By Sarah Meskin
The Idaho Youth Ranch has officially brought its latest project to life: The Residential Center for Healing and Resilience. Within this 24/7 Residential Center is Promise Academy, a year-round public charter school. My organization, Bluum, provided federal Charter School Program (CSP) grant support and technical assistance to the school and its authorizer the Middleton School District.
Located in Middleton, this innovative facility marks a transformative step where Idaho families can access mental health care without sending their children out of state, which, until now, has been the only option for youth needing this kind of residential support. With round-the-clock nurses, psychiatric care, therapy, and a first-of-its kind public charter school for 11-17 year-olds, the center is meant to empower youth and their families during their three to nine-month healing journey.
Idaho Youth Ranch CEO Scott Curtis, highlights that, “This is an Idaho challenge that deserves an Idaho solution”.
Rick Hale, the Education Director for Promise Academy, brings over 25-years of educational and administrative expertise to this important work. He holds a unique perspective to trauma-informed education and is thrilled to see something of this scale come to life. Hale shared, “Bluum has been instrumental in the opening of Promise Academy. The startup grant that we received through Bluum has been incredibly helpful in securing curriculum, technology and furnishings… Bluum is currently providing back-office support for Promise Academy and remains an important resource for us as we move into our first year”.
Promise Academy champions innovation by breaking traditional barriers in a classroom setting. Bathrooms were installed in all six classrooms, creating a sense of safety for the students and less disruption during instruction. Hallways were made to be extra wide, letting students maintain and respect personal space. Varied seating options were placed to engage students in actively participating. Hale states that, “Furniture is designed to work with the kids and not be the thing that traps them in place. I don’t care how a kid sits, as long as they are engaged. Some kids can’t sit in rows at traditional desks, which is a barrier. Here, that barrier is gone”.
The Residential Center and Academy’s environment are unlike any other school building to-date in Idaho. The space is designed for empowerment and inspiration, featuring large murals that evoke the journey the youth are about to go on. Wooden ceilings and carpeted floors in classrooms create a homelike atmosphere.
Rounding out the supportive atmosphere are the educators at Promise Academy, who are passionate about being an instrumental change in students’ lives. Driven by care, these teachers take on the challenge with dedication, the depth of which was apparent at the ribbon-cutting ceremony, where several could be seen wiping away tears.
The Residential Center for Healing and Resilience and Promise Academy embodies a unique opportunity to make a change, fostering promising futures within state borders. By addressing the emotional, educational, and vocational needs of Idaho’s at-risk youth, it will quickly become a beacon of hope for the future of Idaho.