The Character Growth Curriculum at Cherry Gulch reinforces the concepts that students are learning and interconnects the components of the program. Our approach is unique among schools for troubled teens. The lessons are cumulative and students are required to continue to practice the habits they have learned from the lower lessons before advancing to the higher lessons. The Character Growth Curriculum can be expanded and/or individualized as needed since each lesson includes one or more target behaviors or attitudes This gives the student's therapists, teachers, and other staff members the opportunity to individualize the tasks and assignments of that lesson to fit with the identified needs of the student.
We have more lessons than most youth programs because we feel it is better to break the information we want the student to learn into smaller, more manageable pieces. We have also found that students start to get frustrated and lose motivation when it takes months to complete one lesson. Having many lessons gives us more opportunities to provide the student with positive reinforcement and encouragement. We can point out the student's strengths and the areas where there has been noticeable improvement and personal growth. The student's self-efficacy for completing the program improves, increasing his motivation to continue to do well. His self-esteem begins to improve, he experiences success and is able to see how his hard work is paying off.
The lessons provide the students with reminders about what they are working on and give them opportunities for discussion in therapy about their thoughts, emotions, behaviors, family, school, and their personal life. The lessons also provide students with opportunities to practice what they are learning so, eventually, they actually become healthy habits that will benefit the student for life.
Many of the lessons contain principles from:
- Sean Covey's books, "The 7 Habits of Highly Effective Teens" and "The 6 Most Important Decisions You'll Ever Make."
- Dr. Michelle Borba's book, "Building Moral Intelligence: The Seven Essential Virtues That Teach Kids To Do The Right Thing."
- Dr. Thomas Lickona's book, "Educating For Character: How Our Schools Can Teach Respect And Responsibility."
- Doctors Dan Kindlon and Michael Thompson's book, "Raising Cain: Protecting The Emotional Life Of Boys."
- Dr. William Pollack's book, "Real Boys: Rescuing Our Sons From The Myths Of Boyhood."
- Michael Gurian's book, "The Wonder Of Boys: What Parents, Mentors And Educators Can Do To Shape Boys Into Exceptional Men."
- Good old fashioned values and morals.
As students advance through the lessons they earn more freedom and privileges.
- They are able to go off campus and then on home visits.
- They are given first pick of chores and electives.
- They can earn extra phone time.
- They are allowed to enter 1st into the camp store to spend tokens and go through the meal lines first.
- They get more responsibility and are trusted to take care of the larger animals.
- They can also help staff plan activities and can pick and plan a trip within reason.
As they advance through the lessons they earn the right to wear certain items that denote their achievement.
This proven program is designed to give problem teens a glimpse into how the real work works and show them the value of a hard day’s work.