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Boarding School Spotlight: West Ridge Academy

Finding hope and healing are central to the mission of West Ridge Academy (West Jordan, UT), a boarding school for struggling teens who need to turn their lives around and find a "change of heart." West Ridge Academy offers a wide range of activities, academics, and clinical treatment programs to give students a well-rounded group of offerings when attending this boarding school.

West Ridge Academy admitted its first student in 1964. At that time, it was known as the Utah Boys Ranch and only permitted the admission of male students. Today, Utah Boys Ranch has come to be called West Ridge Academy and admits both boys and girls, on separate campuses.

The admissions process is fairly simple, but requires steps to ensure that West Ridge Academy is in the best interest of the child. There is an admissions team that asks parents questions in order to do an analysis of their needs. "It is favorable, but not required, to have an [outside] evaluation present to see what has already been done," says Director of Admissions, Jared Hamner. After the initial analysis has been completed, the West Ridge Academy admissions team follows up with the parents and asks more detailed questions. Once admitted for entry to West Ridge Academy, expectations are discussed for the program by the administration, parents, and students so that they are on the same page.

Hamner stresses the importance of a student staying at West Ridge Academy for at least 10 months to complete the entire program. "That's our bare minimum because with less we can't fully complete the process with our students," he says. The average length of stay for students at West Ridge Academy is 11 to 12 months and students range in age from nine to 18. They are each assigned a master treatment plan, which is an individualized student program that is decided by a treatment team so that more than one person makes decisions for each student, who attends classes with a student to faculty ratio of 15:1.

There is a lot of potential for students to take part in a variety of activities. One such extracurricular is working in the music department. In fact, according to Hamner, West Ridge Academy students have recorded a few CDs in the past for parents. West Ridge Academy is looking to be able to fund more of these fun projects in the future. There is also a recreational team that spends 63 days throughout the year in the wilderness with students, an equine therapy program, and skiing and snowboarding activities.

Upon graduation, Hamner urges that students sign up for the after-care program, an eight-month program that checks up on the students and their continued success. "We've found that after they've completed, if the strings are cut and there is no follow-up, there is a high residual return," says Hamner.

When looking for a boarding school, students and parents should be sure that the school is fully accredited. West Ridge Academy is fully accredited by the Northwest Association of Accredited Schools, meaning that it has been approved to treat and educate struggling students. Additionally, Hamner suggests that a few things be done. "Research more than one boarding school and really look at their breadth of offerings," he says. "Ask for referrals from the boarding schools to get a sense of the school from people that have gone through the program before."

It is with patience and understanding and subscribing to the best practices that students at West Ridge Academy may make the 180 degree turnaround they need to get back on the path to success.