July, 20 2018

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Massachusetts Ranch for Troubled Teens Nearing Completion

At-risk youth and troubled teens in the Lake Odessa area will soon have a new place to call home.

The Sunny Crest Youth Ranch will be a shelter for students to learn socially, academically and otherwise when it is completed. It is currently under construction and expected to be finished by May.

Giving Troubled Youth Another Option

“This is going to be a safe place for kids. It'll be a child-caring institution,” said Ron Coppess, who founded the Sunny Crest Youth Ranch after 30 years of experience in education at Lakewood High School. “The area has a major problem with children not having any other place to go. I think this can help alleviate some of that problem.”

With the first house set to be completed by summer, Coppess said the youth ranch could one day encompass six houses with up to eight people per house. Under the program, local judges would make student recommendations to the youth ranch, which would have the right to choose its own students.

That's the goal, Coppess said, but right now, he's waiting to see how the first house turns out.

“Ideally, we'd have two to three kids in the house by June, if we open in May,” Coppess said. “I don't want eight all at once because I'd just as soon start slow and walk than leap right into it. We'll have to get used to some things.”

Helping Teens With Technology

Beyond common household amenities, the house will be networked with NovaNET, a computer-based program that is designed to help students learn and progress at their own specific rates. Students will have to master at least 70 percent of the material in a given subject before they can academically advance. It is a credited program, so the progress students earn with it is recognized at any high school.

Homes To Help Teens with Social Skills

Perhaps the most important aspect of the house, Coppess said, are the parents themselves.

“Each house will have two parents there to model basic social skills and to really do what parents do,” said Coppess, who along with wife Ellyn, will be the “test-parents” in the first home. “There's a lot we know because of how our parents modeled them for us, but many of these kids haven't had those luxuries. The parents in the houses are going to make schedules with these children, work with them and help them get back on track.”

Coppess said throughout his 30 years at Lakewood - seven of which included being assistant principal - he saw far too many troubled teens without a system of support at home. Many didn't even have a place to call home. The problem now, he said, is worse than ever.

Giving Some Teens a Place to Call Home

“At any given time in a district, there could be 25 to 30 children without a place to stay,” Coppess said. “A lot of people don't know that, but it's the truth.”

Sunny Crest Youth Ranch Board of Directors Vice President Denise Parks learned of the area's problem with homeless children through the project.

“I was unaware of the problem,” Parks said. “I had a picture of a homeless person in my mind and I was wrong about that. Now there's an urgency to get these kids a place to be, grow and flourish.”

A Community That Supports its Youth

The community has been quick to support the Sunny Crest Youth Ranch, too. They've given $16,000 in mailing donations and numerous citizens have volunteered their time to help with some aspect of the construction or fundraisers. Nobody's working on a salary at this point - from the Sunny Crest Youth Ranch board of directors to Coppess himself - but they are putting in long hours of service.

“It's a humbling experience from my perspective,” Coppess said. “ It's very unique. One of the huge things we want to do is be good stewards with people's money.”

All those donations could help lead to a much brighter future for the Lakewood area.

Having Troubled Teens at Sunny Crest Could help Schools

Sunny Crest Youth Ranch could actually generate additional funding for Lakewood Public Schools. Each pupil at the district brings in $7,185 in state funding.

If students at the ranch right their ships, they could attend Lakewood Public Schools causing a slight increase in students and funding. There may be a cost associated with it, but Lakewood Superintendent Mark O'Mara thinks it would be worth it.

“One of the questions we've faced is that these children are coming with some unusual set of circumstances, some special needs, social work, etc...” O'Mara said. “It's similar to our families who have foster kids. So, there could be some additional expenses beyond average students, but I don't envision that as something serious we'll incur.”

Related Articles:
Sacramento Creates Two Programs for Troubled Teens 12/31/07
Document's Show Nebraska Shooter Was a Troubled Teen 12/27/07
Treatment Center in Indiana Expands 12/27/07
Wardle Academy in Wyoming Loses Funding 12/25/07
Louisiana Boot Camp Offers School Alternative 12/25/07
STAR Academy in Florida Short on Funds 12/24/07
Maryland Police Try to Keep Troubled Teens from Becoming Statistics 12/7/07
Test Predicts Psychosis in Troubled Teens 1/7/08
California Cities Not to Limit Residential Treatment Centers 12/21/07
Nevada Center for Troubled Teens Seeks New Facility 12/21/07

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