I came here from Australia. Yeah, this is definitely a switch for me. I was “misbehaving.” I wasn’t getting along with my Mom.

Before I came to Utah I was living with my Grandma–who is in her 60s. I wasn’t in contact with my mom. I still don’t talk to her. My Mother and Grandmother mostly worried about my friends, who have bad reputations. Lots of my friends have been in fights and arrested. I’ve been here 60 days. Transporters took me. The escorts came to my Grandmother’s house while I was asleep. It was terrifying. There was a man and a woman. I was shocked. When I got here, I went to the ‘outfitting shed’ and I thought, ‘this isn’t so bad, at least it is indoors.’ Then I found out that that was the last I would see of the indoors for the next two months. When we get here, we are in the outfitting shed for about 45 minutes and then sent out to the field…to the pollywogs area. The shed is open 24 hours…so we can go into the wild at any hour. I have a baby brother on my Dad’s side. My parents were never married. The entire family has put in money to get me here. I’m kind of happy to be here. At home I would be in my eleventh year of high school. I’m friends with K, the other girl in the group, but no one makes close friends because the groups shift and people change. I’ve been in the Nomads program for a month. I need to get my parent narratives to advance in the program and eventually graduate. I will probably go from here to boarding school, I think. I’m supposed to learn values and respect in the program. They gave me a knife because I’ve proven myself to be trustworthy.

–P.P. Age 15, Red Cliff Ascent, Utah

 Red Cliff Ascent is a Wilderness Treatment Program in the high desert of Southern Utah. The kids here were sent by their parents to avoid falling into criminalization, or a pattern of destruction. The wilderness programs are typically shorter in duration than other therapy/intervention programs, but more expensive. Red Cliff Academy runs parents $450/day for a 30 day minimum. $13,500 for a month. It is an investment that many parents take out second mortgages to finance. Red Cliff has kids from all over the world, two of the kids I met were from the UK, and an equal gender representation. Most of these kids have not been adjudicated but are on the precipice of behavioral disasters. Most juveniles go from Red Cliff to a boarding school.

Red Cliff’s position is that the juveniles they are serving are on a “developmental vacation”– because of divorce, drugs, ADHD, etc. The standard developmental process has stopped. Their goal is to disrupt those patterns. They begin by seeing what resources they have and what tasks they can do, even those unfamiliar, like buildings bows, fires, creating dead-fall traps. Activities which bring meaning to day to day living, which can then be transferred to home tasks and life. A guide stated, “Building a fire can’t be manipulated and they can’t cheat on it. It has to be earned. Once earned it is exhilarating, some kids even cry for joy.”

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