Tucker County program gives teens a second chance
The Alldredge Wilderness Journey
The Whole Gamut
Becoming One Drum In Sound
Location: Davis, WV 26260
Duration: 60 days
Phases: 30 days in the wilderness, 30 days at the mountain village
Therapy: One-on-one, group and family counseling sessions
Graduates: 1,500 alumni
Web site: Alldredge Wilderness Journey
By Tricia Fulks and Kendal Montgomery
DAVIS, W.Va. – A little over three years ago, on the day he turned 18, Will Dobud found himself at a treatment facility in mountains of Tucker County. It wasn’t his choice.
“I was escorted because I had gotten arrested again,” he said. “Alldredge seemed to be my mom’s last-ditch effort.”
The Alldredge Wilderness Journey is a treatment program for at-risk youth. Troubled teenagers, ages 13 to 18, enrolled in the program experience intense exercises in self-sufficiency, search and rescue, therapeutics and academics.
The program was all too familiar to Dobud, now 21. The drug abuser had already unsuccessfully gone through two other treatment programs.
“The truth was I was just really pissed off about being at another program,” he said.
But this time around, Dobud made the transition to a clean lifestyle.
“I realized I had to take Alldredge home with me,” he said.
While at Alldredge, Dobud and other students participated in a search and rescue program. When he returned home, Dobud took that with him when he became a volunteer firefighter.
“I kept doing all the things that I learned at home,” he said. “Once I took it home, it’s the same thing – I still go to Alldredge every day.”
The journey lasts 60 days.
During the first 30 days, students experience the wilderness. They are on their own the first few days – learning how to be more self-sufficient. They then can interact with the other students in the family stage. And, at the end of their time in the wilderness, they have been through an intensive search-and-rescue program.
Students learn the ins and outs involved when it comes to finding a missing person. It’s a stretch from the self-sufficiency stage they went through upon arrival.
“When you start thinking of somebody other than yourself, you start realizing, ‘Man, I might be worth it. I have something to live for,’” said Hunter Powell, executive director of Alldredge.
“The first phase is more difficult initially because they’re in the wilderness,” said Mike Mazzolini, mountain village director. “Then they come up here and there’s a bed to sleep in and a cook. It’s a little more cushy up here.”
Their last month is spent at the mountain village, where students focus on academics and therapy. They also encounter different ceremonies – such as welcome and graduation services, drumming rituals and sweat lodges – as another way of learning.
But success isn’t as easy as making it through the two-phase program.
Some students have relapsed or even lost their lives after leaving Alldredge. And, in 2001, one student ended his life during his time at Alldredge. He hanged himself with a tent cord, according to an article in the Charleston Gazette.
“The hardest part is seeing the failure that can happen,” Powell said.
“I think what keeps me coming back and facing the losses … you feel like you failed them until you get a success story,” said Carrie Hawkins, director of student services. “I think that even a … graduation invitation is a success story.”
The staff attributes much of the achievements to their techniques in helping students realize why they are there.
“I think we’re a lot more about inspiration than confrontation. And, typically, most adolescents have already been told a million times to Sunday what they should and shouldn’t do,” said Mike Beswick, clinical director.
He said telling students they “should or must” do something is not always the most effective approach.
One of Beswick’s roles is to lead different counseling sessions. One of the most crucial aspects of the program is the family workshop.
“We must reconnect the student with the family,” Powell said.
He said over 1,500 students have graduated from Alldredge, and many times, the program has saved families. One way they do that is in Beswick’s sessions where both the students and parents look at ways to solve the problem.
“When parents come in, one of the first things I say is, ‘We’re all guilty, and no one’s to blame’,” he said.
Beswick helps the parents and child identify the source of the unresolved problem.
“Maybe dad’s a workaholic and the kid’s an alcoholic. What they have in common are both really being afraid to be their authentic self,” he said.
One student, David, has been at Alldredge for more than 100 days.
After months spent at the village, he sees how his search for answers has changed him.
“It’s changed my outlook on a lot of things. It’s taken me back to the kid I used to be … and not the depressed, drunk kid I used to be,” David said.
Like Dobud, the realization came while at Alldredge.
“At the school I just had an incredible time,” Dobud said. “I knew that being happy could be a sober thing as well.”