Positive Peer Culture at New Lifehouse Academy Affordable Boarding School for Girls
Positive peer culture teaches teens that becoming dedicated to the wellbeing of others gives them the greatest opportunity to develop responsibility and self-worth. In many cases, adolescents place more value on the opinions and influence of their peers than on those of their parents or other authority figures. Positive peer culture takes therapeutic advantage of this tendency by teaching students to focus on others rather than remaining self-centered. Scripture contains numerous examples and admonitions to care for others. Students eventually discover that their own needs are also met when they focus their attention on serving others first. Positive peer culture fosters a strong sense of community, in which each student takes responsibility for his or her own personal growth but also becomes invested in the growth of the community as a whole. Positive peer culture lends itself to accountability as students take personal responsibility for their actions and also hold others accountable for their choices. Within this context, the peer group no longer hinders personal growth but makes it an asset to a student learning to make responsible choices. While adults remain in control and oversee the care of each student, the teens also assume responsibility for caring for one another. Emotional Growth
Students at New Lifehouse progress through six distinct levels, each of which lasts about four months.
Entry and Level One: Know Yourself
When students arrive at New Lifehouse Academy, their first task is to understand the choices that led them to their current situation. Students must admit the presence of negative issues, take personal responsibility for their actions, and begin to realize how their own choices have affected their lives and the lives of others around them. Spiritually, we desire to see each student begin discovering, or returning to their identity in Christ. After defining their own core issues, students move toward identifying the triggers for those issues.
Level Two and Three: Choose Yourself
Building upon the knowledge gained in Entry and Level One, students then concentrate on recognizing behavior patterns and identifying those things that tend to initiate the patterns. Once students can recognize those triggers, they learn how to make different choices in response to those situations. Students learn how specific issues contribute to the building of a person’s character. The final goal of Level Two and Three involves seeing problems as opportunities instead of perceiving them as trials. We teach the Biblical principle that our weakness allows the strength of Christ to be displayed in us.
Level Four and Five: Give Yourself
With much of their emotional growth work completed, Level Four and Five students shift their focus to giving to others. While still working through details of their individual issues, teens find opportunities to give back to the students coming through the program behind them. Students also take responsibility for daily aspects of the program as part of their leadership training. Available components of Level Four and Five include Missions Trips and Community Service, along with a project intended to leave a lasting benefit for students who will come behind. Also during Level Four and Five, we place great emphasis on planning a successful return to the home environment, especially focusing on long-term results.
Advanced Leadership Training
More than a boarding school for teenagers struggling with family and personal issues, New Lifehouse focuses on advanced leadership training for all of our students. Some teens who come to us have misdirected their God-given leadership abilities, while some have made poor choices while following the lead of others. NLH seeks to help each student develop their own natural leadership traits to the best of their ability. The purpose is to place students in a positive peer leadership role. Most students that come here fall into one of two categories of leadership. One is that they followed the lead of the crowd and the second is that they were leaders in the wrong direction. Students benefit from the leadership roles they are required to be in by learning to lead in the proper way and direction. Students also learn that being a leader is rewarding and overcome the fear of being in that position. They discover what it is like to truly lead and to deal with the responsibility. Because leadership is different in individuals as well as the situation someone might be placed in, we model that here at New Lifehouse. The responsibilities and roles of leadership change as the student progresses through the program. As a member of the Teen Challenge ministry, New Lifehouse students may have an opportunity to participate in the “Emerging Leaders” leadership development curriculum. Emerging leaders lays a great foundation for young people to develop into high-quality leaders. The program includes several books with assignments, personal projects, community service, as well as weekly group meetings with peers and a staff member to discuss the leadership principles they are learning through academics as well as application.
Athletics (Team Sports)
In addition to everyday recreational activities, every student here has the opportunity to participate in varsity athletics. We are convinced that participating on a team in a competitive environment builds character and when lead in a proper way, helps to work out many of the issues a young woman might be dealing with in her life. An example would be frustration and anger when unable to be in control or when things don’t go your way. We see student after student being able to apply this lesson to that issue in her life and connect how acting inappropriate not only impacts her but also those that are closest to her. Participation is not mandatory but is highly recommended. We participate in the Oklahoma Christian School Athletic Association. This allows us to compete against schools of our size and with the appropriate level of competition. Currently, students can participate in basketball, volleyball, and track. The teams are coached by the staff that has experience with these sports, either at the high school or collegiate level.
