RedCliff Ascent Testimonials

Having a “RedCliff Graduate” we are always anxious to get news of what we call “the field.” Even though our son has had his share of problems this past year, we still look at him and feel very grateful to all the staff for helping get him to this point. He is so very much better than he was when we made the difficult decision to send him to RedCliff.

Our son is now a 17-year-old with the group of problems that seem to infect most of the teens in our area. He is very “self motivated” and at times not thinking actions through. But compared to the dark, unhappy, scary boy we sent, we can deal with teen stuff. We are still very vocal and strong supporters of RedCliff and are still running into the same “how could you do that to your child” people when discussions of where to get help for out of control teens come up. Our son often brings up stories of things that happened when at RedCliff and always speaks fondly of his experience. His bow drill and gear is hung in his room and he sleeps with his wigi on his bed.

We will always be grateful to RedCliff and all the wonderful staff. They gave us hope and comfort during a very hopeless and frightening time.

Mike and Trish

To Whom It May Concern;

Matt recently completed summer school at St. Thomas. He earned Dean’s list, high A’s in Biology, English, and Spanish. He was given the Director’s Award for most outstanding student in the school for the summer and he was awarded MVP for the summer athletic program.

Matt is rightly happy and proud of his achievement and looks forward to his senior year at St. Thomas, which begins this September. I thought you might like to know that Matt credits RedCliff Ascent for his dramatic turn-around. His experience with you was truly life altering.

We are happy and pleased that Matt has finally found purpose and confidence. Our best regard to your staff and especially Dan Sanderson for excellent guidance. We are very grateful.

Barbara and Robert

I’d like to let you know how delighted I am with the RedCliff program and how impressive the hard work and dedication of the staff is. Like all other parents, I was desperate when I sent my son, Steve, to you. He was locked in a downward spiral that seemed destined to end in jail or the hospital. I was out of options and almost out of time as his eighteenth birthday loomed on the horizon.

I felt that sending him to a wilderness therapy program was a drastic move. Then he ran away, and I doubted that even a move this drastic would lead to a solution. I began to resign myself to accepting that Steve’s stay at RedCliff would probably just be a vacation for me—a vacation from the anxiety of rounding him up when he ran away, dealing with the sheriffs, and surreptitiously searching his backpack, his room, and his car. It would be a vacation from worrying about his determination to self-destruct, and a vacation for his explosive rages.

When the reports from the staff began to reflect positive changes in Steve, I doubted. Even during the night before his graduation, I tossed, and turned, and doubted. Now, even though I know it’s too soon to tell for sure what Steve will do with his life, I have no doubt that the downward spiral is broken. Steve has the tools to fix his life and achieve his goals.

I have you, the staff, to thank for creating an environment in which Steve could make this kind of progress. The combination of direct teaching, the modeling of positive behaviors by the staff, experiencing the consequences of his actions, and the encouragement to reflect on his life and explore his feelings helped Steve to regain control of his life. He now has the tools to identify.

After leaving RedCliff, we drove to the Sierra Nevada Mountains for a fishing trip. During most of the drive, Steve shared his new knowledge of survival skills, geology, rock, plants, etc. He also told stories he had read and heard from the field staff. He probably will never forget what he learned at RedCliff.

I especially enjoyed the graduation. I don’t think it would be possible to even begin to understand what the students have accomplished without being out there with them for at least one night. We were lucky to have bad weather because the rain helped us to understand a little more what the students had been through and to better appreciate their accomplishments as we had to depend on them to build a shelter from the storm.

The wilderness stay also opened my eyes to the dedication of the field staff who deal with these kids 24/7 through their progress and their setbacks. The parent seminar presented by Dr. Dan also gave me much to think about. I’ve drawn on his model of healthy and unhealthy relationships as I’ve made decisions at home.

So to you, Andrea, and to Coyote, Standing Bear, Lone Pine, Red Feather, and other staff members whose name I don’t know—many thanks. The RedCliff program wouldn’t work without heart, and you are its heart.


We’re sending an overdue note of thanks to all of you up in the high desert. Nine months ago we were faced with a once loving son whom we hardly recognized. We were in a crisis of drug use and dangerous behavior that was beyond our grasp to fix. We knew at last that we had to act decisively or lose him. And we had to research and chart a course in a matter of days and hours.

Red Cliff Ascent kept appearing in our notes and recommendations, so we went on instinct and limited knowledge, and sent Greg halfway across the country to a place we’d never seen before. It was the best “leap of faith” we ever made.

