Sending my 17 year old son across the country to Gateway Academy – a place I had never seen, to be cared for by people I had never met – was heart-wrenching.
But the past several years had been equally heart-wrenching, and my husband and I had to do something to save our son’s life. – Which was something, depressingly, that despite our greatest efforts, we were unable to do ourselves.Read More Read Less
The years leading up to our son’s departure had been an unending cycle of drugs, high anxiety (both his and ours), angry family encounters and an increasing feeling of desperation about the life that our once-sweet child would face out in the world.
In his heart, he was a good kid. But the combination of learning issues, deeply rooted social ineptitude, and the drug problem he acquired in a desperate attempt to cope were too much for him. He knew his problems were life-threatening, so he went to Gateway willingly. But he was very scared and alone. Life at Gateway was not easy for our son. For a long time, he felt restricted, frustrated, and unable to wear down those around him into doing what he wanted (which had been his pattern in the past). He chaffed at the system of working toward therapeutic goals to gain privileges -- and at times, said he regretted that he had ever agreed to come to Gateway.
The staff was firm with him. Rules were upheld, privileges sometimes suspended, and he was not moved ahead just because his occasionally angry protests were hard for everyone to withstand. Through it all, Gateway staff came to know him very well. They understood what set him off, what soothed him and what skills he would have to learn to be successful in the world. And it all came from a deep place of understanding and caring. They understood that his many struggles were, in large part, due to real, brain-based processing issues and his frustrated attempts to make sense of the world. They never treated him a “bad” kid to be dealt with in a punitive way. The staff members cared about him, and he knew it.
And slowly, with time, he started to see that he could control some of his most self destructive impulses. He started to see that his negative behaviors hurt him more than anyone, and that he could learn other ways to achieve his goals. Best of all, he made some friends -- both with the other boys and the staff. He had not had a real friendship for many years, and these budding relationships were like food for a starving man.
In May 2012, after 13 months, our son graduated from Gateway Academy. This was a moment that none of us had quite allowed ourselves to imagine. At the graduation ceremony, to everyone’s surprise, he pulled out several sheets of paper and proceeded to give his graduation address. Amid the many remembrances, he took special care to recognize his therapist. He said, “I also want to thank my therapist Hansel. He has taught me things about myself that have changed me to be a man who lives each day with integrity and respect.”
He had come so far, and we saw glimmers of hope on the horizon. But we all knew that major life transitions were very difficult for him and posed risks that he may not yet be prepared to handle. So he moved into the TAL (Transition to Adult Living) House. There he enjoyed many of the perks of independent adult living while still having the security of supervision and support from people who knew him well. This time served as a critical stepping stone for our son as continued to grow in his understanding of what it means to be responsible for himself.
This is not to say that he made no missteps while living in the TAL House. There were a few. But he was able to navigate them with the considerable support of a caring, dependable and knowledgeable Gateway network.
Now, after six months, he has moved to his own apartment. He is a college student with friends and a busy schedule. He plays guitar, raps, and snowboards in the beautiful mountains of Utah. His life is not perfect, but he continues to move forward and rely on the skills he learned – and continues to learn – from Gateway staff. Most of all, he has an intense appreciation for his life as it is now and for the role that Gateway Academy played in getting him there. He continues to see a Gateway therapist and occasionally participates in TAL and Gateway activities. He
says he considers the people at Gateway “family.” We do too.
2015 Gateway Academy Student Graduation Speech
Having been born in 1997, I am one of those entitled, stereotypical Millennial brats that every baby boomer fears working with in the office.
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Some of my traits as a millennial include: listening to watered-down, obscure music; having an Apple iPhone as a physical extension of my body; and spending more time plotting on how to get more Instagram followers than thinking about my own future.
But all of this aside, I am a human… a flesh and blood human being that is entering adulthood, and I have to say the very notion of having this “adult” image is the scariest thing to ever cross my mind. Paying bills, having a job, feeding your family, mowing the lawn, weekly trips to Home Depot and pretending that you know what you need to get there…. these things are the essence of my nightmares. The signs that you are no longer a child, but instead, you are everything you promised yourself you weren’t going to be during those bittersweet years of self-discovery… during those years of being a teenager.
