specifically to them who is their individual mentor. This staff person meets with the student weekly and reviews how they are doing and what their goals are.

  • Autonomy - At Mountain Springs we will make any opportunity available to a student that the community affords as long as the student is showing that they are responsible and trustworthy enough to handle that opportunity, says Larsen. For example, students can have jobs in the community, take concurrent enrollment classes at the local university or at the local applied technology college, and be off campus on activities unsupervised by staff.

  • Non-traditional school day Fridays - Once a week, students participate in labs, field trips, groups, and/or rope course activities. It is an experiential day with more hands-on learning to help those students who learn more effectively from a kinesthetic style of learning.

  • Group activities - Mountain Springs Prep students participate in a community softball league where both students and staff play in the games weekly. Outdoor activities (hiking, camping, swimming) or service projects in the community take place on Saturdays. Five times a year, Mountain Springs has larger trips called "knowledge treks," to Washington DC, London/Paris (and sites in between), Whitewater rafting on the Green River, a Science-based trek in various parts of Utah, and Yellowstone National Park/Grand Tetons/Jackson Hole. These are optional and an additional expense, notes Larsen, but the students can earn high school credit for attending them.


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