Whutz Up in Paradise Cove A monthly newsletter written for parents of kids in Samoa. Paradise Cove is a residential treatment facility for troubled adolescent boys.
Volume 1, Issue 3 March 1997
IN THIS ISSUE.... WHEN I TURN 18, I'M GONE PARENT SUPPORT GROUPS PATIENCE, FAITH AND NO WAIVERS! WE'RE WAITING TO HEAR FROM YOU! PROGRESSION! IT'S A GIRL! SPECIAL THANKS FOR THE HOLIDAY VIDEOS UPDATE ON HOLIDAY VIDEO CREATE YOUR OWN SUPPORT GROUP IMPORTANT NOTICE ! KIDNAPPED! PRAISE JUST A REMINDER! WHUTZ IT GONNA BE? PARENT COORDINATOR'S CORNER WHEN I TURN 18, I'M GONE by Greg Pretzfeld, student in Paradise Cove for 12 months When I turn 18, I'm gone . . . or at least I thought so. I am currently a student here at Paradise Cove in Western Samoa. I have just recently attained level 4 and as I sit in my fale to write this article, I think of all the parents at home with a son about to be, or is 18 years of age who desires to leave the program against his parent's wishes. Through sharing my own experience, I hope that this article gives you more of a first hand look at becoming 18 and the importance of remaining in the program. This is my story: I arrived in Western Samoa on March 11, 1996. My issues ranged all across the board. At home, I was a drug dealer, user and almost a high school dropout. I had been accepted to ten big universities and I was still not happy with life. I was so unhappy that I always spoke of committing suicide. Talking about it ate away at my parents and they were distraught. It seemed to everyone as if I had everything and that I was ecstatic with how my life was going. The fact of the matter was, that I knew I was headed nowhere. I would sit up at night for hours on end, while under the influence, and think about how I would be able to keep doing drugs and live the rest of my life. I saw no way, so I decided to give up. I was ready to drop out of school and do drugs until I killed myself. Throughout my stay at Brightway Adolescent Hospital, I constantly said that I was leaving when I turned 18 years old. I figured that three weeks in Samoa couldn't be too bad. I was so concentrated on the fact that I would be 18 soon and that there was no way for anyone to keep me in the program. At that time, I was real worried about how all of my friends (at the time) would forget about me and how my little drug dealing scheme would go down the tubes if I lost touch with my "connections". I refused to see how I made the decisions that had me sent away. I also refused to take accountability for these decisions along with accepting the fact that I needed to change my entire lifestyle. I was living in the past and I had no intentions of letting it go. As I was here, in Western Samoa, talking about how I was going to kill myself as soon as I left and was on my own, my parents were working hard to keep their heads, and to keep me alive. I was counting the days left until I was free, but that soon stopped. One beautiful Tuesday, I had a visit with my Case Manager. She gave me, what I thought at the time, was 'not so good news'. She said that I wasn't going anywhere when I turned 18. I was shocked to find out that my parents had a court order drawn up to keep me in Samoa. I hit rock bottom. For weeks, I thought to myself about how I could get out of here to fight it, and if not, then how I could kill myself. I ended up spending four months fighting the program, my parents, and family. Those are four months that I could have been working on changing my life and in turn I could have been home sooner. After twelve months, I find I am still in Samoa. Boy, am I ever thankful that I am, too. If I had gone home before making some crucial changes in my life and made them REAL, then I would have gone home and engaged in the same life of crime and danger. By this time, today, I would be dead or in jail. If not that, then living a life in fear. I would be constantly looking over my shoulder, knowing that someone was out there searching for me. Either hunting me down to kill me or looking to put me in prison. Currently, my life has been completely transformed into all of the things I used to think about when I was doing drugs. All of those late nights I spent pondering on questions, about how I would get off of drugs and have a successful life, are all being answered. I have discovered that I am a really powerful, loving and sensitive young man. Most of all, I have found out what I really want in life. In the fall of '97 I will be attending Arizona State University as a full-time student. There I will study in the area of Biomedical Engineering. I will then further my education through graduate study and cooperative work study program. I plan to marry an attractive young woman, a graduate from college, who is independent and is both tobacco and drug free. From there on out, I will live my own creation of "The American Dream". Sending a teenager to Paradise Cove is, in my opinion, an investment and a half. By sending me here, there was an investment made in order to save my future. I did not realize it at the time and, unconsciously, I willing to throw it away. Thus, logically, my parents got a court order to protect their investment. . . me! I'd say that was the