My Millennial generation has very unique circumstances. Most of this generation were born shortly before or during the digital revolution, which makes it difficult for us to remember what it was like before all of the smartphones and social media. We have grown up in a new world, a world in which we have been constantly connected to the greatest information source man has ever known: the Internet. We have everything we could ever want to know at the tips of our fingers at all times. It has become far too easy for us to talk to our friends over text messaging and social media rather than having than having true personal connections. Taking into account all of these new world conveniences, we have become lazy in comparison to the generations before us. We no longer have to know how to spell; we have auto-correct. We no longer have to dig through encyclopedias for information; we can just Google it. Laziness has now become the cultural norm, and genuine work has become harder and harder to find.
Being lazy, ungrateful Millennials, we never even fathomed what being an adult was actually like. Of course, we had an idea of what we thought it was like: doing what we wanted whenever we wanted to. We dreamt of the sweet taste of independence but never truly understood what it meant. Independence does not mean that you get to do whatever you want, whenever you want. The meaning of independence is that you have to take care of the mundane tasks when you would much rather be engaged in something else. My generation spends hours upon hours on our smart phones in order to figure out our problems and questions instead of using simple thought process. Instead of forming individualized adult opinions, we listen to what is trending on Twitter, we “like” something on Instagram without even as much of a second glance, and we take Wikipedia’s word over anything and EVERYTHING else. It is time to wake up. It is time to realize that there is no straightforward, cookie-cutter shot into the realm of adulthood. It is time to realize that there is nothing on the internet that can guide us through this. There is no app for this.
Despite all of the setbacks, the millennial generation does have potential to be the greatest that this country has ever known. Putting all of the negative elements that come with being entitled to the side, a small group of people in my generation will use entitlement to our advantage as adults. We know what we want, we believe we deserve it, and we will go to any length to get it. Instead of sitting around and day dreaming about a better life, this group of Millennials actively seeks a better life because they think….no, rather, they KNOW that they deserve better than what they currently have and they will not rest until they have it. I strive to be a part of this small percentage of Millennials. I know what I want and you can be damn well sure that I will put every ounce of my being into getting it. I deserve a life of fulfillment and fullness. I deserve to be alive. I deserve to have loved ones, and I deserve to have the opportunity to make something of myself. Everyone graduating today deserves all of this and anything that they work towards. Break boundaries, set new precedents, and show the world that they cannot box you in to whatever label they see fit. You fit no mold. You are yourself, and that person is beautiful. My name is S.M.P, and for the first time in my eighteen years of living I can finally say that I’m proud of that. Not only am I proud of myself, but I’m proud of S.K, M.D., E.C., C.E., E.L., and A.P. There may be no app to help guide us through the years to come, but we certainly have other people to assist us. Let’s get back to human connection.
For a reason I wish I could explain, I have not been able to bring myself to write you until now.
Ever since I left last year, Gateway has been in my thought every day. As much as it freaks me out to say this, I’ve missed you all.Read More Read Less
Senior year went by extraordinarily well as I returned to my old high school. I challenged myself with difficult courses, but also really enjoyed myself with two writing courses and an Advanced Placement Photography class. I graduated on May 31st this year.
After applying to nine universities, and being accepted to all of them, I’ve decided to attend Butler University in Indianapolis. I move in August, where I will begin a weeklong leadership program that I competed for a spot. I’m extremely excited.
In this package, I have included a painting of Gateway, which I completed second semester in my painting class. I hope you enjoy, for I got a great deal of pleasure out of painting it, and remembering all the ups and downs of the house.
You will also find a DVD of a speech I gave in March at my school’s Fashion for the Cure fundraiser. Every year, there is a massive student fashion show at our high school where the proceeds go to a different organization. This year, they went to suicide prevention. I wrote a speech and spoke to the entire audience, which consisted of around 500 people. Please feel free to show the video to current students if you feel it would give them reassurance to life after Gateway.
