The Community at Summit Preparatory School is designed to be a microcosm for students to develop life skills necessary to live healthy and productive lives. Mistakes they make here have relatively minor consequences compared to those they would encounter in the larger world community, and the meaningful relationships they have with members of the community help them to effectively internalize any feedback they receive. Therefore the cycle of making mistakes and learning from them occurs at an accelerated rate compared to the outside world. This provides students with an opportunity to catch up in developing those life skills that have been previously delayed due to interruptions in their personal development. It is because of this that maintaining a healthy community is so crucial to the program here at Summit Preparatory School.
The Community as a whole provides a level of social interaction and responsibility that is not available within the teams because we are a co-ed facility. Students are able to work on fostering appropriate and healthy relationships with members of the opposite gender. However, these interactions are highly monitored and restricted (no physical interaction beyond a handshake or occasional hug.) Both single gender and co-ed experiences are built into the student schedule during school, clubs, specialty group therapy, and during some recreational activities, depending on the activity and the privilege level of the student.
Students also work with a wide range of staff members in a variety of settings. This provides them with an opportunity to practice appropriate interactions with adults and authority figures in an atmosphere where limits are firm, but consequences are applied with empathy. The students come to expect honest feedback regarding their progress within the program from both staff and students within the community. Students also know that they have a voice in the community whether they are offering feedback to others, or they are proposing a change to current policies and practices, which would happen through community meetings, personal proposals, and student council.
The Community meetings occur each week, and involve all available academic, clinical and program staff as well as the entire student body. During these meetings, promotions are announced and community issues are proposed and discussed by both staff and students. These meetings cover a whole range of topics, but the central theme is to maintain and/or improve the safe and healthy nature of the community. If the community is not functioning well enough, community meetings may occur more frequently and for a longer duration. Single gender community meetings are also held regularly to focus on issues that are gender-specific.
The Community provides an environment for the students to develop various types of life skills. Some of these skills are more abstract like learning to appreciate diversity, being able to empathize with others, and dealing with chemical dependency and other clinical issues. Other skills are very concrete like using time effectively, practicing good hygiene, and managing their personal resources. All are important for preparing students for life in the “real world.”
One such life skill that is worth expanding upon involves the students’ finanaces. Students earn a weekly allowance. Since students are not allowed to have cash money on campus, their finances are coordinated by personal on-campus financial accounts. Students purchase a wide range of materials that they need at the student store using these personal accounts. This includes personal hygiene items, school supplies, outdoor gear, and various other supplies necessary to their lives here. The students can also order personal items from the student store that are not actually part of the student store inventory such as CD’s, books, and clothing. Those students that have earned off-campus privileges are provided with a limited amount of cash from their account in order to purchase items off campus. Although the school keeps careful track of these accounts, students are expected to consistently and accurately balance their accounts and budget their resources. By using this system of currency, we are able to limit opportunities for theft and inappropriate bartering between students while also encouraging fiscal responsibility and management.