Two months later a changed young man greeted us. Our son was changed, lean, and shaped by the wilderness. He was inwardly aware and alert. He’s wrapping up high school now with a newly found confidence. He knows that he has what it takes to attain his goals. Best of all is his own understanding that nothing is guaranteed. But that his own actions carry consequences that can’t be avoided or argued away.

Gratifying to us is his wish to return to RedCliff to give back some of what he’s learned and taken from the program. We’re doing our best to keep on the path he’s begun with you.

Pat and Karen

We have nothing but respect and appreciation for your program. We brought Matt to you to begin his 72-day adventure on October 10, 1998. He was quickly destroying his young life with drugs, running away from home, etc. Matt graduated for your program on December 21, 1998, and has done very well in the months since he has been back home. He has been working full-time at a fast food restaurant since January, and he has just taken and passed his GED test. He has been very respectful to us, followed our rules, and is not at all interested in his old friends. If he is not at work, he is at home with us. He is now talking about the future, and possibly sees college ahead; as well as saving for a car and getting his own apartment when he turns 18 this fall.

We feel that your program has very probably saved this child’s life and given us back our son. We are baffled as to how your program works so effectively, but we know it does. Definitely would we very highly recommend your program to other parents.

We are also impressed with all the staff we met. They all seemed wonderful with the teenagers in your care and were always helpful and available to us when we had questions and concerns. It is a very hard thing to turn your child over to complete strangers and leave them miles from home in a program we knew almost nothing about, and your staff made that easier for us.

We wish you continued success with your program, and are very thankful.

James and Elizabeth

When we left RedCliff at the end of the summer, we certainly had our reservations about what the future would hold. But the ensuing months have been very pleasurable. It took him several weeks to adapt to home and city life again. The first night he asked to sleep outside and then, returned indoors because it was “so loud” out there. He even slept on the cement basement floor for a few nights.

This fall has been very pleasant. We’ve especially enjoyed his relationship with his little sisters and within the family. He is kind and thoughtful, much like the “old” John we remember from a while back. Now, though, he is able to do more for his sisters because of his own independence. Speaking of that, he has also maintained a part-time job at a small plastics extrusion factory. The balance of school and work has been very good for him.

RedCliff was a real turning point for John. If we had sent John to a more traditional treatment program, we would not have had these results. John originally thought he could figure out RedCliff and get through it in 30 days unchanged. He was so shocked by what he encountered in the first day there that he was unable to think about faking his way through the program. I believe that was the crucial factor in the change he has made. Obviously, the rest of his 67 days at RedCliff were equally helpful but something about the initial shock seemed to be the key.

The real difference I see in him is that the anger he was wrapped up in all those years seems to be gone. We still don’t agree all the time, but it’s possible to work through things with very little negative emotions. He is able to see others point of view.Thanks so much for your part in helping give us our son back.


I take the opportunity of returning your survey and to thank you for your help this past summer. Can a mere “thank you” ever be sufficient?

Since leaving RedCliff, Ethan’s progress has been nothing short of miraculous. He went on to attend Hyde’s Summer Leadership Challenge where he continued to do well. After getting all zeros last year in his public school, Ethan was elected to the Honor Guard at Hyde for fall trimester, which is contingent on getting an honors in four out of five of his courses and not getting a warning in any way. Also, we’ve been told, he’s starting to assume a leadership role at Hyde.

When Ethan is at home in our town of 100,000 some people, Ethan won’t go outside out of fear, anger, or embarrassment at being seen by his old drug buddies. Although this is far from an ideal solution to peer pressures, it is the best solution he has at this time.

Ethan loved RedCliff and has tremendous respect for its regime and staff. He kept our entire extended family amused with stories of his adventures there this past summer. And he wants to return next summer as a peer counselor.

So I close by reiterating the MIRACLE that RedCliff wrought in his life. A mere “thank you” somehow seems inadequate but I offer it anyway


We are very pleased with Kate’s self-improvements. A year ago we would not have dreamed all this to be possible! The path she head down was self-destruction. The impact of the RedCliff program is what turned Kate around. Our headstrong daughter was able to take stock of her past behavior, deal with her anger towards us, and begin to move in a more positive direction.

Even though sending her to RedCliff was a gut-wrenching decision, we know we did the right thing. We are thankful for the help and insight you gave to her and us.

All our best to your staff,

Clark and Irene

Our son returned to New York over the summer, which is a bit earlier than we had expected. I am sure, though, that you are aware of the Northwest Academy. Leaving RedCliff was a real blow to him. But he had gotten enough from that very excellent program to come back home and get on with his life.