Of course I still have my down moments, but I have always been able to work through them. Whenever I feel I need an extra boost of strength, I wear my Gateway ring with the inscribed “Let It Be” inside.
No matter where I go, I always feel a bond to my family back in Draper. I truly consider the boys I lived with my brothers, and the staff a part of the family. I carry you with me wherever I go.
My family and I owe so much to you, and words will never adequately express this.
With much love and eternal gratitude.
My son is a changed child - every adult at his birthday party who has known him all his life noticed the positive change in him - mainly how confident he is and how much he smiles. Can’t thank Gateway enough!Read More Read Less
Hi Julie, we are all well and up in New Hampshire where we have just celebrated his 18th birthday. "S" could not be better. We had all his godparents and our friends (aka support group) up for the celebrations and we totaled over 40 folks. "S" was spot on. Did so well and everyone has commented on how engaged he is. He hung out with all the kids and teens and had great conversations and interactions with all. He also recognizes the importance of exercise for himself so has maintained a schedule of running and getting exercise. So thankful for all that Gateway did for him. He is super excited for UVU and we totally feel good about his next support group. We will take it one step at a time but for now "S" appears to be on a great trajectory.
When I arrived at Gateway Academy in 2010, I was in the middle of a severe depressive episode.
At home I was unable to function due to my depression, I had just left another treatment program which did not support me in the slightest.Read More Read Less
Driving onto the property I had a deep feelings of fear and anxiety, worrying that my experience at Gateway would be a repeat of previous failed interventions.
From the moment I first walked in the door I was greeted by a caring staff team, therapist, and a group of peers who helped to support me. The Gateway Academy team helped me to feel safe and cared for which allowed me to work through the issues that caused my depression.
While the journey of my treatment was not easy, I am truly grateful to have had the opportunity to attend Gateway. Not only was I able to get through a difficult time in my life, I gained coping and communication skills that have continued to help me ever since I graduated.
I would highly recommend Gateway to others. Gateway's caring community and excellent therapeutic team were extremely helpful in helping me to get my life back on track and I continue to use the invaluable skills that I learned from my experience at Gateway to this day. I am very grateful to the amazing therapists, staff, owners, managers and teachers that make Gateway Academy such an inviting and supportive program.
"My boy that refused school and was addicted to video games has a new positive self definition and vision of his future."Read More Read Less
The Gateway introduction to outdoors activities was very important to my son. He has defined himself as a "rock climber" and a "mountaineer." He and I just returned from a 5 day goat-pack hiking trip in the Uintah Mountains. We had a great time, it was our first time around goats. The week before the goat-packing trip, he had been on a 30-day NOLS mountaineering expedition into the Wind River Mountains. He had a very good experience on that trip and is talking about meeting new friends next year to climb other mountains. He is quite proud of the NOLS experience. He used the rope handling skills learned at Gateway when recently while descending Mt. Woodrow Wilson, a climber in the party of 4 was injured by falling snow and rocks. He and the instructor worked as a rope team to help the climber off the mountain at night. The entire experience lasted over 24 hours with no sleep.
Overall, he is doing very well. He has started using his Facebook page by posting photos from his NOLS expedition and our goat-packing trip. He stays in touch with friends from Gateway Academy and NOLS. He is looking forward to going to school this fall. The boy that refused school and was addicted to video games has a new vision of his future.
It has been nearly four short weeks since I flew out to Salt Lake City to attend my son's graduation and to bring him from his home at Gateway to his home in Massachusetts.
The graduation ceremony was well thought out and meant a lot to him and to me. I mean it when I say that Gateway felt like a home to him.Read More Read Less
I am writing to thank you and the entire staff at Gateway for everything that all of you have done for him during his stay of nearly six months. when we dropped him off at Gateway in early June, he had just finished two months of wilderness program. Although he benefited a great deal from wilderness, he was still anxious and depressed and did not have a lot of confidence in himself. He was finding it difficult to interact with other boys.
