Wilderness Boot Camp helps troubled kids (2023)

Wilderness Boot Camp helps troubled kids (1)

Darcy Lukic, 16, and Anaru Wano, 15, were supporters. Today they are leaders.

Born into extremely difficult family backgrounds, by the age of 12 they were on their way from alcohol, drugs, shoplifting and cars.

Sitting in the desert of the Canterbury Highlands, with the Southern Alps as a backdrop, they tell of their lives with an honesty and confidence far beyond their years.

The friends are completing an advanced Youth Life Skills leadership course at Castle Hill, chosen by their organizers for their potential despite having completed no prior training.

The week-long course teaches planning, organization, teamwork, and communication skills that will help you lead others on their own crime-free journey.

Their journey began three years ago when they were in Anaru's brother's Tangi. Rangi Wano died in a horrific car accident at the age of just 16. There they met someone who would change their lives.

Ricki Tan's petite build belies a deep commitment, determination and passion for her work with troubled youth.

A licensed psychologist, he worked with hundreds of juvenile delinquents over a period of 19 years.

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“My job is not just my job. It's not my life, but it's a lifestyle for me," he says.

More recently his attention has turned to the Canterbury Youth Development Program (CYDP) which is launched today.

The year-long program targets medium- to high-risk offenders between the ages of 14 and 17, just like Anaru and Darcy did before.

As part of CYDP, the Fresh Start Course is an eight-day adventure-based learning camp in Lake Sumner that offers the two friends a chance to network with other young people who are facing similar challenges in their lives.

According to Tan, a key part of CYDP is using peers to influence the behavior of other young people.

While some of Anaru and Darcy's friends are still involved in crimes, they say they're doing what they can to say it's not cool.

"My main goal is to work with my friends first, and when I see the change in them, I know I've made a difference by working with others," says Anaru. "If we can change one person, how many others can we change?"

Anaru says her biggest change is being able to hold her head up high. His brother and sister had committed crimes, and despite his parents' attempts to control him, he "had a mind of his own."

The police also did their best, but no one got through until Tan stepped in and invited the boys to start Thai boxing training.

What started with practice grew into a relationship of mutual trust and respect, which Tan says is key to working with young people.

Anaru says, "When he started training with me, I just lost my brother to crime and he said things to me like, 'Bro, do you want to end up like your brother or set a good example for your family?'

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"He spent a lot of time with me. If I needed someone to talk to, I called him and he came right away and picked me up wherever I was in trouble.”

Three years later, Anaru is working full-time in vineyards and Darcy is in Grade 11 at Papanui High School, earning NCEA credits at a steady pace.

Both are key members of the Youth Advisory Board created by the CYDP to advise on youth issues.

The board also makes presentations to people who work with juvenile delinquents, a strange experience for teenagers who are suddenly confronted with social workers and police officers for a very different reason.

Darcy calls Tan a "role model, leader, teacher and coach".

The 16-year-old says it took him a while to realize the crime "isn't worth it" but with a brother who is already in prison and a father who has served some time in prison, it is his family proud of him for making the change.

"It has a big impact on my younger brothers and sisters because I'm still in school and all my older brothers and sisters have dropped out," he says.

"I hope to guide young people like me in the right direction, to share with them how I've done it, what I've been through. Now I'm a leader, not a follower. I make my decisions on my behalf. People try to influence me, but I know when to say no."

Back downtown, CYDP Director Ross James sits in an office overlooking the River Avon. Use of the office was donated by the owners of the Bradley Nuttall building, an example of the community and business support the program has generated.

James has a military background and led a team developing the New Zealand Army's Youth Life Skills Cell (YLS) which has been successfully running at Burnham for almost 10 years.

“CYDP is a fantastic program. For me it's about working for the community and for young people and providing something that we believe in and know will work.

(Video) A Look Inside the USA's Tough Boot Camps for Kids: America's Troubled Teen Industry | Documentary

“The first course to be developed is the 52-week Fresh Start Course. It's a fully immersive model, where you have the opportunity to respond not only to the needs of the young person, but also to the external things that influence the young person's behavior.” .

Connecting with the young person's family, training providers and employers is crucial, as one negative comment or action can really set people back, says James.