He still talks about RedCliff with great pride. From Day 3, as sick and incoherent as he was, he understood (this is his words), “That the RedCliff Ascent program made sense.” It was definitely the turning point in his life. I know that he will have other milestones but this is one that will always be there for him as a foundation upon which he can continue to build.

His only regret is that he was not able to make his own knife. He knows that RedCliff was putting this skill in place and he says it would have been an experience as well. As you know, many of your graduates transition into other programs to continue schooling and emotional growth as did our son. During his time at NWA he shared and compared a lot of his experiences and stories about RedCliff. It is with great pride that he told his classmates that he went to a really hard, but fair, program. His conclusion is that he went to one of the best!


Thank you for the follow-up. I am very proud of Zach’s continued progress and growth. RedCliff was the answer in our situation. It really helped Zach identify who he is becoming as a person, and that it’s okay to be him.

He has also improved greatly in the responsibility department. He’s mostly on time. Before he left he was often angry. Zach has now opened up more and we can better discuss things. That can still be a challenge but it’s greatly improved. He’s back at his homeschool and overall doing very well. We have your program to thank and his awesome therapist. I can not say enough great things about the therapist as a professional and as a person.


Since Rob went to RedCliff we have all been transformed, but none as much as he. All of his teachers had nothing but good things to say about him. There have been no behavior issues at school this year. As a matter of fact, his teachers stated that they would like it if they had more students like Rob in their classes. I cried again at this meeting, but this time they were tears of joy.


You have an awesome program!  We’re so grateful for the difference it has made in Alec’s life.


I just wanted to write to you and let you know that looking back at the sometimes challenging experience that I had gone through there, I believe that it was beneficial to me. To this day I enjoy the knowledge of being able to start a fire with the bow drill. And knowing how to survive in a challenging environment. The most memorable staff member was a lady by the name of White Winds. She was an older lady with the longest and whitest hair I have ever seen.

I have a box of all of the clothes in my basement. Every time that I open the box I am engulfed with the smell of 99 days of fire and wilderness.

While reading the first page of the website I noticed a quote from a former student who said “I don’t think that I can explain it to anyone.” I can’t agree with them more. I have tried to explain to my friends and family what it was like out there. And I seem to find that no one can grasp the whole experience. Some of my friend’s still can’t forgive my mother for taking me away from them my senior year of high school. But thank God she did. A couple of weeks, after I was enrolled, five of my friends were arrested. I would have been with them.

I am now a senior at Western Connecticut State University. And I am ready to graduate and go on with my life. I really don’t know why I am writing this, but I felt it necessary to express at least a little bit of what it did for me. Thank you for your time and I hope the program is doing for others what it did for me.


I’m writing because I didn’t know any other way to say thank you! I was a student at RCA. I enrolled August 20, 2004, and completed the program October 24, 2004 (I believe). Through my stay at RCA I found out who I was.

Before going to RCA I had no idea who I was. I based myself off of other people, because of that I lost the little girl who I once was. My parents made the best decision. And the hardest. I thank them all the time for letting me go to RCA (even though I had no choice). I actually know who I am now.

It sounds kind of odd, but I have never felt happiness like I did out in the wilderness at RCA. I miss it! I was supposed to break the record but Winter Rose didn’t get the memo.

It seems like a dream when I look back on my stay, but yet everything I have learned from all the staff and therapists will always stay with me. I have never met people that care so much about me until I attended RCA. So I would like to give a special thanks to Calming Dove, RainTracker, Bright Dragon, James (I know you have a wilderness name now but I can’t remember it), Winter Rose, and so many more.

I went to Discovery Academy after I graduated RCA, and I felt I really didn’t need to be there, at first. Then a week went by and I realized I still had work to do. RCA set the foundation of who I was and DA instilled it in me. I finished DA in six months and graduated academically and therapeutically. I don’t think I could have progressed the way I did if I didn’t attend RCA. So for everything, thank you. I can probably never thank you enough. You have opened my eyes and changed my life. My family is breaking apart, but now I know how to deal with it better than before.


This is Kodiak Warrior, a student from your program about a year ago. I attended RedCliff from Feb 9, 2006 to April 4, 2006. I would like to say hello to staff members Mountain Lynx, Digger G., Shanook Falcon, Souzie, and Chris B. (the little guy), if they are still working there. They opened up a lot of direction in my life that I’m eternally thankful for.

Something I’d like to ask is that I really miss my buddies at RCA, but I lost all of their contact information when I took my plane ride home. It bums me out because everyday I wonder how and what they’re all doing. If there is anyway possible maybe you could help me out in some way? Maybe send them an email if your not busy, haha.

