Coreen, Parent of a Former Heritage Student
Dear Heritage Staff, Thank you to all the Heritage staff. Each one of you was integral to the success of our daughter at Heritage. Please allow this letter to be shared with future families or anyone interested in your school. Our daughter arrived at Heritage at age 15 with extreme anxiety and major depression. Her situation was debilitating. She was no longer able to function at home and was no longer attending school. Many months have passed at home looking for the right help. The roller coaster of looking for solutions was rigorous and our family felt helpless and tired. Once our daughter was admitted to Heritage School, they quickly put into place a team of professionals to provide her with the support she needed to feel safe and cared for. Over the period of her stay, our family was so impressed with the therapists, the family support, and the academic team. Her home staff was wonderful. Living at the school with the caring home staff helped our daughter learn how to practice her new coping skills in a home as well as school environment. The entire process that Heritage embraces contributed to the success of our daughter. We were thoroughly impressed by the level of activities the students were involved in outside of the school environment. Our daughter participated in fun activities as well as service projects. The activities all taught healthy skills such as biking, hiking, and camping. All contributed to her healing and growth. Our daughter gained strong confidence and self esteem by participating in the outdoor adventure program. We also were highly impressed by the quality of the theater production. What a wonderful opportunity to have. The academic program and staff were remarkable and she was able to accomplish much toward her high school diploma. Heritage School has been a vital part of our daughter’s journey. We cannot express in words how thrilled we are to have her home using the tools and life skills she learned. Placing our daughter at Heritage was the best decision we have ever made. We are so thankful!
Heritage had a very positive impact on my daughter and our family’s life. My daughter built some beautiful lifelong friendships, is a current 12th grade student, is currently earning five A’s and one B. She will start to working within the next two weeks, and has already registered for college.
Mother of graduating student
Thank you so much for all your hard work and efforts in working with our daughter and our family. Without your efforts we would not be bringing M. home this Saturday, July 23, with a successful completion of the program and with more growth and progress being made in 8 months at Heritage than we have seen in the previous 5 years of residential treatment at other facilities combined. After being involved in some form of therapy program or another for the past 14 years, we finally have strong and lasting hope that M. will be able to be successful in long-term self-regulation and self-management of her behaviors and emotions which will help her to achieve success in her adult years. We are so very thankful that we found Heritage and that they were willing to take a chance on M. We have found that the program at Heritage is very strong and consistent across all aspects of daily life. We enjoyed the regular updates from her Home Director and other house staff. It was very apparent that house staff was as well trained and consistent in working with the kids as the therapist and other campus staff. The family therapy program was more intense that other family therapy programs. It truly involved the whole family and efforts from all family members. We are grateful for the new insights and new tools that we learned. M’s amazing progress and growth is a testament to the benefits of having a solid well rounded program that challenges children, provides a consistent support structure, provides lots of off campus and on campus activities, and provides a high quality sensory unit for decompression and a soothing atmosphere to recover from over stimulation or to get out of a negative space. M. thoroughly enjoyed working and interacting with the horses and loved her job at the stables. Based on our experience, Heritage sets the high standards by which all residential treatment centers and therapeutic schools should be required to meet or exceed. We wish we found you years ago. We cannot thank you enough.
I am honored to write this letter to Heritage. I was a student at Heritage in 2000-2002 and because of the philosophy of Heritage I am now able to live a successful life. I have recently graduated with my Associates degree and am pursuing my Bachelor’s degree. I am always reflecting on the time I spend at Heritage and how I can honestly say that was the best thing that has ever happened to me. I had built relationships with other peers and the staff that cannot be explained in words. My experience at Heritage is the reason I am the person I am now. I work for a fortune 50 company, attend college full time, and live on my own. I have learned how to build positive relationships that before Heritage was not a possibility. I am now an advocate for at risk youth in the Los Angeles area. I am in the process of becoming a big brother with the Big Brother Big Sister of American foundation. My future holds many great journeys ahead and I plan on leaving a positive impact on society by helping the youth. I have been there and know how it is to feel alone and I feel that my place in this world is to help other children that feel the same. I want to thank you so very much for the time and effort Heritage has invested into my life. I wish Heritage a continuing success in helping others like myself see that there are other possibilities in life. Once again I cannot express my sincere gratitude enough to thank you and Heritage for the help they provided me.
