TYPICAL STUDENTS—AT MA
There is no one type of MA student, albeit most students share some common attributes and predicates. All are teen-agers. All are high-school students. All MA students are bright, talented and full of promise. All of their families stand behind them, actively participate, and remain engaged in their children’s lives while they are students at MA.
Prior to enrollment all MA students experienced some kind of progressive, global breakdown. Repetitive and worsening symptoms, misbehaviors, problems and failures have touched most or all venues in their modern adolescent lives: at school, in extracurricular activities, at home, in the society of peers, and all by themselves. Attempts to resolve these problems while they continued to live at home—with good advice, competent outpatient psychotherapy and/or psychotropic medications—already had failed. The risk/ reward ratio became too great to continue on an outpatient basis.
Most students have completed a challenging wilderness program. All MA students are healthy and strong enough to participate in the Academy’s vigorous outdoor activities.
To join the community MA students have all met safety criteria. For a ranch has its limitations. MA is not a locked hospital ward, a boot camp or penal colony. Prospective student must demonstrate (e.g., at wilderness) an ability and willingness to cooperate, control themselves, and be careful about others’ well-being. Teenagers who need locked doors or physical restraint do not belong on a Montana ranch, where winter nights can be frigid and there are gas tanks, farm tools, kitchen knives, ropes and pine trees. MA does not enroll adjudicated delinquents, nor young people who are acutely suicidal, psychotic, assaultive, uncooperative, actively drug-seeking or determined to run away.
There is not any typical misbehavior, symptom or formal diagnosis shared in common among MA students. The campus is diverse in this way, as in other ways. Over the years young people have brought to MA more than fifty axis I DSM-IV diagnoses, a long cumulative list of symptoms and signs, and an imaginative variety of misbehaviors.
Notably, Montana Academy is not a primary alcohol or drug rehab. For this reason, MA does not accept teenagers who still avidly seek mind-altering substances, who remain determined to sneak drugs onto an open campus, and want to encourage or supply other students’ use. However, the Academy always has on campus many young people with substantial drug and alcohol use histories. This is hardly surprising, inasmuch as the use of mind-altering substances has become endemic in our society. For this reason, the Academy devotes significant time and considerable effort to an innovative addiction prevention program—an important aspect of the MA experience.