Module one consists of three weeks of adventure-based learning, life skills and motivational training around Burnham Camp and Lake Sumner. This will be followed by nine weeks of vocational and educational training, hopefully at a dedicated facility south of Christchurch.

“Everyone receives an individual development plan. We want to see what is good about the young person, what good skills they have, and nurture and develop those skills,” says James.

Module three is "intensive community support" by youth social workers, mentors and coaches with the aim of placing young people in education, training or employment.

This support can extend to picking up youngsters on time and taking them to work, or simply having someone available to talk to at any time.

The first group of volunteer mentors are already training for their year-long commitment to help a troubled youth make the change.

"It's not about being a friend or a parent, it's a relationship of mutual respect where they can work together and help young people grow," says James.

For Tan, every person has hundreds of good qualities, just look for them and give them the opportunity to shine.

“Some experience severe trauma in their lives from loss and grief. It's not an excuse, but they bleed like we do and it really hurts, and that pain carries over to other issues," he says.

“Some use alcohol or drugs extensively to control their mood, and continued use impairs their judgment, functioning, and behavior.

(Video) Teen boy escapes from wilderness program for troubled youth

"There are also anti-social beliefs and attitudes. They're learned, so it's about retraining someone in their thinking and learning; like, 'People have insurance anyway, so who cares'."

Tan can't hide his pride in Darcy and Anaru's accomplishments.

"I feel like I have a team at CYDP that can support me and believe in what we're doing," he says. "They're already showing that when you boost people's motivation and willingness, they'll benefit, and if you allocate the right resources, you'll see a positive outcome."

So what are Anaru and Darcy waiting for?

"I just want to have a good life, to live a good life to the fullest," says Darcy.


* Canterbury crime rates are among the highest in New Zealand.

* Young people are responsible for 33% of Canterbury crimes and 78% of dishonesty crimes.

* 20% of young people need additional or complementary learning programs beyond regular education to advance in society.

* CYDP aims to work with 200 to 400 young people per year on a variety of courses tailored to the needs of the community.

* The CYDP is a not-for-profit organization that relies heavily on the generosity of Canterbury corporations, various community trusts, families and individuals.

(Video) Here's What Survivors of a 'Troubled Teen' Program Say Went On Inside

* The CYDP has developed through close ties and connections with the Canterbury Chamber of Commerce, the Salvation Army, the Police, community groups and the New Zealand Army.

to print


Does boot camp teach discipline? ›

Teen boot camps are short-term, highly structured military-style rehabilitation programs. They are designed to use military training, authoritative teaching methods, rigorous exercise and physical activity, and strict discipline to turn around defiant, angry, or even destructive children.

What children might learn in a boot camp? ›

Boot camps are going to provide teens with the skills that they need to build relationships, find jobs and create a future for themselves. The physical discipline will teach them how they can use their minds and desires in life to become healthy. There are many teens that suffer from anger issues.

Why do parents send their kids to wilderness camps? ›

A wilderness program can help discover the triggers of the abuse and, while your child is in the wilderness, they will have no access to the substances they are abusing. Without access to substances, the child's mind becomes more clear so they can heal and learn not only how to cope without the substance as a crutch.

Are boot camps good for kids? ›

The advantages of boot camp are numerous and may last a lifetime. Not only will your kid return with more independence and a better sense of self, but they will also have learned new skills, met new friends and made memories they will cherish for the rest of their lives.

What is the success rate of boot camp? ›

The average completion rate for most juvenile boot camps is over 90%. The reason this value is important is that if a lot of teenager do not complete a boot camp schedule, that implies that the camp is being abusive or something else is wrong.

Why are juvenile boot camps not effective? ›

According to her, boot camps appear to lack the necessary components of an effective long term therapy and three to six months treatment is too short to change a lifetime of bad behavior. As a result, it is not surprising that boot camps have not been effective in reducing recidivism.

What is the main purpose of boot camp? ›

Basic Training — often called boot camp — prepares recruits for all elements of service: physical, mental and emotional. It gives service members the basic tools necessary to perform the roles that will be assigned to them for the duration of their tour.