Our son may never open up fully to anyone, it’s a drag to know how bad things are inside him at times and no one can get in. I have great respect for you, and those who do what you do for John. His happiness and smile are back & you had something to do with it – kudos! They can be so cool, fun and full of energy. He has been making me tired watching the work he has been doing at our new house. No negativity or combativeness, all cooperation so far – school, related appointments, eating, taking care of his dog, going to bed.don’t worry I will stop there—I know exactly what has a high possibility of being around any corner we turn, but I know both he and we are better prepared to handle it when it comes now. So—thanks to all at Heritage & a very nice day to you!
I can’t express enough of my gratitude and amazement of your program. You are changing and saving lives! The love, support and professionalism that I feel when I’m there, and that was from the first day I set foot there, is so powerful and genuine, that I don’t know what to say besides THANK YOU!!! Also extend my gratitude to my daughters mentor, an absolutely wonderful woman! Have a great day, I now have new hope!!!
Our family wants to sincerely thank each and every one of the staff who were critical to recapturing the positive spirit of our son. Matthew truly has his whole life ahead of him because of the great therapy he had while being a resident of Heritage School. While the beginning of his stay was filled with anger, he quickly decided to “get with the program” and excel at all he did. Matthew was so successful that he managed to graduate with his class at his home school and is now in our community college doing very well. He is his “old positive self” and we feel so blessed that he received care at your school. Again, thank you. Your program made a profound difference in our family. Grateful,
Years ago, when my daughter was very little, and very ill, I made her a promise that I wouldn’t give up until I found the miracle she needed to free her life from the emotional chains that weighed her down. I didn’t know what that would entail, how lonely the road would be, or how long the journey would take. But our journey brought us here, to the waiting and capable hands of the most committed group of people I have ever known. Heritage has, simply put, been the miracle we have been waiting for so long. I need to take this opportunity to acknowledge the professionalism, compassion, and commitment of the staff of Heritage School. You make the world a better place every day you pass through the front doors of this institution. Thank you from the bottom of my heart for the impact you have made on my daughter, me, and my family. It isn’t often in life that one is completely in awe of what lies in front of them. Today is one of those exceptions. Today is the best day I have had in a very, very long time. Thank you.
G. & S. and Family
Today is Andrew’s 18th birthday and once again my thoughts are with all of you who helped make him the wonderful young man he is. We just got back from a family dinner and we took along a friend of Andrew’s who has had a very troubled past. At only 17 years old, he has lost both of his parents; his father years ago and now his mother on Christmas day. He stays with his step-dad and brother who are a terrible influence on him. He has been a long-time friend of Andrew’s and one of the boys he found trouble with in the years before Heritage. Today I see Andrew being a friend and mentor to a troubled young man who has had little direction in his own home. His mother commented that it was one of the best birthday celebrations we have ever enjoyed together as a family and found it hard to believe that this young man was part of it. As we were leaving for dinner I commented to Andrew about how proud I was of him and the amazing changes we have all experienced over the last couple of years. I can’t remember the last time I have seen him so content and happy. He sees the changes and feels the difference from the angry young man he was at 16. You all gave him that foundation and confidence in his self worth that will see him through the many years ahead. I still tell anyone who will listen about our Heritage experience and how blessed we were to have you all in our lives during a time of crisis. I am sad for the kids that fall through the cracks and the families who will never experience the joy I feel today to have my son back. The family a few houses down the road seem to have taken us under their wing. Andrew helps out with their kids after school doing homework and had them all on skate boards the other day. He was busy tonight in his room repairing or swapping parts on a board for one of their boys. The father was the one I may have mentioned before who took Andrew to the nursing home where he works to do volunteer work after his return from Heritage. I have been on my own since I was 20 and always felt I needed to control everything and take care of myself. I am humbled by the love and giving I experienced at Heritage that continues today with renewed friendship from our neighbors and I continue to have a renewed faith in my fellow human beings and realize I had become hardened and callous over the years before Heritage School. I hope we can visit Utah again this spring and look forward to seeing you all again in person. In the meantime, know you are all in our hearts. Happy New Year to each and everyone and please extend our best wishes to anyone we may not have email addresses for.
Brian D. L.
