There were always kids at Escuela Caribe whose parents had heard of the school from someone else's- "the program" encouraged our parents to recruit. In my time, there was a group from San Diego , from Pennsylvania, and of course kids from Indiana, Illinois, Michigan and other parts of the Midwest. Before sending me, my parents had talked to a family from Alabama about how "the program" changed their life. Not only did the recruitment keep the program supplied with more kids. It kept our parents from questioning when we obviously weren't right when we came back.*
I think it was 1994 when my dad brought the kid to our house. I was home for the holidays, still trying to negotiate how to interact with my family. I had just completed my first semester at the University of Georgia, which meant that my parents had relocated to southwest Georgia about a year before.
The kid and I sat in the living room while our parents had a discussion in the den. He was a few years younger than me, cute (a brunette), his parents only child. He kept bragging about how "hard" he was, about all the things he had stolen, how no one could control him. I want to say he trafficked in drugs, small time . But then I could just be getting him confused with some other kid from Parkwood Behavioral Services, the gateway program that got me sent to Escuela Caribe. I never would have had a conversation about drugs at Escuela Caribe- we weren't allowed to talk about our "negative pasts" or pretty much any past at all. There you were stuck in the eternal present.
My parents were telling his parents about Escuela Caribe, how the program had saved my life. And it is weird that they did this when you realize that at this time I had asked the state of Mississippi to issue me a restraining order a violent obsessive (the judge granted it after telling me this would never have happened if I "let(the guy) have what he wanted"), that I had destroyed my GPA because I couldn't seem to force myself to weather the land of ice and snow and get to Taylor's gym class, that I had moved from Indiana to Mississippi to San Francisco before transferring to my third and final school, that several of my program friends were pregnant or had had a child (We'd been out two years). I was barely scraping by. But if there is one thing about my family- we want to believe (so much more later on that).
So his parents came in and asked do you think the program would be good for him? And I wanted to say no but I just shrugged. I remember that I had all these images flashing of hour long sessions of group punishment for asinine reasons (like the housemom who hid the spatula because she wanted to get us girls) or watching Mark B being forced to do push-ups with two kids on his back, or all the different kids I saw slammed against the wall, or....but the other part, the part of me that had adopted the group's mores, forced the real me to shut up.
I remember I thought of myself at fifteen- how I got sent away mainly because I couldn't get along with my parents, and I remember I qualified it, saying "I think it would be better for (your son) than me." I remember I emphasized the me- because he was the one bragging abut how hard he was. Because they didn't ask me how the program transformed me into a cowed submissive who didn't backtalk her parents- all they asked was would it give them results.
And I am telling you this now because that confusion correlates to Stockholm Syndrome and mind control, how for years I adopted the group norms and didn't have the words to speak out. And also because in 2005 after my father read Jesus Land and we had a big cry on Easter morning, me asking how could you do this? I remember I was shocked when he asked me how could you help me do this to my friend's kid? And I tell you now, that until that moment with him, I had completely forgotten.
*(If anyone knows if Lifeline/ Caribbean Mountain Academy does this, can you please let me know?)