best protection policy that my parents could have gotten. It bought them three extra years (actually it bought me three extra years) for their investment to grow. Finally, it did, and if I had to venture a guess, I'd say that my parents see an investment with payoffs in huge dividends. Well, that is my story of my experience in Paradise Cove. No amount of manipulation, begging, threatening, or childish games helped me to get out of the program, nor to change my life. If anything, they hindered my progress. No matter how much of it I threw at my parents for sending or keeping me here, they stood beside me and did whatever it took to give me a great future. The fact of the matter is that 18 is only a number and if you're not acting that age, then you need to be set on a track that has you headed there. I'd like to thank my parents for all that they've done for me and all the love and support they have shown me throughout this whole experience. I would also love to say thank you to all of the other parents, on behalf of your sons here at Paradise Cove. Even if they don't write it or say it, they really are (or will be) thankful for this second chance at life. PARENT SUPPORT GROUPS Atlanta : Dina & Elmer Dalton 770-971-3853 Miami: Lynne Pretzfeld 305-595-7912 Bay Area: Tim Flood 415-349-4358 Chuck Brothers 415-948-6628 Los Angelos: Angela Caldera 310-697-1186 San Diego: Jackie Hungate 619-451-3841 Dan & Ellen Koller 619-481-2057 Seattle: Kate Burdette 360-825-5100 West Florida: Chris George 941-542-3023 (new group starting) Dallas-Fort Worth: Charles Parks 817-795-3030 PATIENCE, FAITH AND NO WAIVERS! by Bob and Ellen Nagler, son in Paradise Cove 15 months It is not always easy to practice what you preach! It is not easy to persuade others to do the same! We find ourselves in that dilemma often, especially since we have been in the Paradise Cove program. Our son has been in Paradise Cove for more than 15 months. He is currently on Level 5, after being on Levels 1 and 2 for over eight months. And during this time we have practiced Faith and Patience, relying on the wisdom of the program. We don't, in this instance, mean a religious blind faith, but rather a faith built on recommendations, testimonials and personal review. We had not been successful, at home, applying our brand of insight. We could not control our son's behavior and could not control our anger. We had placed our son into three programs. Two of which were a "bust". We felt weakened and helpless. We searched for help, knowing that the decisions that we would make would affect our entire family. Our odyssey began as many others. . . disrespect, counseling, miscreant behavior, drugs, school problems, ADHD, questionable acquaintances, juvenile court and then that final episode which broke the proverbial camel's back. Our son was definitely uncontrollable and undermining our family. We needed help and it had to come fast. Relying on scant information, we placed him in two different programs, where in many ways the problems only increased. After six months, he was ejected from the second program, and we were back to ground zero, and at a complete loss. A few months later we placed him in a 3-week outbound program, conferred with an Educational Consultant. When Paradise Cove was recommended it sounded almost like a contrived, off beat solution. Could we send our son so far from home to a land described as a 'third world' country? What good would it do for our family if we could not see our son for so long? Needless to say , this 'traditional home' with a 'typical lifestyle' had many questions. But , thank goodness, we did accept it. And soon, he was on his way to Brightway, then on to Samoa. And we knew, as a family, that we had to support each other in our decision. So we made our family contract. Commitment 1: We decided that since the other programs had not made an impression on him, perhaps one so foreign to our thinking would turn our son's head. The old whack on the side of the mule's head became our motto. Commitment 2: We would follow the program guidelines 100%, DOWN TO THE LAST DETAIL. Commitment 3: We would work on the health of our total family by attending the TASKS seminars, as recommended. Commitment 4: We would be patient, because we knew from our previous attempts that there would be ups and downs . . . good times and bad. Commitment 5: Our son would not return home until he was recommended. Commitment 6: As a couple, we made a pact to be patient; be faithful to the guidelines of the program, and to seek and follow the advice of those in the program who experienced the kids. #6 was the most important of our contract. It involved Patience and Faith in the program. Sure, we had some tough times! It was not always smooth, but we have, and are enduring, and now our son has grasped the brass ring! It is not about egos. It is about letting go and letting those who know, work with our problems. That's what it's about. We can fool ourselves into thinking otherwise, but we knew by the time we reached out to Teen Help that we didn't have a clue what to do, even though we intellectualized the situation to death. We are not automatons, but we have learned that we must trust the coaches