The John Dewey Academy is a residential, college preparatory, year-round high school designed for high-potential students who have not been succeeding in school and life. Despite intelligence and talent, our students have lost sight of their genuine goals and passions. As a way of escaping lives experienced as alienating and painful, they have engaged in self-defeating or self-destructive behaviors (e.g., drug use, sexual promiscuity, dishonesty, reckless behavior, internet addiction, or forms of bodily self-harm such as cutting or eating disorders). Whether they are acting out in angry defiance or are withdrawing into depression and anxiety, all have lost the conviction that life, reality, and hard work are worthwhile investments. The school’s educational program provides what these students need in order to turn their lives around: a structured environment, a caring community, and a positive peer culture. Together, these elements can help students learn to face their problems and make life-affirming choices.
We show respect to our students by believing in their potential and meeting them with high expectations. We do not view them as patients to be cured or as “damaged goods” who can function only on psychotropic medications. If a student arrives on such medications, we discontinue them in consultation with a psychiatrist. Concerned parents may fear that discontinuation of medication will worsen their teenager's condition, especially when medical professionals warn of adverse consequences. Such parents might, however, consider the following question: on medication, has the child moved in a good direction? If not, a fresh approach is in order. The John Dewey Academy’s twenty-five year history forcefully demonstrates that adolescents routinely recover and grow without medications.
At The John Dewey Academy, we do not believe in quick fixes. Instead of medicating students’ feelings, we address the underlying emotions–alienation, insecurity, fear, loneliness, hurt and anger–that have trapped them in a downward spiral. We rekindle their hope for meaningful relationships and lives of self-respect. In a caring and intensely challenging environment, our students begin believing in themselves; they begin to care about their futures, and to exercise their freedom with better choices.
We are a voluntary program.
In their initial interviews, prospective students are given a realistic picture of the philosophy, demands, and stresses of the school. In order to stay, they must agree to attend the school and follow the rules.
At The John Dewey Academy, adolescents encounter a peer-based community of empowerment, an exciting educational environment, the challenge of real responsibilities, and the realistic promise of acceptance at a college of quality. In such an environment, they can change. Even those who have resisted previous interventions can learn to invest in themselves when they are treated as capable of making mature decisions, and are held accountable for their choices by their peers as well as by the staff. If students are willing to work toward a better life, we will work alongside them as educators, coaches, and mentors. We never lose sight of our students’ high potential for lives of self-respect and success.