New Summit Academy
Atenas, Costa Rica
New Summit Academy is one of our inaugural program reviews. This program was created by the key staff who, along with Saul Rudman, were responsible for the excellence of the now defunct Coronado Academy. When Coronado could not continue to operate, a small group of staff formed a team to continue to support those Coronado students who wanted to remain. Each of the owners of the new program was primarily a hands on worker with the students and none was solely or primarily a manager or administrator. They shared those duties while working actively with the students. That spirit remains. This team includes some of the finest professionals we at FamilyLightsm have encountered anywhere. We believe they deserve top billing as we get our on-line support services off the ground.
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There are many reasons to look at New Summit Academy as a premier and, frankly, unique facility. The top reason is the continuing hands-on management. Four co-owners, Mario Duran (therapist) , Heather Tracy (educator), Andy Myers (experiential education and cultural immersion), and James Woody (educator), directly work with the students in the capacities of their original disciplines. All but Heather Tracy do so as their primary occupations at the school. Heather Tracy still teaches and works with specialized educational tasks, such as SAT preparation, IEPs, etc., in addition to serving as executive director. There is no other school or treatment facility with group ownership anywhere where we know personally all owners in the group, and know that every client/student knows them and has access to them. We would do well to have such accessibility in U. S. based facilities.
Second and third are the quality of the education and therapeutic programs. Both are very strong offerings and we don't want to give either priority over the other. We would not mind seeing such quality in domestic programs.
Arbitrarily, we choose to address education first. The education is in accord with the standards set by Heather Tracy who is, as we said, a true master educator. The structure of the education program is as forward thinking as we are aware of. As we see on New Summit Academy's web site, there is considerable emphasis on Howard Gardner's concept of multiple intelligence (a specialty of Heather Tracy). In general, we do not see many schools that also have clinical capability taking these concepts seriously. Remember, this is with a total capacity in the school of 22, which suggests that there is considerable therapeutic individual attention. (We hear from Heather Tracy that a third full time, fully licensed therapist will be added in January).
There was a time that we believed that mental health clinicians trained and educated in Costa Rica were less competent than those trained and educated in the United States. We think we may have been caught up in some Yankee hubris. That was before our consultant had the opportunity to meet Mario Duran and Danny Recio, and an additional Costa Rican educated therapist who is no longer with New Summit Academy. First, let us observe the novel situation of a program for 22 students with two full time therapists, two "therapist assistants" and a consulting psychiatrist. This, at the risk of understatement, is a bit on the intensive side. Then consider the actual approach to education in Costa Rica.
We understand that the Costa Rican approach to education calls for intensive specialization earlier in the process than United States education. It is our understanding when Danny Recio had his bachelors degree, he had as much course work in psychology as the typical master's level graduate in the United States. Then he went to the United States and got a United States master's degree. Now he is getting his Ph. D. However, the Ph. D. part is long after our consultant had an opportunity to hear Danny describe one of his cases and then hear from the client/patient. These folks who are either entirely (Duran) or partially (Recio) Costa Rican educated have a precision and an intensity about their work that we North Americans, would do well to emulate. We think their "masters level" training is superior in United States Ph. D. and Psy. D. programs for training clinicians. We wonder what Recio will be like when he gets his Ph. D. We don't expect to be disappointed.
Cultural immersion sometimes seems to some like a frivolous luxury or an adventure for missionaries or sociologists or diplomats. Its value in the context of New Summit Academy is far greater. Cultural immersion also gives people of any age an opportunity to recognize their own cultural identity and heritage more objectively and profoundly -- and view it from the an external vantage point. New Summit Academy students experience cultural immersion three ways: by interaction with the surrounding community as a peer group, by participating in the community in internships, and by becoming part of a Costa Rican family, spending time with them with the privileges and responsibilities of a member of a Costa Rican family. It is the peer group activities in town where the young men of New Summit Academy associate with their Costa Rican peers, including those of the opposite gender. The is the most impactful program of cultural immersion of which we are aware, keeping in mind there are a number of other cultural immersion opportunities we greatly applaud.
New Summit Academy generally speaks of Cultural Immersion and Experiential Education in the same breath. We separate them, although Andy Myers heads both as if they are one program. But we see different benefits. Fundamentally, Experiential Education carries approximately the same benefits as wilderness programming, but taking advantage of the outstanding geographical features of Costa Rica. Again it is extremely well done. What makes it special is its integration with the therapeutic program.
Any of these five elements by itself would be a reason to separate any program "from the crowd." Here is one program with all of them.
This is a true transitional program. New Summit Academy only admits students who want to attend. All have some history that warrant living in a therapeutic environment. All are at a point in their lives where they want to move ahead. An underlying assumption in the operation of many therapeutic schools is that the students do not want to behave responsibly. That assumption is absent at New Summit Academy. At New Summit Academy all students are respected for the fact that the people they are cannot be defined by the issues that have been problematic in their lives. While the staff and milieu are not bashful about addressing pathology, New Summit Academy builds on strengths and does not tear down the young people on account of their weaknesses. There are very few programs within the borders of the United States which keep this balance in a comparable manner.
To understand New Summit Academy more thoroughly we encourage readers to read Loi Eberle's description from Woodbury Reports. Loi took a very different approach, which we chose not to try to replicate.
People sometimes ask why send a child to Costa Rica, or go to Costa Rica? In the case of New Summit Academy, the first consideration is that this is a superior program. For young men needing a transitional therapeutic program the quality is as good as it gets compared to American domestic programs.
We are pleased to present New Summit academy of one of our inaugural programs.
Feedback is invited. We will publish any feedback in good taste from New Summit Academy and will publish selected feedback from other sources. Email FamilyLightResponse@yahoo.com
Disclaimer: No program review, no matter how positive, is a blanket endorsement. No criticism is a blanket condemnation. When we express our level of confidence in a school or program, that is our subjective opinion with which others might reasonably disagree. When we assert something as fact, we have done our best to be accurate, but we cannot guarantee that all of our information is accurate and up to date. When we address compliance with our guidelines, you need to remember that these are only OUR guidelines -- not guidelines from an official source. We have also set the bar very high, and do not expect any school or program to be in total compliance. It is not appropriate to draw a conclusion of impropriety (or even failure to live up to conventional wisdom) from our lack of confidence in a school or program or from less than perfect conformity to our guidelines. Some will say we expect too much. Readers are responsible for verifying accuracy of information supplied here prior to acting upon it. We are not responsible for inaccuracies.
Last updated 7-10-08; Minor edits through 7-12-08
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