By Staff Writer
SUWS Wilderness Programs, which has been in continuous operation longer than any other therapeutic teen wilderness program in the United States, is celebrating 30 years of life-changing service to teens in crisis and their families.
Throughout this anniversary year, SUWS will be hosting a variety of events. The schedule will include gatherings in Philadelphia, Dallas and Los Angeles, as well as a celebration for staff members and program alumni on the SUWS campus in southern Idaho.
Dedicated to Helping Teens in Crisis and Their Families
Since SUWS opened in Shoshone, Idaho, in 1981, much has changed in both the world at large and within the education and therapy communities. However, at SUWS, certain important elements – for example, a commitment to the highest quality of care and a dedication to helping struggling youth and their families – have remained constant.
“We’ve had a lot of changes over the years,” said SUWS Executive Director Kathy Rex, “but our underlying philosophies and our dedication to helping children and families get their lives back on track has been a constant through the decades.”
A History of Innovation & Continued Improvement
Rex, whose service with SUWS began 17 years ago, noted that this dedication to cor values has provided an ideal foundation upon which to build a dynamic program that continues to evolve and improve.
“SUWS has definitely evolved,” she said. “For example, in our earlier days, we worked primarily with the child in crisis. Today, we identify the entire family’s struggle, not just the child’s struggle.”
When a student is enrolled at SUWS, his or her parents will receive regular updates from SUWS staff members, and will play an active role in their child’s continued progress.
About halfway through their child’s enrollment period at SUWS, the parents will attend a weeklong Family Camp that Kathy Rex has described as “unbelievably successful.”
“The parents come out to Idaho & spend five days immersed in the program,” she said. “It’s a life-changing experience for the families.”
Leading the Effort to Improve Industry Standards
In addition to serving parents and students, SUWS has also been a leader in the effort to promote licensure and regulation throughout the therapeutic wilderness industry.
“In the mid-1990s, SUWS became the first youth wilderness program in Idaho to be licensed,” Rex said. “We have always emphasized the benefits of establishing standards and regulations for programs throughout the United States.”
Since receiving that initial license, SUWS has earned a number of additional accreditations, including CARF (Commission on Accreditation of Rehabilitation Facilities) and AdvancED (an academic accreditation organization that serves more than 27,000 schools in 69 countries).
On a Mission to Help Others
While the anniversary events will certainly involve some reflection the program’s past successes, the SUWS staff won’t spend much time resting on their laurels.
Rex said that she and her colleagues remain focused on ensuring that SUWS continues to evolve – both to meet the changing needs of students and families, and to remain one of the nation’s premier providers of therapeutic wilderness services.
“We’re all on a mission to help others,” she said. “We are always looking to the future and exploring how we can make SUWS an even better place for children and their families.”