New Lifehouse provides young women with an experience that will help to instill a positive, strong work ethic into their character. Two major things that we hope to accomplish here are learning to take personal responsibility as well as concern for others. Accomplishing assigned chores and other projects helps the student discover these on her own while being mentored through the process. A lesson discovered is much more powerful than a lesson taught.
Creative Arts Program
As part of the school, every student will enroll in our creative arts program. We truly believe that everyone has a talent in this area. Our goal in creative arts is to help the student discover something they never knew they had or to develop the talent they already know is there. Areas that are taught are:
- Music, keyboard, percussion, guitar
- Singing, solo, ensemble, choir
- Drama, skits, human video
- Public speaking
- Art, drawing, painting
Work Ethic!! A highly important part of personal development and a life skill that is necessary for a successful life, no matter your career path. Through vocations, we help to develop that work ethic. A student here once said this about their time here; “I learned that I like to work.” There is a success story in one sentence!
Daily recreation is important to a well-rounded individual. Our daily schedule allows time for everyone to spend being active. On-campus activities include basketball, volleyball, archery, running, hiking, and general exercise. Additionally, New Lifehouse offers opportunities to help care for animals such as ponies, camels, zebras, kangaroos, and lemurs at Oasis Animal Adventures. Nearby, Grand Lake offers swimming and boating opportunities as weather permits. Off-campus activities include camping, fishing, ropes courses, and numerous field trips to places such as Civil War battlefields, museums, local dam/power plant, parks, and much more.
Integration with Local Youth Groups
The importance of good peer relationships cannot be highlighted enough. The reality of a student’s stay here is that she will return home and back into stressful peer relationships. Today’s society pushes peer relationships in directions that are not always the best or most productive. As a student progresses through the program and reaches the appropriate level, she begins to attend the local youth group. Working closely with the church staff our goal is to integrate our students into the youth group while maintaining healthy boundaries. Through this opportunity, our staff is able to help the students develop appropriate relationships and discover that relationships with peers can be good without the pressures of society.
Students here have the chance to speak at churches around the state and in other countries. Our students have been involved in small street outreaches as well as large events drawing thousands. The results of sharing with others the change in their life are powerful moments of growth in a person. We want every student to experience this during their stay here.
A very exciting aspect of our program is the emphasis that we put on servanthood or more specifically servant leadership. A primary part of young people learning this is to be hands-on in actually serving others. We have found a great way to do this is by immersing the student in this role. Missions provide that opportunity in the best way possible. By taking the student out of her comfort zone and placing her in a situation where there is no familiarity, she is stretched to places and in ways, she never thought were possible. We have taken teams to Swaziland, New York City, Los Angeles, Rwanda, Haiti, Burundi, and the Dominican Republic. Our current annual trips include Santiago Teen Challenge in the Dominican Republic in the spring and to Teen Challenge Rwanda in the capital of Kigali each fall. The students here at New Lifehouse and Teen Challenge of Oklahoma helped find the Teen Challenge Center in Kigali in the fall of 2013. Working with a Pastor in Kigali, the groundwork was laid and today the ministry is thriving in that nation. This trip includes working closely with the staff and students of Rwanda Teen Challenge. It begins with a strong lesson in cultural awareness of the people of Rwanda. During our trip in the fall of 2014, our staff and students also traveled into Burundi to the capital of Bujumbura and not only spoke at a church of 3500 people but had an audience with the vice president where we shared about Teen Challenge and shared personal testimonies. This meeting resulted in the government of Burundi pursuing Teen Challenge to open a center in Burundi. Our students become world changers!
A Normal Day at New Lifehouse
A structured day is a vital part of the success of the program for every student. One of the most frequent comments we get from former students is about missing the structure of the daily schedule. They all report that it gave them a level of comfort in knowing they didn’t have to worry about what they were going to be doing. An average day begins at 6 am with waking up and getting ready for the day which includes morning household chores. The day ends at 9:30 pm after a day ending with a devotional led by staff or students. The schedule throughout the day attempts to balance chores, school, program curriculum, activities, recreation, free time, and of course spiritual development. Much of what a student has available to her is dependent upon her level in the program. An example would be that a level 1 student has less free time than a level 5 student.