we hired. We know that it will not always be uncomplicated when our son returns home. We will have to work out some of the rough spots, but we know because of the program, that we now have the equipment to face our issues, and that our son can deal with his. Together we will be better for our efforts. And our family can be a family again. WE'RE WAITING TO HEAR FROM YOU! Every month you look forward to receiving your latest newsletter. You rush to read the words of inspiration, hope, creative ideas, and encouragement from your fellow parents, graduates, boys at Paradise Cove, and the staff. But have you ever considered sharing some of your insightful thoughts, your determination, your personal victories or self awareness, your family's journey to healing? We all learn from each other. If you have something you'd like to share in an upcoming edition, please forward it to Glenda Cook: FAX: 801-656-0632 P.O. Box 3109 St. George, UT 84771 PROGRESSION! by Dace Golding, Academic Director at Paradise Cove Today I was sitting on Faga beach under a new open fale built by some of "my boys". Spirits seemed high as we talked of academics, expectations, and goals. As the conversation continued, I realized some of the young men talking with me had made some giant steps in their lives. The progression of the students is more evident to me, because I have seen the same progression with Paradise Cove. It is exciting to see the development, and it will be helpful for the parents to make a picture in their minds of the physical facilities. I could write a Michner-like volume of the surroundings, but unless one is submersed in the Paradise Cove experience, the mind's picture can not make accurate detail. Paradise Cove is located on four beautiful southern beaches of Western Samoa. Each beach has a school facility, kitchen, living area, and plenty of room for sports and fitness. The names of the beaches are Fagatele, Faga, Sinalele, and Vavau. Improvements of the beaches in the last several months are drastic. New school facilities have been built at Sinalele and Fagatele. New kitchens have been built on Sinalele. A group fale was built by students for vocational education credit on Faga. Between the boy's cleaning assignments, and the pride of the property shown by the Samoan families, the beaches are well manicured. Faga, Fagatele, and Sinalele each house six families. Each family has students at different stages of the program. Vavau houses all upper-level students. One of the most progressive steps Paradise Cove has taken recently is the acquisition of a new curriculum from Browning Academy. New texts, computers, and the integration of the computers into the curriculum add to the aesthetics of the roomy new school facilities. As students helped separate the texts for each beach, and the computers were being set up, many students asked when they would be able to use the new books. Students also asked if I needed help setting up the computers. Within minutes the room was buzzing with excitement about learning. These new educational additions to Paradise Cove are producing great results. We have also instituted Academic Probation as of March 1st, designed to generate scholastic motivation. In February, this then soon-to-be-instituted program was explained to the students. It has produced noticable results with students who were lacking diligence in their school work. The teachers write a weekly report on each student, for my review. This report includes course work completed and comments on student participation. If the student does not turn in course work for two weeks, I will meet with the student and review the teacher's comments. Based on teacher's written comments and the interview, the student could be placed on academic probation. The consequences of academic probation are: no on-grounds or off-grounds activities for the week, and no advancement during evaluation. Academic probation is discussed with the student before the occurrence, and extenuating circumstances are closely considered. I could go on for pages about our improvements, but most importantly everything is progressing nicely! IT'S A GIRL! Rita had a baby girl on February 26th! Mom and baby daughter are doing fine now, but it was very touch and go for awhile for Rita. As you know, she had been ordered to bed due to pregnancy complications, and was in and out of the hospital during that time. After two long days in labor, and not making much progress. A C-section was performed, however Rita began to hemorrhage. Family was called in for emergency blood donations to save her life. We're happy to report that all is now well. Rita and baby are recovering. No name for her as of this writing, but we understand she is a 10-pound beauty with a full head of black hair. SPECIAL THANKS TO ANGIE FOR THE HOLIDAY VIDEOS Glenda Cook, Paradise Cove Parent Coordinator Few people have any idea how many months of planning went into the holiday activities for the boys at Paradise Cove. When I was in Samoa in August, I was in a meeting one day with Brian and Angie Viafanua. One of the things we discussed was the plans Angie had been working on for the upcoming holidays. Here it was August, and she had literally been