What are the benefits of boot camp? ›

The goal of a fitness boot camp is to provide a whole-body workout that builds strength and aerobic endurance. Boot camp workouts also attract many people because they may: Offer a more challenging, varied and fun workout. Require little or no special equipment.

Why are boot camps effective? ›

By allowing children to take risks and face challenges, camp helps children build their independence, resiliency, and self-esteem in a safe, supervised and supportive environment, the study found.

What is the criticism of wilderness therapy? ›

But for many like Ms Frankowski, this therapy did exactly the opposite. Critics say the treatment lacks scientific support and can leave lasting scars as teens are often enrolled into programmes without their consent and are subjected to cruel conditions throughout their stay.

What are the negatives of going to wilderness therapy? ›

One of the most common criticisms of wilderness therapy is that the programs may not be able to provide the level of care that they claim. Many patients report that wideness therapy was a life-changer. But, a few abusive situations have been reported and several patients have died in wilderness therapy programs.

What are the benefits of wilderness therapy? ›

Specific Benefits of Wilderness Therapy
  • Develop goals.
  • Create a plan to reach their goals.
  • Develop insight into their own motivations, feelings, and beliefs.
  • Work with and communicate with others.
  • Build self-confidence.
  • Deal with disagreements with others in a positive manner.
Sep 7, 2022

Are boot camps worth it? ›

Bootcamps can be a good alternative to a traditional college degree for those interested in a fast-growing tech career. For professionals looking to make a quick career change, bootcamps offer technical skills along with robust career search services. These can make it easier for graduates to land a job.

Is boot camp mentally hard? ›

Key points. Boot camp is physically and emotionally demanding. The emotional demands involve extreme stress, fatigue, and the need to dig deep into one's self.

What is the hardest thing in boot camp? ›

Red phase is the starting phase and is typically considered the hardest part of training. The entire phase, which is 3 weeks long, is devoted to constant calisthenic exercise and you will be spending much of your time in the push-up position.

How many people fail boot camp? ›

​Yes, it is possible to fail basic training. You could go through the trouble of leaving your home, job, family and friends and come back a failure. In fact, this happens to about 15% of recruits who join the military every year. Too many recruits I speak to think that it is impossible to fail basic training.

What happens if you fail boot camp? ›

If a recruit has been recycled and still cannot pass the assessment, then they will be given an Entry-Level Separation (ELS). An ELS is given at the leadership's discretion. Processing an ELS can take weeks or months, and those awaiting processing are usually given some form of manual labor to pass the time.

Why boot camps don't work? ›

Amy Morin, LCSW, succinctly describes the problem with boot camps. “Kids in military-style boot camps learn to do what they're told when someone is yelling in their face and threatening to make them do push-ups but when they don't have this in the outside world, they aren't motivated to behave.”

What is the biggest issue juvenile offenders face? ›

In addition to experiencing a high prevalence of disruptive disorders, the most common mental health challenge for these youth is substance use disorder (76 percent), followed by high anxiety (33 percent), ADHD (14 percent), depression (12 percent), posttraumatic stress disorder (12 percent), and mania (7 percent).

What are the pros and cons of using boot camps? ›

The Pros and Cons of Boot Camps and Group Exercise
  • Benefits:
  • 1: Cost effective: ...
  • 2: A sense of community: ...
  • 3: Motivation. ...
  • Downside:
  • 1: No individualisation. ...
  • “Programs of the future will be completely individualised. ...
  • Increased Risk of Injury.

What are the psychological effects of military boot camp? ›

In particular, the psychological effects of military training alter the personality, emotional stability, and social function of the individual. These alterations can cause anxiety, insomnia, and other mental health conditions, which often lead to substance abuse.

What does boot camp mean in education? ›

Boot camp training is a way to train developers and other technical professionals to acquire deep skills in new technologies in a short period of time.

Why is it called boot camp? ›

For centuries, soldiers in armies everywhere have been expected to be in good shape with strong endurance. The term “boot camp” dates back to the Spanish-American War. Military recruits in the United States wore leggings known as “boots,” so their training camp became known as boot camp. The name stuck.

Will boot camp change you? ›

Boot camp not only makes physical changes it changes you the most mentally. You look at the world from a different perspective, from a recruit point of view. Hutchison says, “If you ask any Marine about a life changing event outside of combat, the first thing that comes to mind would be boot camp.”

