We treat our students as individuals with their own unique histories and struggles, but they do share some common characteristics. First, our students are bright and highly capable. Though we are reluctant to use the label “gifted” (as it is a loaded term with little practical utility at JDA), most students who do well here have developmental histories indicative of exceptional aptitude in one or more areas such as intellectual, creative, artistic, kinesthetic, or leadership capacity. Despite these abilities and talents, many of our students have performed at levels incommensurate with their potential, often due to learning, attentional, emotional, and/or motivational problems. In many cases, by the time they reach us, they have lost interest in academics or have avoided it altogether. In certain educational circles, they would be described as “underachieving gifted” or “twice exceptional” (2e) students. We do not base admission decisions on particular labels, IQ testing, or previous school placement / identification. Rather we take a thorough developmental and academic history to determine if JDA is potentially a good fit for a prospective student. Second, JDA students have demonstrated that they are in need of a more structured and nurturing environment than what their families and/or schools and communities can adequately provide.
Students come to us with a long list of previous clinical diagnoses that reflect depressed mood, anxiety, emotional dysregulation, executive functioning problems, trauma, relational/attachment problems, characterological issues, family problems, legal issues, and a variety of self-destructive behaviors (e.g., drug/alcohol use, non-suicidal self-injury, promiscuity, eating disorders, suicidal gestures/attempts). In non-clinical terms, they can present as angry, apathetic, alienated, dishonest, anxious, lonely, insecure, unmotivated, and just plain lost in navigating the difficult waters of growing up. Some have shut down and withdrawn from life. Many have angrily pushed back against parents and others who have reached out to them, including professionals. All of them have failed to respond favorably to traditional educational and psychotherapeutic approaches, including outpatient therapy and psychotropic medications. Many, but not all, students who ultimately succeed at JDA have completed a therapeutic wilderness program prior to admission. .
The John Dewey Academy is not appropriate for all adolescents. Since the clinical and educational picture is often ambiguous, we recommend that you contact us to discuss whether your child may benefit from attending The John Dewey Academy.