When I picked him up at Gateway a month ago, he was a changed young man. He had a much better understanding of himself, his issues, and how to cope with his issues. He had developed friendships with other boys at Gateway and the staff and he had gained a great deal of confidence. He had a much more positive outlook on life. There was more bounce in his step.
When he came home, he told his mother and I that sending him to wilderness and Gateway was the best gift that we could ever have given him. He could not stop thanking us for doing so. That is a remarkable thing for a 16 year old boy to say and it shows how much he gained from his Gateway experience.
I can't say enough about the Gateway program and the lasting impact that the program has had on him and on the rest of our family. Gateway is quite unique in its mission, structure, and purpose. It was the right program at the right time for our son. The founders have clearly designed a program that combines the right mixture of individual and group therapy, academics, and outdoor activities. The program makes the boys accountable and responsible for their own actions. It worked for our son as it has worked for many other boys. In particular, the weekend and weeklong outdoor activities (rock climbing, rafting, canyoneering, etc.) pushes the boys in new ways. My son gained a lot of self confidence from these weekend excursions and he learned to interact with the other boys in the outdoors as well.
I can't say enough about his therapist and the tremendous positive influence that she had on him during his time at Gateway. She clearly loves her work and finds the right combination of toughness and kindness as a therapist. My son couldn't say enough great things about her and my wife and I enjoyed our interactions with her during our weekly calls and during our visit to Gateway. She is a tremendous asset to the Gateway program.
If you ever want to use us as a reference for the Gateway program feel free to contact us. It was in early December of last year that my son had to withdraw from school and we spent four difficult months with him as we went through deep depression, anxiety, multiple conflicting diagnoses, and multiple medications for those conflicting and inaccurate diagnoses. Despite having sent him to multiple so called "experts" in the Boston area, we felt that we were getting nowhere. His progress did not begin until we brought him out to Utah. When we dropped him off at wilderness in April and Gateway in June, we did not know exactly what was going to happen to him. Nearly a year after he withdrew from school, we feel that he is back to a state of happiness, he is confident about himself in his new school setting, and he looks forward to every new day. We couldn't ask for any more. Our son is back.
So I'm studying Arabic at Brown University for the next couple of weeks.
So here I am, sitting in this nice little Providence coffee shop working on some Arabic assignments, and I was just hit with an enormous wave of gratitude.Read More Read Less
I realized how far I've come in the past two years; I would've never been able to be here if I hadn't worked so hard in my recovery. And Gateway were a huge part of making this all possible. And I just felt like saying Thanks.
When we were told by a professional that the best treatment for our son would involve a residential treatment center we were overwhelmed.
At 15, how could we possibly take our son 1,800 miles away from home and leave him with a bunch of people we didn’t really “know”? It was almost too much.Read More Read Less
Like any parent, we wanted to find the very best treatment program for him. One that would make the proper diagnosis and teach him and us the skills needed to address the issues we were experiencing. His behavior was sometimes self-destructive. He had become very rigid and isolated. The lines of communication with us were closed. He hated us. We were the enemy. He had very few friends and most students at school called him a “freak”. Actually he was a very kind hearted and sensitive young man; but he was simply unique and did not fit the mold of all the other “cool” kids. We didn’t understand him or what was going on in his mind and he didn’t understand us or our point of view. It was a bad situation for all of us and it was getting worse. We had to do something.
A professional referred us to Gateway after meeting our son. She was familiar with Gateway and knew some of the staff there. She thought that the program they offered suited the needs of our son. Our son is bright and she was sure that the academic program would challenge him. So we began the journey. We traveled to Utah, toured Gateway, met lots of people, and then went back home to make a decision. I guess we could have looked at other RTC’s but something about the people at Gateway felt right. I think one of the most important reasons we decided on Gateway was that the owners were accessible and at the home on a regular basis. It wasn’t some RTC run by a corporation with offices in another state. Another reason was that we asked to meet some of the students privately. Without hesitation, our request was met. We were able to meet some of the students without any staff present and ask questions. That spoke volumes. A few days later with great emotion we flew with our son to Utah and left him in the care of strangers. It was very uncomfortable for all of us. Our son was not happy about the situation and we feared we had lost him forever. Overwhelming had been taken to a whole new level.