Does bootcamp make you stronger? ›

It includes strength training. You will pick things up and lift them. Strength training builds muscle and – you guessed it – makes you stronger. When you build muscle and get stronger you become a more efficient machine, and you look good, too.

How many times a week should I do boot camp? ›

In contrast to yoga or pilates, bootcamp and HIIT classes will really work your body. For that reason, trainers recommend that you don't do bootcamps or HIIT workouts every day. You should take bootcamp classes about once a week and definitely not more than twice a week, with at least two days off in between them.

Is bootcamp training good? ›

Boot camp is a great way to quick start weight loss and fitness, but there are some things that you need to know before you enlist: It's intense. It will work all your major muscle groups, including your core, and give you a great cardio workout to boot. It's not for you if you don't like to sweat.

What is the success rate of wilderness therapy? ›

In a follow-up study by Dr. Russell, participants were analyzed two years post RedCliff Ascent. It showed that 83% of adolescents were doing better and over 90% of adolescents contacted perceived wilderness therapy as effective.

How effective are wilderness therapy programs? ›

Pooled analyses yielded large, positive, and significant effects of 0.832 and 1.054 respectively, indicating that wilderness therapy is potentially an effective tool for addressing delinquent behaviors among youth. Limitations of the study include a lack of moderator analyses due to the small sample sizes.

What is the trouble with wilderness? ›

According to Cronon, “Wilderness” does us more harm than good. So what is the trouble with “Wilderness”? Basically, the trouble is that we Westerners tend to look at nature as opposite from civilization. Nature is where humans aren't.

Who didn t survive wilderness therapy? ›

In 2007, Caleb Jensen, 15, died while at a wilderness camp, his body found bundled in a feces- and urine-soaked sleeping bag. In 2011, Daniel Huerta, 17, died while being driven by a staff member. In 2016, 19-year-old Lane Lesko died during an escape attempt at a hybrid wilderness-residential treatment center.

What happens after wilderness therapy? ›

After completing wilderness therapy, many young adults turn to the therapeutic wellness program at Skyterra Young Adult to continue their journey toward a healthy mind, body and spirit. The unique therapeutic wellness program at Skyterra is designed for young adults ages 18 to 29 who desire growth and independence.

What is the difference between wilderness therapy and adventure therapy? ›

The main difference between the two is that adventure therapy employs challenging man-made obstacles and wilderness therapy uses only the weather and landscape. Both forms have been shown to improve confidence, self-esteem, and group behaviors.

What are the psychological effects of wilderness therapy? ›

Furthermore, there were statistically significant improvements in general and social self-esteem following treatment, with non-significant improvements in life-threatening attitudes, productive and non-productive coping, social competence, school functioning, psychological resilience, and family relationships.

What does the wilderness provide? ›

The benefits of wilderness are numerous. Wilderness provides so much more than a place to camp, hike or fish. Wilderness cleans our air and filters our water. It provides a home for wildlife and an economic driver for local communities.

What is wilderness and why is it important? ›

A wilderness is an area of land that has been largely undisturbed by modern human development. Wilderness areas usually lack roads, buildings, and other artificial structures. They provide a natural environment for plant and animal species, and allow scientists to study healthy ecosystems.

Is it okay to cry at basic training? ›

Crying isn't looked at as a bad thing, though some drill instructors give the recruit grief if they think he's just feeling sorry for himself. But in most cases, you are not considered less of a marine if you cry.

What is the hardest part of basic training? ›

Army Basic Training Red Phase

Red phase is the starting phase and is typically considered the hardest part of training. The entire phase, which is 3 weeks long, is devoted to constant calisthenic exercise and you will be spending much of your time in the push-up position.

What is the average age of people in boot camp? ›

According to the U.S. Army Recruiting Command, the average age for an Army Reserve recruit is about 23, making Coast one of the oldest people to go through Basic Combat Training. "Everybody in the world thinks I am a total nutcase," Coast said. "I just want to support our troops.

Which US military branch has the hardest boot camp? ›

Marine boot camp is extremely challenging -- both physically and mentally -- and considered to be tougher than the basic training programs of any of the other military services.

