Over the years, many of our former students have kept in touch. A few have offered their stories here to give girls and their families going through difficult times hope and encouragement. To show that with work and commitment, a brighter future awaits.
My name is Phoebe and I attended the Academy at Sisters in 2011, which was my freshman year of high school. The Academy was the wake up call that I needed in my life at the time. When I first arrived at the academy, and I did not want to change the way I saw the world, the way that I chose to respond to it, and I did not want to believe in the program.
During my stay at the Academy, it took me a while to realize that no one was going to do the work for me, it was all depended upon me. I had every intention of “playing” my program and doing what I needed to do to just get home. That had worked for me for so many years and in various other placements. I was manipulative and I had no desire to change my thinking, and the way I chose to live.
The day I started to realize that my plan of playing the program was falling through is the day I changed my life. I started listening more during the groups we had, I started opening up more to both my case managers Janice and Brooke, and I started to really talk to my family about how I felt and what was causing me to have the emotions that I had at the time.
One thing that I will say helped me was taking advantage of what the Academy had to offer, such as DBT, Phases, TCR, etc. The main thing that the Academy had to offer that helped me achieve the best possible me, was the ability to learn about self learning. This concept transformed my life, in both my family and my education. Self learning allowed me to recognize challenges and find ways to solve them on my own.
After leaving the Academy, I ended up becoming an honor student in both high school and college. I graduated college in 2017 with my Bachelor’s degree in Psychology. Also, I ended up taking a job in a field where I could relate to people who have gone through what I have gone through.
I currently work at a Psychiatric Residential Treatment Facility as a Teacher. I work with kids between the ages of 6-18. Without the Academy, I have no idea where I would be right now, and I don’t think I could have ever achieved what I have achieved in my life up until this point. Thank you Academy at Sisters for helping me find Phoebe.
Elana graduated from the Academy in June 2008 after two years in the program. After the Academy she moved back to Tucson, Arizona and attended the University of Arizona where she obtained a degree in psychology, sparked by her interest in therapy developed at the Academy.
After graduating, she moved to Phoenix Arizona to attend Arizona State University and obtained a Masters in Social Work. In Phoenix she met her wife, Erin, and they were married in 2016. Elana and Erin continue to live in Phoenix with their dog and cat and enjoy traveling as much as they can.
One of their favorite trips to date was a trip back to Bend two summers ago to visit the Academy and they have hopes of another trip soon. Post masters degree Elana began her subspecialty in trauma therapy and worked in an outpatient facility providing Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) therapy to youth and families. She continues to work as a supervisor at that same organization providing clinical supervision and quality management as well as internal trauma informed trainings to new hires.
She continues to appreciate the fundamental foundation in therapy basics that the Academy provided her all those years ago. One of her favorite mottos in both life and her therapy practice comes from a magnet in the kitchen “Life is 10% what happens to you and 90% what you think about what happens to you”.
“I was born and raised in Manhattan Beach CA. I attended the Academy at Sisters from the summer of 2006- 2008. Wow, just over 10 years ago and I can still remember like it was yesterday walking through those doors on August 17th 2006.
I learned so many great things at the academy and one thing I am really happy about is how well I learned to do in school. I went from receiving mostly c’s, d’s and f’s throughout my life to getting A’s and B’s . It was not easy either as we were writing 10-12 page papers in English class. This alone made my stay at the academy incredibly worthwhile. Knowing that I can do well in school has helped me excel in adult life by building my confidence.
When I left the academy in 2008 I arrived back home in California. For the next 5 years I lived a life that people only read about in books. Here was this girl, beautiful, a talented surfer, from a good family but she didn’t see these things in herself. She ended up in some of the darkest places you can find in life. After 5 years of darkness, bad relationships, and chaos, I had made numerous attempts to stay sober. I was now 23 and decided this wasn’t cute anymore.
In January 2014 I tried yet again to sober up. This time around I had a friend who began taking me on surfing/ camping trips up and down the coast of California. I had that moment of clarity that people talk about.
I remember riding a wave at Malibu first point and crying as I paddled back out. I couldn’t believe that I could have never felt that feeling of gliding across a wave again. It is moments like these that keep me going. Appreciating where I am now and where I came from.
Often, I do wish that I never had to go down that path. I wonder why didn’t I see this before? It was right in front of me. Well, I never would have appreciated it as much as I do now. All of that darkness I went through has slowly been washed off with every wave I catch.
I am now living a beautiful life. I started my own surf lesson business called Sun kissed Surf lessons and get to teach adults and kids how to surf. I have had the opportunity to traveled to beautiful places around the world and have made amazing friends all through surfing. My biggest accomplishment is that I am currently going through the Los Angeles County Lifeguard Academy to become an Ocean Lifeguard. This was my dream career as a child and I am in the process to achieve it. I am glad that the Academy at Sisters is a part of my story because I didn’t believe there was hope for me but now I can look at all of the girls who are there, going through similar circumstances and I can know that there is hope for them too. It is an honor to be asked to share my story.
“Happy Thanksgiving to the staff at the Academy, & to all the girls past & present! It’s been three years, but I still remember my own holidays there. Very grateful that I was able to spend time there & grow as a person.”
“July 2nd 2011 was the day I came to the Academy and it’s so crazy for me to believe it was that long ago because I am COMPLETELY different than I was before I got here. Literally, thanks a ton for all the help and support you gave me in my almost 18 months at the Academy, I appreciate it SO much. You really made things better for my life.”
“I had a call from you a little while ago and completely forgot to get back to you …. soooo sorry! Just a quick update …. but first THANK YOU ALL for truly saving our daughter! I know that might sound a little dramatic, but it is true!!! Heather has turned into a wonderful young woman and I am so happy to say she and I now have a fantastic and loving relationship. She has moved across the country to Montreal and is loving her new found freedom and being responsible for herself. So thanks again and if you ever need a Canadian’s perspective of how safe a family feels once their child is over the boarder – I would be happy to tell them! Lots of love”