Our son spent six months at Gateway. It was a long six months. After a few weeks, we began to sense some changes in him. As time went on we could tell he was opening back up to us. The walls were coming down. Slowly, thru family sessions, our family began to communicate. We learned exactly what kind of personality disorder our son was experiencing and why this was happening. More importantly, as parents we learned how our actions were making things worse. Along with our therapist, our family slowly found each other and reconnected. To hear him say “I Love You” took our breath away. We had wondered if we would ever hear those words again. Our son was finally getting the help he needed.
Academically, we were very pleased with the atmosphere for learning our son was in. The teachers at Gateway challenged our son academically; but they also helped him develop as a person. The program is very transparent. They allowed us to sit in on some his classes. We could talk to his teachers whenever we asked and they sent us progress reports on a regular basis. Once back at home he fell right into his old school seamlessly.
Since he returned back home, our son is back in school and doing well. People tell us how much he smiles. His behaviors are much improved without us having to correct him. There is a sense of harmony in our home again. He better understands himself and his weaknesses and we better understand him and how to help him along.
If it sounds too good to be true, all we can say is that it is true. This is our story about Gateway. We feel blessed to have found Gateway. The strangers are now friends and the feelings of being overwhelmed have given way to feelings of joy. Thank you Gateway.
Roots: Poem by Gateway Student
Up the street
Down the road
We all move on
Whether you go from state to state
Whether you go from country to country
You were here
You spread your roots
Through every student
Through every staff
Leaving the gentle reminder
You were here
And as you move on
You hold many roots
From every student
From every staff
Leaving the gentle reminder
We were there
As you move on
From place to place
State to state
Country to country
And as you meet people
You share your roots
They share their roots
These roots connect
From tree to tree
Making a forest
A mighty forest
Of everyone you know
Of everyone you have known
We are all connected
Even when you are alone
A little piece of everyone
Is rooted to your soul
And no matter how far you travel
We all hope you know
All our roots inside you
Will never let go
We remember we were told by our Rabbi that it takes a village to raise a child.
For the last 9 months Gateway has become our village and our son's therapist has clearly been the MayorRead More Read Less
When the SH_T hit the fan and our family’s life was spinning out of control, we thank God we found our Education Consultant, who brought us to a wilderness program and Gateway. After our visit with our son in the wilderness we came to Gateway and met with Melissa and a therapist. The next morning we met with Michelle and when we walked out we said to each other, “For the first time in our son's life, someone clearly understands his issues and knows a path to start his future on the right course. It is very hard for parents who have been totally devoted to their child, with a mother who did everything in her power since his birth to help him, turn over their child and complete control to strangers half way across the country. How ironic for parents that for most of their son’s life did everything to teach him “stranger danger.” We knew we had to overcome our fears and let Gateway come into our lives. It was so hard not to be able see him for another 7 weeks until Parents Weekend, but when we did, we saw the beginnings of a new child.
The holistic approach that had been set up for our son, which we clearly did not understand and had to be explained numerous times, clearly proved to be the way to go. It took time but we began to see glimmers of hope with the changes taking place. We saw the 2 steps forward and one step back, but each time his therapist was there to hold our hand and always forge forward with him. We saw a child who never advocated for himself or who did not have his own personality, start to change. This clearly came from the assignments that his therapist gave to him and followed up with staff to make sure they were done. Each time our son tried to do his own thing and fall back on old habits and behaviors, his therapist was always there to redirect and get him back on track. The changes that have come about in his life are astonishing. Each time he came home on a “Home Visit” friends and family were always commenting on the amount of change that they clearly saw in him. They said that the last time they saw him he was very much a little boy, but now they could see the start of his development into a man.
His therapist, what can we say? We entrusted her with the most important thing in our lives, our son. You are kind, caring, direct, and are always “all in” as only a parent can be. Your love, dedication, perseverance, along with all of your knowledge of teenagers with their behavioral and learning issues, has enormously helped with the growth and development of our entire family. You always saw the gold that was inside of him. All of your hard work resembles that of an Alchemist. We can’t put into words our appreciation for what you have done for our son.