Attorney At Law
My son, Kyle, went to Heritage for over two years. He had tremendous problems upon entering the facility and all I had was hope that he would get better. He did not actually graduate, but went to a step-down in California. I am writing this letter to express my most heartfelt thanks to Heritage. Tyler was a great therapist and Phyllis was helpful with everything (all the time!) My son is doing wonderful at this point. We do not know what the future will offer and what may happen, but as it stands now, Heritage has saved my son. At this point, he is on the basketball team and is one of the star players; he has a part-time job at Smart and Final; is doing great in his classes and is actually taking a college class at a local community college. He is not only doing well in macro-economics in college, but he is discussing with me what stocks to invest in and economic policy. He has been free from drugs coming up on 1 ½ years. He is much more respectful to me and my wife. We are able to discuss matters and not be afraid what is going to happen. We see him every other week (and when he plays games.) Life is good. Without the expertise of all those involved at Heritage, his life would have been a mess. Your school did not just save my son’s life, but has put our family back together and given a real chance for a young boy to have a good life. I know what parents at Heritage are going through. Should you need somebody to speak to the parents at one of your conferences (either in California or in Utah), let me know and I will be happy to speak with them and answer their questions. Thanks again.
730 days is how long it took for me to realize how much my life was worth. Heritage was the last resort for me before being sent away to a state mental hospital. When I arrived at Heritage I was a very angry 13 year old kid. My childhood between the ages of seven and twelve were unbearable. Through therapy and help from Heritage staff, I was able to learn to love and respect myself. I have now learned the value of life. As of today I am a very productive member of society. I have a degree in Criminal Justice and am working towards another one in Sociology. I work Loss Prevention for Mason Retail Companies. If it was not for the 730 days at Heritage I would probably be dead. Heritage saved my life! Special thanks to my therapist and staff for not only being a great therapist but for not giving up on me when others did. Thank you for bringing me into your home and showing me what a real family feels like. Last but not least, I want to thank Jerry Spanos. For not only creating Heritage Schools, Inc. but for never giving up and believing in me. Thank you to all who helped in my 730 days.
I had severe anxiety and depression. They helped me cope and deal my emotions and over come the past. Without having all the help from heritage I would not be able to even get out of my bed. I learned how to deal with normal day to day situations and much better obstacles as well. After I program completed from heritage I went to a step down and finished high school. My dad and I are still close. And I’m planning on going to college soon.
Sophie P 2009-2012
Before I went to heritage, I was abusing drugs, basically dropped out of school, and had a horrible relationship with my whole family. I was suffering from the loss of my father and countless other emotional problems. Heritage helped me figure out who I was as a person, tools on how to stay sober, and brought me and my mom together. I was able to recognize when I was getting into self destructive moods and how to get myself out, I was able to lean how to listen and follow directions from authority figures and I was able to graduate high school with a high GPA. If I had not gone to heritage, I wouldn’t have been able to get and stay sober, not have had the amazing relationship that I have now with my mom and younger brothers, and I would have probably died a long time ago from drugs or the dangerous situations that I put myself in. Since leaving heritage I went back to school for cosmetology, which was an amazing experience. I moved out of my moms house and went to live on my own in another state for a year to gain awareness of myself and the world around me. I met the most amazing human and we plan on getting married at the end of 2015 or the begging of 2016. I have the most amazing relationship with my mom and siblings that I count have ever asked for. I am incredibly thankful and owe my life to the staff and program at heritage, because if it wasn’t for Heritage, I would not be where I am today.
I have aspergers and I needed a place to help me with my problems so my parents saw Heritage. Heritage helped me by showing me how to be able to calm myself when I get upset. Staff were always there when I needed help they talk to me and helped me. Now I can control my anger without help. I can take myself away from my problems when I get upset I walk away when I didn’t in the past. I am helping disabled kids in a tap dancing class I am attending college to become an EMT and also pursuing my singing career and will be auditioning in America’s Got Talent in 2015.
