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Meet Stephanie

Stephanie Archive



The Rocky Road To Rehabilitation (learning how to have a useful place in society)


A new group of Cadets learn to march military-style

He stood at complete attention: chin up, back straight, arms pressed against his sides. His hair was shaved military-style (precisely 1/8 of an inch), and his shirt was buttoned all the way to the top. He was even wearing a tie. I could see my reflection in his shiny black shoes.

Becky welcomes you to Tillamook Youth Accountability Camp!

"My real dad is in prison for robbing a bank. My real mom did a lot of drugs when she was pregnant with me. Then she gave me away to some friends when I was 8 months old," Cadet Bud* told me.

Bud first got in trouble by stealing guns from a house with some friends when he was 13. After that, he went from one juvenile detention program to the next. He also lived with several different foster families. Along the way, he developed a substance abuse problem, became a young dad, and stole cars to make ends meet.


Cadet Bud was on his way to life in jail. Luckily, someone helped him by sending him to Tillamook Youth Accountability Camp (TYAC). The TYAC is different from most juvenile detention centers (a place where kids learn how to stay out of trouble with the law). It runs a little like a military boot camp, but the TYAC believes that kids can get better. Cadet Bud said he used to be a "hellion." Within a few months, the TYAC turned him into a responsible young man.

Everything at TYAC is done with military perfection - even lining up shoes

How do they do it? Each day starts at 6 a.m. sharp. Cadets have 10 seconds to jump out of bed and stand at attention before the drill sergeant arrives. They have 12 minutes to wash their face, brush their teeth, shave, get dressed, and make their beds perfectly. Next they go outside for strict exercise. The rest of the day is the same - their entire schedule is planned for them. The day consists of school or work, exercise, and short meal breaks.

Cadets can earn six credits toward their high school diplomas

While in TYAC, some of the cadets study, and others work. The classes are small, so they get a lot of attention from their teachers. Cadets who work, meanwhile, do everything from building houses for to helping the Forestry Service. At night, the cadets go to "treatment groups." Here they learn about drug abuse and life skills. Through instruction and talking with others, they learn how to change their criminal mindset (a way of thinking, in this case like a criminal).

A drill sergeant shows Stephanie how they hang clothes

There are rules for everything -- from the way they hang up their clothes to the order in which they line up their shoes. They can't watch TV, listen to music, or read magazines. They may only make one 10-minute phone call a week.

Stephanie's new dream is starting a program like TYAC for young women

The TYAC helps kids who have had a hard time in life. Some of their parents do drugs, sell drugs, or make drugs. Some of the kids used to live in tents on the street. They haven't had parents who taught them the right way to behave, and they never learned how to stay out of trouble. In fact, a lot of their parents are in jail or have been criminals.

Most of the graduates of TYAC have kept out of trouble. Some of the people who have graduated from TYAC are fighting to keep it going. For example, Cadet Tory hopes to prove that the TYAC program works. He was sent to TYAC after burglarizing a house in order to pay for alcohol and drugs.


Who says there's no such thing as a free lunch?

"After this, I plan on joining the military and traveling around the world and having a family and being a well-known contractor in the state of Colorado. I plan to prove this place good," Tory said.

In many ways, he already has.


Please email me at: stephanie@ustrek.org


Links to Other Dispatches

Jennifer - A day at juvie-doing time in your teens
Nick - The birth of gangs: a violent reaction to poverty