Our son choose his staff advocate and we would like to thank him for all of his hard work, sage advice, patience and clear understanding of our son.
We realize that Gateway is a total team process. Unfortunately we do not know all the names of each member of the team, but would like to extend a very well deserved thank you to each and every member of the team.
This note from my wife and myself is to thank the teachers at Gateway for the patience, compassion, and professionalism you have shown our son throughout the academic year.Read More Read Less
He has improved with your help, and we will always be grateful to all of you. You do a magnificent job.
We are very satisfied with and grateful for the education, therapy, support and affection our son has received at Gateway Academy.
Our son is a smart, caring, handsome young man, who had lost his self-esteem and was falling deeper and deeper into despair.Read More Read Less
We knew we weren’t able to provide the help he needed and wanted at home, so we sent him to a 12-week wilderness therapy program in the Uinta Mountains of Utah. With a newfound determination, he made great progress in the wilderness and completed all phases of the program. So when it was suggested that he proceed to “aftercare” in a Residential Treatment Center (RTC), rather than a therapeutic boarding school, we were disheartened and concerned that he would feel disillusioned after all his hard work in the wilderness. It seemed like a step backward. It was heartbreaking for all of us. We looked at one other RTC before visiting Gateway Academy. The other program was very impressive, but we chose Gateway’s Salt Lake City house largely because it felt more like a home than a program to us.
Upon graduation from the wilderness program, we had less less than 36 hours to be with our son before dropping him off at Gateway. Leaving him there was one of the hardest things we have ever done, but we felt confident that we had made the right decision, then and even more so now. We were right that Gateway is more than just a therapeutic program. The staff members work hard to provide a safe and caring home environment. Just like any home, there are people who care deeply. Just like any home, there have been relationship dynamics that need to be explored and tested. Just like any home, there are good days and bad days. In fact, it is probably true that the toughest days were the days he grew the most. At Gateway, it truly is a team effort and our son understood that. The staff and teachers helped him to learn about himself, grow emotionally and find ways to better deal with his issues and be the man he wants to become. Upon turning 18, our son could have left the program, but he decided to continue on to achieve the goals he had set for himself. He wants a bright future full of possibilities and knows that everyone at Gateway Academy wants that for him as well. Our son has now competed the program. It was not an easy seven months for him or for us. With the help of the skilled and caring staff he worked far harder on improving his life and his future than we have ever seen him work on anything. We missed our son more each day because while we were physically apart we were learning how to better relate and communicate and grew much closer as a family.
In summary, we are extremely glad that we trusted our son to Gateway Academy. Everyone at Gateway Academy has been phenomenal in helping him with his struggles and to become confident young man while bringing our family closer together. Realistically, we know our son still has a lot of challenges ahead of him, as do most teenagers, but he now believes in himself and is armed with coping skills that will help him get through the rough patches that before seemed unbearable. We are incredibly proud of our son and very appreciative of everyone at Gateway.
Our son arrived at Gateway in January. He stayed there until April. He suffered from severe anxiety and depression.
Through the outstanding care and therapy, he was able to return home and complete high school. He has continued his education and is currently completing his BSc in Psychology.Read More Read Less
Gateway provided him the tools to reconnect with his family and to develop other relationships. We are very close now and we are indebted to Julie and the Gateway team who helped him.
Throughout our ordeal, we tried to remember to never lose hope. Gateway Academy gave us hope when times were so difficult.
Dear Gateway Academy Staff, As you can imagine, making the decision to send our child away for a year is unfathomable
When we toured Gateway, we knew immediately, that this was the place for our son. The warmth and joy were palpable.Read More Read Less
The attitude of the students was positive. We haven't regretted our choice for one minute.
The day we brought our son to you was very emotional. You made it tolerable. I am so thankful to each and everyone of you for making a difference in his life.
Thanks you for being part of the Gateway team for him; and for many students in the future.