Judy P. 2009-2011
It took a really long time, and a lot of two steps forward, one step back, but change did occur. It’s hard to say exactly when, because it was a very slow process. (He did not develop his issues overnight, so change also did not occur overnight). What I can say is that because of Heritage, he became the person he said he wanted to be. Because of the help he got at Heritage, he graduated high school. Once he got home, he still made mistakes, but he owned them. He didn’t blame anyone else for his situations or expect anyone to help him out of them. He also learned how to manage his emotions. In the three years since he’s been back home, I have only seen him express anger a couple of times and both times he dealt with it appropriately. He verbalized his frustration and walked away until he was more calm. My relationship with him is so much better now than it ever has been. He’s been working and he’s taken some college classes and is talking about taking more. He expresses a desire to do something with his life, and I believe now that he will. He is also now living on his own and is not asking for any financial assistance. I am truly proud of him.
Melissa S. 2012-2014
Heritage had a very positive, and strong impact on my daughter, and whole families life. My daughter built some beautiful life long friendships. She is a current 12th grade student at Maya Angelou Community High School. She is currently earning 5 A’s & 1 B. She will be starting to work at Wal-Greens within the next two weeks, and has already registered for college.
David W. 2006-2012
I have had two sons attend Heritage. Their stay saved both their lives and helped them get to the next stage without dying of drugs. The older one is living independently with his dog and working at various part time jobs. He still has bipolar issues but is no longer drug dependent and is relatively functional in society. The most helpful programs were the surrogate parenting and the male bonding and mentoring he received from the maintenance crew on his second trip to Heritage.
It’s been 3 1/2 years and although he had his ups and downs — he graduated from high school, has a great girlfriend and just got accepted to art school in San Francisco! Thank’s Heritage!
My daughter attended Heritage on two separate times. She had been at several other residential facilities. However, it was not until she attended Heritage that she really started to heal and grow. She still keeps in touch with some of those she met at Heritage. I believe Heritage saved her life. She is also grateful for her time at Heritage and will tell anyone who will listen. Heritage involved the family and kept us up to date with what was happening. I trusted she was being cared for and receiving the help she needed. I would absolutely recommend Heritage to anyone that is considering a residential placement for their child. Mandy has attended community college and wants to be a nurse. She is in the process of finishing here general education requirements so that she may enter their LVN program.
Jarred S. 2009-2010
I was having problems getting along with my parents and managing stress at home. Heritage helped me better manage my response to stress and how to respond properly to anger. I think I left heritage better than if I had not gone there. Without heritage I would have been kicked out at 18 and either be in jail or on the streets. I am currently working as a data center technician. My job is to connect and maintain large corporate computer systems and make sure access to online websites and applications stay online 24/7.I also am living at home with my parents to save money for my own house or apartment. I own 1 horse who will give birth to my second horse next year.
The staff and therapists were incredibly informative and always willing to explain everything in detail. The parent weekends were welcomed and needed as the months passed on. Without the foundation provided by Heritage we may have not had the courage to continue. We are thankful for her time there and wish we could have gotten her there sooner. We have become a tighter knit family learning much about our structure while Lauren was at Heritage. Although she continues to struggle, we believe, her time at Heritage saved her.
One Parent’s Experience By: Dr. Stephen Cohen (written for his son’s graduation)
Son, I am honored just to be with you. Look at the person you are becoming, — bright, funny, and quick to laugh. I see a playful spark from your eyes. You’ve become a gentle giant to me.you are a big man with a light touch. A giant of a person full of kindness. You are wise, and insightful, about yourself and others. You are transparent and open. You own your actions and their consequences. You run toward, not away from, you’re personal struggles. You are what they call in computer speak WYSIWYG–what you see is what you get. You are the essence of lemonades from lemons, as you took the hard knocks you received right out of the gate in life. You learned about them and learned to live with them and master them, rather than the other way around. In so doing, you have achieved psychological insights and gifts far beyond your years. It’s funny really. All the pain and strife, the suffering and struggle that consumed all of us before you came to Heritage seems to make it that much sweeter this time and this day, A day when we pause to celebrate how far you have come. TO ALL OF YOU AT HERITAGE. . . I don’t know if you realize what it is like for us to come here and be among you. You live in peaceful community with one another. We learned not only about each of you, but about faith, a faith that, from the earliest age, instills values of giving and caring for others. They are not only the