Which branch has the longest and toughest boot camp? ›

The Marine Corps has the longest basic training -- 12 weeks, not including four days of in-processing time. Counting the half-week you spend in forming (in-processing), you'll spend a total of seven-and-a-half weeks in Coast Guard basic training at Cape May, (N.J.,) the shortest basic training of all the services.

What has the shortest boot camp? ›

Coast Guard Recruit Training

USCG Recruit Training, or “forming”, is the shortest of any military branch. All in all, it takes approximately 7.5 weeks to finish Coast Guard boot camp, including in-processing.

Does the military teach you discipline? ›

They receive necessary instruction that will equip them with the abilities they need to succeed and survive in challenging conditions. Discipline is all about self-control. And in the military, frustrating recruits and cadets is the way to teach discipline.

What is boot camp discipline? ›

Boot camp is designed to change patterns in a person's life. To shape a person to become disciplined in their approach to life. Over the next 90 days, I will be placing myself into a “Discipline Boot Camp” to work on 2 weaknesses in my own life.

What are the cons of boot camp? ›

Limited Personal Instruction: depending upon how many are in your group, the instructor may not be able to provide enough feedback regarding your form and technique. One Size Fits All: a boot camp workout is designed with some basic exercises that should accommodate a variety of different fitness levels.

What can you not do in bootcamp? ›

5 Things Recruits Screw Up the Most in Boot Camp
  1. Forgetting their lefts and rights. It's a simple mistake, but in boot camp, any time is a crappy time to have a brain fart. ...
  2. Not shaving properly. ...
  3. Not hydrating enough. ...
  4. Calling their drill sergeant “sir” ...
  5. Taking a dump during morning clean up.
Mar 21, 2018

What are the 3 types of discipline? ›

The Three Types: Preventive Discipline -- measures taken to preempt misbehavior by keeping students engaged. Supportive Discipline -- measures taken to assist students with self-control by helping them get back on task. Corrective Discipline -- measures taken when students are not following classroom or school rules.

What is the highest form of discipline in the military? ›

The highest form of discipline is the willing obedience of subordinates who trust their leaders, understand and believe in the mission's purpose, value the team and their place in it, and have the will to see the mission through.

What happens if a child does not have discipline? ›

Not enough discipline can leave children feeling insecure and parents feeling out of control. Too much negative discipline, and not enough praise and rewards, might get children behaving well, but out of fear. This can lead to problems with children's self-esteem and anxiety later in life.

Who has the hardest boot camp? ›

U.S. Marines

Of course, when you reach the top, you can find them becoming SEALs or a part of the Marine Raider Regiment (MRR), but the training of any Marine is some of the hardest military training in the world. Even outside of Special Forces, Marines have to be ready for both land and sea combat.

What percent of people fail boot camp? ›

​Yes, it is possible to fail basic training. You could go through the trouble of leaving your home, job, family and friends and come back a failure. In fact, this happens to about 15% of recruits who join the military every year. Too many recruits I speak to think that it is impossible to fail basic training.

Do you shower with people in bootcamp? ›

In basic training, you take group showers. There's no way out of communal showers. They're required. Everyone in your barracks will enter the shower room assigned to your barracks when commanded.

Is leaving Bootcamp illegal? ›

After you arrive at boot camp, your fate still isn't sealed. Even though you're now on active duty, Army command can let you go without penalty during your first 180 days of service. The official term for this is entry-level separation.

Can you be on your phone during boot camp? ›

During the 7.5 weeks while your loved one is at BMT, he/she will be authorized to use his/her cell phone or pay phones to make outgoing calls to family members. Trainees are encouraged to maintain their cell phone service while at BMT and to bring a calling card.


1. Inside the "Troubled Teen Industry"
(Brut America)
2. LAPD's Boot Camp for Troubled Teens
3. Son Was Killed in Teen Wilderness Camp Nightmare
(The Doctors)
4. Watch What Happens When Transporters Wake Teen In Middle Of Night To Take Her To ‘Dr. Phil’ Show
(Dr. Phil)
5. Part 1: A look inside Queensland's controversial youth boot camps
(Greenshack Dotinfo)
6. Drs. Investigate: Torture Camps for Troubled Teens?
(The Doctors)


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