working and organizing this project for the holidays since the Springtime. Angie and Brian have four beautiful young children of their own, and know the importance of family unity and harmony. That goal in mind became the focus of all the activities she planned. She was determined to make an emotional, yet lasting impact on the hearts of your sons during that time. She told me that she was going to do her best to stir their feelings of love and commitment to their families so as to motivate their determination to change their lives. She and Brian wanted them to have some fun, but to also get a clear focus of what was truly most important to them. . . their connection to their family. Being a parent herself, Angie also wanted to share this with you. She told me she puts herself in your place, and knows how she would feel. And so with countless hours, she also organized and edited all of the videos herself. What is lacking in professional video skill is made up for in the love that went into this undertaking. Angie, these are just a few of the comments from the wonderful parents of your Paradise Cove boys. "We want to share with you our gratitude for the wonderful program you created for the boys." "I hope it helped the boys to remember how much they are and always were loved." "I was touched by the part where the staff was introducing themselves - you can tell that many of them are VERY close to the boys." "The Samoa tape is here. I'm so excited! Got to go watch it." "The segment that blew me away was the slide show . . . all those cherished baby boys." Thank you Angie, for your caring, and dedicated heart. UPDATE ON HOLIDAY VIDEO ORDERS The holiday videos have been a huge hit! The response was greater then originally anticipated. Due to this large volume of orders, it has been necessary to have more copies made in order to fill the requests. Therefore, we are currently on backorder. So you may experience a delay in having your ordered filled. Please accept our apologies for this unforeseen delay. If you would still like to order, there was an order form in the February issue of Whutz Up, or you may call Jennifer or Dana at 801-656-0630 and they will fax you an order form. CREATE YOUR OWN SUPPORT GROUP by Elmer and Dina Dalton, son in Paradise Cove 7 months The Atlanta Area Support Group came into existence after we learned about other groups, especially the Seattle Support Group (thanks Kate!). We did some research to determine how to contact other families in and around the Atlanta area, and took up the challenge to organize a group. Dina made most of the first contacts. The concept, the purpose, was easy to formulate. "Hello. This is Dina Dalton, and I have a son in Paradise Cove. I would like to share experiences with you and discuss ways we can be in support of each other. I believe that you, just like my husband, Elmer, and I miss our kids deeply and profoundly. Would you be interested in joining with me and others to form a support group?" Well, the calls worked and ten of us met at a local restaurant. We spent most of the time on "war stories" which certainly did not qualify as support. We became determined to have a format to follow for the next meeting to be held at the same place a month later. And so we met again but this time there were only eight. Again, the conversation drifted into "my son, my daughter . . . ." No one wanted to discuss who we are, what we are, why we are and how family dynamics were affected, and that, as parents, we have our own "baggage" to deal with. It became a social event, lacking real substance. Interesting to note, that at this time only three of us in attendance had completed the Discovery training. . . and it showed! It was decided that a restaurant wasn't the right atmosphere. One of the parents offered her home. The idea was accepted but when the time came, only six of us showed up. It was, however, a powerful meeting because we finally "got it". We opened up and shared our deepest emotions and talked about issues that we, as parents, wanted to resolve. It was decided that future meetings should be held on neutral grounds to ensure a fixed location instead of hop scotching around. The local library had a large meeting room that they've made available to our group throughout the remainder of the year. They liked our concept, our premise as a group and our commitment as parents to be in support of each other as a result of our teen's struggles. Our support group is just that. So much so that we have other parents from the community now interested in joining us. It's worth every hour spent to organize and plan this group. We're worth it all . . . you bet we are! IMPORTANT NOTICE! from the Paradise Cove Staff Due to the overwhelming amount of packages sent, lack of storage space, and the fact that packages from home often sabotage the boys progress, the policy regarding packages has been revised. This will become effective April 1, 1997. We will accept packages on the following days ONLY: Student's Birthday Valentine's Day Easter Halloween Christmas/Hanukkah Please keep in mind that we will not accept packages at any other times. Please mark the package accordingly. Due to limited space, the distraction