norm, but the centerpiece, the commandment of faith. Such faith brings about a constant, quiet commitment. A commitment all of you have made to do your part to bring some repair to a hurting world–one troubled young person at a time. You do this without flash, without boasting, without neon, without crowing about yourselves. In Judaism, we have words for what you live and do — tikkun olam–repair the world. In our case i’d call it tikkun my son. These values were instilled in you at a very young age. My guess is that they are second nature to all of you. What you may not realize is how rare and special you all are. I imagine that, when the going gets tough during the very hard work you do, that there are times you lose sight of what a unique group you all are. Maybe you feel discouraged at times. Maybe you remember all the cases you could not save, the kids you could not reach, all the while forgetting all the ones you did. Put simply–you save lives here. You pull people back from the brink. The Bible says, “If you help or save but one life, it is as if you have saved the world.” During your darker moments, I would like each of you to lean back and look at the universe you have created, working together. You must know and remember that when we come here, we feel like we’re entering a world apart. It’s a quiet and giving zone where, after just a little while on your campus, we learn to leave our cynicism in the suitcase back at the hotel. You have made a place where the gate will not rise if you approach it thinking: “What’s in it for me?” “How do i get mine?” or “What have you done for me lately?” You made a steady home here, settled on a flat plane. You picked a place watched over by sturdy mountains. The setting supplies all at once the reassurance and foundation of a level playing field, a fresh start. A place to reboot one’s life. Your mountains remind us not to get too puffed up. To remember how small we are, lest we get too full of ourselves. They remind all of us of the tall challenges that surround us. Challenges that will not go away, but that we must make our peace with. And of the importance of the persistence and constancy it will take to first begin and then persist in our climb. We arrived here, as my sister likes to say—tongue-hanging-out tired. Our family was broken, out of gas, riding on springs. We were a family whose engine was backfiring as we were both hurt by and hurting one another. Lately I have had some daydreams about all this: The dreams start in the time before Heritage Johanna and I are running on a race track, our steps are really more like stumbles and staggers. Our arms are full and heavy, Full and heavy as we carry our son. Tempers are short, tensions are high It is hard to even lift our feet. We press on, unsure if we will even make it to the finish line, That seems like a forever away, we lift arms, containing our hurting son, straight out in front of us, hoping someone will be there to catch him since we no longer can. In these dreams, the last steps are always the hardest, Like summiting Everest, or, for me, those mountains out there surrounding Heritage. Finally, in a leap of faith, we close our eyes and we let go, And out of our arms tumbles our son, And just like a the final touchdown moment in one of those heart stopping, football movies , where the good guys always win, the scene changes to super slow motion. You are all here to catch him just as we fall to ground ourselves in a cloud of dust. I see your faces, Faces that have meant everything to my son. Faces of the men who stepped in to father Elijah when I lost my grip. In the next scene, you carry him like a runner’s baton, tucked beneath your left arm, right next to your heart; with your heads high, and helping one another even as you help my son. Lap after difficult lap, you close in on the finish line. Johanna and I stand there. Our arms extended to receive the baton back in our hands. But things seem different this time. In my dream, I see you coming toward us. I forget to look at your faces, my dream camera zooms in, and I look quickly. In an instant, I scan all of your hands, anxious to find who is carrying the baton, anxious to see just who will pass back to us the parenting baton. Hard as I look, I cannot even see a baton. Then i realize: there will be no baton this time. And then my dream camera pulls back and I see you come to us, running as a pack, from side to side you completely fill the track. And now I decide to check the faces. I look and see the faces of the people of Heritage, faces I will always remember, I see your faces of purpose. Faces of promise. Faces of gravity. Faces of commitment. Faces of humility. Faces of service. Faces of patience. Faces of limit setting and love and logic. Faces of people who will embrace you till you calm, faces of humor. Faces tilted up toward and drawing strength from these mountains. Faces full of smiling and hope, faces of optimism and support. These are the faces we had not seen in a long time. Faces that say: we will make a way for your son even even though we know you feel like there is no way. And in my dream, there, in the center of the pack, surrounded and supported and paced by all of you, I see another very special runner, one who’s face I would recognize anywhere…It’s my sons face! A face different from the rest, a much more mature face than the one I remember. A wise, glowing, calm, proud face. A face that mirrors on the outside the so much healing and progress that has occured on the inside. I see his heart bursting with pride as he gives everything he has in him for one last piece of distance run. His finest hour finally come All of you come closer, In my dream, I can hear you now. At first, it’s just the