Our Mission


Welcome to Cherry Gulch! Here we enroll families, not individual students. It is our mission to help boys reach their full potential and become well-rounded, emotionally intelligent, pro-social young men. We have a very active parent group and we strive to create an emotionally safe space for the parallel process that parents will embark on this journey. Several modalities are intertwined throughout our daily routines.

In the Fall of 2018 we moved away from our previous single parenting model, and have embraced a new model that encompasses:

Joseph Campbell’s work

The Hero’s Journey

Prochaska & DiClemente’s work

The Cycle of Change

Kari Dunn Buron’s work, A 5 Is Against The Law


The Arbinger Institute’s books

The Anatomy of Peace

The Outward Mindset

Adaption of Matthew Johnson’s Positive Parenting with a Plan

Seven Habits of Highly Effective Teens

Yale Center for Emotional Intelligence

Michelle Garcia-Winner’s, Social Thinking

Elaine Miller-Karas’, Community Resiliency Model

We proudly provide quarterly parent workshops that include modality training from the above models as well as 120 training hours to every direct care employee at Cherry Gulch before they work independently with our students. The emphasis on training and staff development over the last several years has allowed us to remove previous scaffolding within our system and provide best practices both academically and clinically for our students and families.

When a student enters Cherry Gulch to embark on his Hero’s Journey, we are better able to facilitate his change process through a combination of the Hero’s Journey pathway that follows The Cycle of Change therapeutically, academically and residentially.

This has replaced the previous level system. No more Trail Bosses, just Heroes! There are many benefits to move away from levels and the shift that has illuminated immediately is the motivation of change comes from the student’s desires, rather than a system he needs to complete.

Every day is a new day at Cherry Gulch. No more carried over consequences, no more cards! Students are provided with the opportunity to make amends for their challenges each day by attending Healthy Habit groups with residential staff if they engaged in an “Odd” or “Scary” behavior according to our social boundaries. Students who have engaged in an “Against the Law” behavior are demonstrating that they need extra support and space within the milieu and a 1:1 staff member is assigned for a period of 24-72 hours to that student to help with reflection and gain traction again. They will have community service work in the setting where the behavior negatively impacted others.

While on their Journey, our students are able to identify growth areas, muster motivation to begin the process of change, gather allies, learn tools to assist with mood regulation and thinking errors, identify guardians and learn to work through them crossing over and beginning to apply new skills to the classroom, milieu life, off campus visits with family, home visits, next school tours, etc. This has provided more ownership and development of internal motivation for change for our students as they embrace what their saving experience means to them and their transformed self.

They are eager to return to both their school and home environments and share their gift of their new self. There is no more competition between the students regarding their treatment goals, length of stay in our program, privileges or consequences. As they move through their phases of change, they begin to see that the expectations that were once overwhelming and seemed unreachable are now within their grasp. They are more confident, more capable and finding joy and hope in themselves and in others again.

We believe that with the correct support and structure that our boys at Cherry Gulch can learn to successfully navigate middle school, high school, college, and life. We provide in-the-moment coaching from our skilled staff in daily routine and emotional needs. Our previous rules and healthy habit card system has been modified to 5 rules adapted from Kari Dunn Buron’s work and The TAP Center inc The University of Illinois at Urbana/Champaign, “A 5 is Against the Law.” We are helping students identify their behaviors on a 5 point scale from:

Physically hurtful or threatening behavior
Scary Behavior
Odd Behavior
Reasonable Behavior
Very Informal Social Behavior

Daily outings are earned through pro-social behavior, including attendance and engagement in the classroom, as measured by feedback forms. Students are working with their clinician and teachers to set daily goals. They are given positive and constructive feedback daily, focused on the specific goal. Our students earn an "allowance" and can also earn Random Acts of Kindness (RAK) Chips, encouraging students to be pro-social, empathic, and to engage in altruistic behaviors. The RAK Chips encourage students to engage in supportive behaviors and help to establish a positive peer culture. Evening rating sheets help students earn up to $4 a day based on their evening behavior and engagement. We are working together to teach our students some money management and more skills that are transferable to home by earning an allowance for meeting expectations. Learning to prioritize how to spend their money is also another valuable lesson. They have may opportunities to practice money management as they decide which activities or outings they want to and can afford to attend. Our Hero’s Journey Curriculum also incorporates moral intelligence, which blends with our emphasis on building emotional intelligence and on making pro- social decisions.

We are grateful for you trust, willingness and dedication to change. We are looking forward to working with you and your son. Please, always bring questions to our team. It helps our growth and development as well. Thank you.

Wondering if Cherry Gulch is a good fit?

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