I was sent to Ascent at age 17 in 2000 and it was the worst 6 weeks of my life. Personal belongings including clothes were confiscated during the initial strip search. They give you two sets of clothes, a sleeping bag, and some boots that you are to carry in a large bag everywhere you go. We slept in crowded teepees using our bag as pillows and every morning they would blow a whistle signaling its time to get up. We had 5 minutes to get dressed (we were forced to strip down to underwear to sleep in) roll up your sleeping bag and belongings and be outside in line at attention. If one person didn’t make it, everyone had to unpack everything in the teepee, strip back down to your underwear and get in your sleeping bag, and start over. This would sometimes go on until lunch time.
Daily activities included hauling logs in the forest, chopping and stacking wood, boot camp style physical training sessions, getting yelled at, and “group therapy” they called raps. I’ve been to therapy and this was NOT therapy. 2 weeks of the program was spent “on course” hiking an camping in the mountains with a small group and a couple counselors. I had a medical issue come up (likely from the stress) that kept me from participating in course (Doctor ordered). Their solution… return me to base camp and put me in a private tent secluded a few hundred yards back in the woods where I was NOT to emerge. Meals were brought to me and I literally didn’t leave the tent (except to use the bathroom) until my group was done with the 2 week hike.
Letters written home were screened and thrown in the trash if the staff didn’t like them. If you wanted a letter to be sent, you would have to leave out the part about the abusive practices of the staff and pretend like everything was peachy.
When you finish the program, they recommend you to attend the company’s boarding school if they don’t see you to be fit to return home. I always hustled, stayed focused, said yes sir / yes ma’am, and did what I was told to the best of my ability. Surprise surprise, they recommended I go to the CEDU (company that runs the place) boarding school that helps fund this god awful teen prison. I was one of the few lucky ones and my parents decided to bring me home. I am so glad to hear that CEDU was shut down in 2005. No kid should be subjected to that kind of place.
- The blog-entry with the original testimony in the comments (1000 places You don't want to be as a teenager)
- Factsheet about the wilderness program (Fornits Wiki)