steady thump of a herd of feet slapping and powering down a track, Then I can hear the slaps of high fives, back slaps, fist bumps, Then I can hear your voices. First I hear the “atta boys,” Then I hear spoken words, spoken through panting lungs, I hear you say to my son, “Remember what we promised you, one day you would leave this place with your family, Once your work is done, you’ll be ready to leave when you no longer have to ask, “Am I ready to leave?” Take a look, you can see your family up ahead. Remember we said that there would come a time we’d go our separate ways? Guess what? That time is now.” He is now confused. He is surprised by feelings of leaving Heritage mingled with feelings of wanting to stay, and you say to him, “See that limping family up ahead, carrying their son? We must give our all to catch and help them now Just as we once caught and helped you.and so, just like the Blue Angels in missing man formation, we separate up ahead. But don’t worry, you’re likely nervous, but we have every confidence, every faith that you can make it without us now. We believe in you. We believe you can run on your own now. Just remember what we said to you here, and remember all the things you learned about yourself and your place in the world, remember we taught you to honor and respect, to be courteous to others and help others and live by that golden rule thing–treating others as you would have them treat you. Remember: in order to honor the very hard work you did here, you must continue and add to it. Because just like all the rest of us, the work is never fully done. If you want to honor what happened here, you can repay us by trying your best to live the values we tried so hard to teach you here, the values we saw you learn and internalize here. Carry them like a diary you know by heart, because you wrote it. Think of each page like a prayer and you can also repay us by using the strong arms you developed here to help another person in need one day. So do your part to hammer and build an endless chain than goes on and on. A chain that links goodness and kindness and healing, with a gentle touch, one of humility and care. Now you join your place beside all of us as we try to model the mission of Heritage and apply our shoulder to push the plow just a little further down the field. Plant crops–we’ll call them “heal” and “repair” and we will use them to feed the world–even if it’s just a little part of the world.” May you be so blessed as to have the internal calmness and self respect that is necessary to treat others with respect. Welcome home son. Welcome home.
After all your hard work with our son, we feel we need to let you know how he is doing. Thanks to all your support, determination, patience and more patience, compassion, and understanding, he is doing well. He is on a soccer and hockey team. He is not the best on either and his team does not always win, but he is not letting that bother him. He has learned to keep his mouth closed! He is volunteering in an after school program every weekday at a community center. He works with grade school kids playing games and helping with homework. He loves being there and the kids all want to be with him. He is doing well in school! He wants to go to college and is determined to maintain a B average. When one grade went below a B, he went in and did extra credit to bring it back up. He is now talking about getting higher grades so he can have more college choices. To hear him talking about a future that is more than ten minutes away is tremendous.He is keeping his temper in check. He has tried to push boundaries and we have held firm. He has said he is “pissed off” and stormed off. He returns within 5 minutes completely calm and ready to move on. Who is this kid?! He is still wheeling and dealing, but so far nothing that would get him in trouble. His energy level and persistence/stubbornness remain high. We feel like we sent him away and he returned the 2.0 version. Same kid, but now with coping skills for life. We are so grateful to all of you for your help in giving us our son back. We know how difficult he was, and we are sure there were times when he had pushed you to that place where you wanted to give up. But you didn’t. You kept working with him and encouraging him and us. There is no way we can repay you. We encourage you all to think of our son the next time a kid has verbally or physically pushed you to the edge. Think of him and know that somewhere under that kicking and screaming, there is a kid like our son who has potential and a family waiting for him to come home. You made our son a success and we firmly believe, if you can do that for him, you can do it for any kid. We know there will still be struggles ahead(we aren’t that naive!), but we are confident he will make it. Thank you for all your hard work, your belief in our son, and the support you gave us. We will forever be indebted to all of you.
Since heritage I have a sense of self-worth and value. It taught me how to properly deal with my depression, anxiety and anger in proper manner. Because if that I feel I can now properly function in society and I honestly feel like I owe that to heritage. M.H.
We are forever grateful! He came home after 17 months, and will graduate with a diploma in June. What he learned at Heritage plus his application of all the strategies he learned is why he’s succeeding. Thank you! You change lives and families. There’s no better work !
Your great work helped save our family! Our son Jonathan was there for almost 19 months and has now been home for 2 years. He is productively living with friends and working a job, looking for more work. Thank you for the work that Heritage and your staff does, standing for families!