Positive Peer Culture
The greatest among you must be a servant. But those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted. – Matthew 23:11-12
There are hundreds of therapeutic boarding schools for troubled teens throughout the country, and many of them practice an approach known as Behavior Modification, which uses rewards and punishment to reduce problematic behavior. Behavior modification does have its place, and certainly has value based on the high number of programs that implement it.
However, at Abundant Life Academy, we do not implement any form of behavior modification in our approach to individual growth. As an alternative, ALA implements what is known as the Positive Peer Culture Model. In its most basic form, Positive Peer Culture (PPC) relies on the position that young people can develop self-worth, dignity, and responsibility only when they become committed to helping and caring for others.
As most parents are well aware, teens are more apt to be influenced by their peers than by their own family or others in authority. Positive Peer Culture applies this to the therapeutic setting by naturally moving a student from being self-focused to others centered. This concept is central to God’s design for us and is replete throughout Scripture. As each student moves away from self-focus to serving others, he or she ultimately discovers that his or her own needs are met in the process. PPC gives each student a sense of personal and community empowerment by removing the power struggle, thus enabling them to have ownership in not only their own personal growth but also in the growth of their community.
Additionally, Positive Peer Culture focuses on taking accountability and responsibility, not only individually, but also in holding peers accountable for their own behavior and choices. This method allows our students to see their peer group not as a liability to their personal growth amidst challenges, but as a resource to them. It is the concept of making care fashionable in an environment where adults still maintain control (without being controlling), yet placing responsibility on the teens to help one another.
Emotional Growth: A Three-Phase Approach
Abundant Life Academy is broken down into three separate phases, each taking approximately four months to complete.
Phase 1, “Know Yourself”
Each student’s primary focus is on coming to an appropriate understanding of the behaviors & choices that were the contributing factors to being enrolled at ALA. The emphasis here is on personal accountability, taking responsibility for their choices, and admitting that there were negative issues in their lives prior to enrollment that are a direct result of these choices. Students must work on defining what the core issues are that he or she struggles with. Spiritually, our desire is that each student during this phase begins to connect, or reconnect, with who they are in Christ. Near the completion of Phase I, the goal is for students to begin to identify the specific triggers to their core issues.
Phase 2, “Choose Yourself”
During this phase, the students focus on recognizing patterns, acknowledging the triggers to those patterns, and understanding the role that individual issues play in the construction of our character. Each student learns to distinguish issues that they experience prior to falling “into pattern,” and learn how to choose a different reaction than they would have in the past. The final emphasis of Phase II is to begin recognizing problems as opportunities rather than seeing problems as troubles. This is based on the Biblical principle that it is in our weakness that Christ can perfect His strength in us. Phase II students are taught that it is not important to learn how to “not fail” but to learn how to “fail well.”
Phase 3, “Give Yourself”
This phase is primarily focused on service to others. By the time a teen enters their last phase, they have completed the majority of their emotional growth work. This last phase centers around fine-tuning individual issues while placing a strong emphasis on giving back by serving those students who are coming up behind them. Each child in Third Phase is assigned two “raise ups” or, lower phase students in whom they can serve and help. Our Third Phase students are all on Leadership, and thus are responsible for the daily implementation of program elements. Every Phase III student is required to participate in Community Service, Mercy Missions Trips, as well as completing a Third Phase project with the intention of leaving behind a legacy to up and coming students. It is during Phase III that great importance is placed on developing an effective “re-entry” plan, created to ensure a smooth transition back into their home environment with emphasis placed on their long-term success.
Advanced Leadership Training
Abundant Life Academy is not just a boarding school for teenagers who are facing personal and family challenges, it is also a Leadership Training Academy. We serve teenagers who are either natural-born leaders who have misdirected their abilities, or those who appear to be followers and, as a result, are making poor choices. ALA invests in each student we serve to help them develop the leadership traits that they are naturally born with.
Our main method of Leadership training is through personality quadrants. Each of us has one of four primary personality traits. As we begin to understand the strengths and challenges of our primary personality traits, we are better able to effectively communicate, identify why we experience certain emotions, and understand how we interact with others. Additionally, we educate students on the personality characteristics that complement their own, and they learn effective ways to interact with others in relation to this.
Another component of our leadership training is instruction in emotional intelligence. Emotional intelligence (EI) refers to the ability to perceive, control and evaluate emotions. Leaders in the field of emotional intelligence state that EI is “the subset of social intelligence that involves the ability to monitor one’s own and others’ feelings and emotions, to discriminate among them and to use this information to guide one’s thinking and actions.”
At Abundant Life Academy, we combine these principles with our three-phase approach to emotional growth through enhancing emotional literacy and recognizing patterns (Phase I), consequential thinking, navigating emotions, intrinsic motivation, and optimism (Phase II), and increasing empathy and pursuing noble goals (Phase III). Our Leadership Training Program was developed to provide each and every student with a forum for personal growth while strengthening the foundation of the core principles upon which personal and family restoration occurs.
Counseling & Guidance Department Activities
Through the ALA Counseling and Guidance Department, students have access to professionally trained and certified school counselors, and should the need arise, more in-depth personal counseling will be arranged through the ALA therapeutic staff or other private counseling agencies. Guidance counseling is designed to raise student awareness of the variety of possibilities for their current and post-secondary education. Students also discuss career options.
The following list is not all-inclusive.
- Record Keeping
- Transcript Requests/Sending
Permanent records documents as necessary – psychological tests, etc.
Immunization records, etc.
- Guidance Activities
- Assisting students with college applications and scholarships
Assisting students with registration for ACT, SAT, PLAN, PSAT/NMSQT, ASVAB, etc.
Assisting students in choosing the appropriate school curriculum
Preparing an Academic Plan for each student
- Provide access to the following tests as needed and requested:
Woodcock-Johnson III Cognitive and Achievement Batteries (as needed)
PSAT/NMSQT for 10th graders (as requested by parents) or
PLAN for 10th graders (precursor to ACT)
ACT or SAT test for Juniors and Seniors if needed and requested
Preparation for ACT and SAT tests
Mock ACT test given at ALA one week prior to regular ACT tests
Leadership and Management
An advisory committee comprised of administrator, counselors, tutors and Program staff periodically review what is being done and what is needed to fulfill the counseling and guidance needs of the students.
A periodic review is given to the staff as to what the Counseling Department should and should not be doing. Current legal guidelines are followed and periodic training on new policies and procedures, as well as changes in high school graduation requirements, are undertaken.
Parents are contacted when students interact with counseling personnel concerning academic counseling and some aspects of personal counseling. This is done through the Best Notes system and through personal e-mails and phone calls to parents.
Resources from outside Abundant Life Academy are used when their particular expertise is needed. An example of this would be using outside facilitators or advisors from the Area Technical Center, military recruiters, college recruiters, etc.