incoming packages create, and the tremendous time Case Managers are spending on inventory lists, items that are being sent that shouldn't be and therefore necessitating confiscation, we must put this policy in effect immediately. Please be aware that packages received at times other than stated on this list, will not be shipped back to sender. It will not be possible to store it, therefore it will be donated to a local charity. Our focus must be the boys. Our priority is assisting them in changing their lives. Your assistance with this is appreciated. KIDNAPPED! by Chris Justice, son home since November 1996 Life is beautiful since he has returned from Samoa. FIFTEEN months on an Island in the Pacific made my son know who he is and what he stands for. He relates to his peers at school and has quality friends that have helped him out. Last week, Kurt was KIDNAPPED at 3:00 am. Not by the escorts, but by fellow students from his high school. He was one of four students out of over a hundred to be selected for the high school's Show and Chamber music group. Yes, I was aware that they would be coming at 3 am, and kept the dog locked up in the bedroom. And yes, I was with this group of teenagers when they woke Kurt up. My first thought was for Kurt and would he think someone was coming for him to send him back to Samoa. All went well. He came back around 6 am after having breakfast at the deli section of Safeway with everyone else. Kurt competes next month in a state music tournament. He lives on the piano right now, making sure each note is perfect to his music. Twenty months ago, Kurt gave up the piano. This was one of the signs that we knew Kurt was in trouble. For him to give up on the piano, something was wrong. He was giving up on himself. But now, he is ready to compete against the best high school students in Utah. Don't get discouraged thinking what will my son be like when he gets home. He will be new and improved. I look upon his Samoa experience as a part of his warranty program. He just needed to go into the shop and be fine tuned . . . that's all! PRAISE submitted by Dean Nygaard, son in Samoa 14 months "I got two A's," the small boy cried, His voice was filled with glee. His father very bluntly asked, "Why didn't you get three?" "Mom, I've got the dishes done," The girl called from the door. Her mother very calmly said, "Did you sweep the floor?" "I've mowed the grass," the tall boy said, "And put the mower away." His father asked him, with a shrug, "Did you clean off the clay?" The children in the house next door Seemed happy and content. The same thing happened over there, But this is how it went. "I've got two A's," the small boy cried, His voice was filled with glee. His father very proudly said, "That's great; I'm glad you belong to me." "Mom, I've got the dishes done, The girl called from the door. Her mother smiled and softly said, "Each day I love you more." "I've mowed the grass," the tall boy said, "And put the mower away." His father answered with much joy, "You've made my happy day." Children deserve a little praise for tasks they're asked to do, If they're to lead a happy life, SO MUCH DEPENDS ON YOU! -Badger Legiousaire JUST A REMINDER! When sending anything to Paradise Cove, please include your son's name and also his Case Manager's name. With the hundreds of letters, faxes, e-mails, and packages, this greatly speeds in the sorting process. WHUTZ IT GONNA BE? There has been a mixed response over the name of our newsletter. . . Whutz Up. Comments ranging across the board from "We love the new name," to "Sounds like gang slang." Which certainly was not the original idea. So, we have decided to throw it out to all of you wonderfully creative folks. We would truly appreciate it if you would take the time and cast your ballot, or offer a new name. Acronyms are great, just please include what the abbreviation would stand for. Or you can even vote to let Whutz Up stand. The outcome will be reported in the April newsletter. If a new name is chosen, the creator will be acknowledged in that issue. So come on and join in the fun. Let those creative juices flow. This could be your "15 minutes of fame". NOTE: Entries must be received by April 1, 1997. Submit your entries to: Attn. Glenda Cook FAX: 801-656-0632 or mail to: P.O. Box 3109 St. George, UT 84771 NEW NAME : ________________________________ KEEP WHUTZ UP: ____________________________ Submitted by:__________________________________________ Address: ______________________________________________ Phone:____________________ Home______________________Work PARENT COORDINATOR'S CORNER Glenda Cook The focus of my time is to orient the new parents. I appreciate having the opportunity to do this, as I, too, had a son in the Paradise Cove program. If you are a new parent, and we have not spoken yet, feel free to contact me. I will return your calls, in the order received. Please note that urgent calls do take priority. Please note my new phone numbers: Voice: 801-656-5823 FAX: 801-656-0632 P.O. Box 3109 St. George, UT 84771 To register for seminars contact Ren at 801-635-0918 or firstname.lastname@example.org. For questions regarding Focus seminars contact Kate Burdette at 360-825-5100