Another thing I’d like to say is that in a year you better get ready for me, because when I turn 20 I’m going to get a job with you guys. I feel a purpose to help troubled teens—just like RCA helped me. I’d like to share my knowledge with those teens and help them better understand themselves. Because of my past experiences, I feel like I could connect to them.

Well RCA, I’m glad you guys put me through a life experience that I wouldn’t trade for the world. I’m very grateful you guys are around, and if my kids ever get into trouble…I know the first place I’m sending them, hehe.

Kodiak Warrior

I am a RedCliff graduate. It’s been almost four years since I’ve left. And there have been so many times I’ve wished I was right back at RedCliff in the amazing scenery around the campfire. I never thought I’d say it, but I really did enjoy being there. And still to this day I wish I could have just one more night there.


I just wanted to thank RedCliff Ascent from the bottom of my heart for all that you have done for me. Who knows where my life would have taken me without the guidance and support of RedCliff Ascent and my therapist. Once again I just wanted to take the time to thank everyone for all your support in guiding me on a new path in the right direction.

P.S. I am writing this letter because I read the other testimonials of other students of RedCliff Ascent. I thought I would share my story of how RedCliff saved my life. Also to show reluctant parents that this program really works in every way one could imagine.


I would like to take this opportunity to once again thank all the staff who so graciously put together the reunion this spring. To say I had an amazing time does not give proper justice to the experience. I graduated from RedCliff five years ago this coming October. I spent the years after graduating trying to keep everything I learned at RCA very close to my heart and mind.

The staff who remember me from my initial stay in the program could tell you how much of a handful I was. I was a very confused, angry, scared, hurt, and out of control sixteen-year-old. I had lost all knowing of self-worth. RedCliff helped me see the world I was missing out on. I could finally understand everyone’s happiness because I was for once choosing to be happy myself. I learned how to be responsible for my own behavior and became more self-aware. Discipline in my experience prior to RedCliff was purely from an authoritative role. Learning from my own mistakes by natural and personal consequences helped me realize that even though I may upset people around me when I make poor decisions; I only hurt myself in the long run.

I learned how to not hide behind the “mask” I had been carrying around in my back pocket for times of insecurity. In the program I became my full self and became aware I had even more room to grow. At the end of my stay, I felt the most confident I had ever known to be possible. I knew I could do anything I set my mind to. For the first time ever, I was looking forward to my future.

The years after my graduation until recently were very bumpy for me. I struggled with remembering what I was capable of and what I had accomplished. I began to lose track of myself and who I wanted to be.

My mom called me and told me she received an email from RedCliff inviting me to an alumni reunion. I was ecstatic, to say the very least. I had absolutely no idea what to expect. But I knew I was ready for whatever RCA had to throw my way, once again.

I came to the reunion alone. I didn’t expect to see any students from my stay in the program and was unsure if there would be any familiar staff left from my time there. Once sitting down in base with the group after arriving back for the first time in five years, I had no feelings of unrest. I knew few people, but was not wary. With almost everyone I spoke to I quickly made instant connections. I felt at home. It was so comforting to be back in the field even with lots of fresh faces. The reunion was exactly what I needed to remember everything I learned when I was a student at RedCliff. I regained my feeling of empowerment and felt happy for the first time since I left years ago.

I want to thank you all so much for more than just setting up a great and perfectly coordinated reunion for all the lucky alumni who got to attend. But I also want to thank you for helping miraculously broaden my vision once again and helping me see that light at the end of my tunnel for a second time. I have no doubt the program saved my life, my happiness, and any hope I had for a bright future. No words can ever explain the deep, eternal gratitude I have for each and every one of the staff members who help change and save lives, like mine, every day. Thank you today, tomorrow, and for forever.

Noonday Orange Blossom

The University of Colorado at Boulder accepted Jordan. He will start Fall 2008. Without the Red Cliff Ascent program and staff none of this would be possible. When everyone else walked away RCA stepped up and said we will help Jordan help himself. Today, Jordan is clean and sober.


I just wanted to say thank you for the most rewarding and life-altering experiences of my life. I am now going to college in Oregon and I am studying Criminology and Criminal Justice. And I would not be where I am today if it were not for this program, so thank you.


I don’t give RCA all the credit, but I do hold them responsible for giving me the tools to strengthen myself as an individual. Thanks to these tools, I no longer look to other people for help. I also no longer blame other people for the things that have happened to me. I accept responsibility for my actions, and then I change myself for the better.


I want to extend my thank-yous to the loving souls able to reach me when I couldn’t reach myself.