immy Hawkins* was 6 when his parents separated. His dad left suddenly and seldom contacted him. Jimmy’s knowledge of his father came from old photos and hearing his mother describe how abusive he was.
Years later Jimmy began blaming his mother for breaking up their home. He became defiant, aggressive, and controlling. His mother was afraid of him. He stayed up late, and then overslept and missed school. His grades dropped from B’s to F’s.
“I was losing Jimmy,” Mrs. Hawkins admits. “And he was a negative influence on his little sister.”
Jimmy was diagnosed with attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and placed on medication that doctors thought would help; instead, Jimmy became more unmanageable. Then one of his teachers told Mrs. Hawkins about Advent Home Learning Center and its program for boys with ADHD and behavior problems. Jimmy was enrolled.
Jimmy, now 14, has spent 13 months at Advent Home and is slowly making progress. He works off pent-up anger running on the lap field, weeding and watering plants, and playing basketball. Counselors are teaching him ways to deal responsibly with his anger and to resolve conflicts with others in healthy ways.
At school the teachers are caring but firm, and Jimmy is taught to accept consequences for negative behaviors. In the dorm he’s learning habits of tidiness and organization, as well as how to get along well with others and be part of a team.
His mother is noticing the change; she says he is now calmer and more respectful. He also wants to attend an Adventist boarding academy when he leaves Advent Home.
Jimmy is turning around.
Twenty-eight years ago Advent Home—situated on 225 acres of rolling hills and forests in Calhoun, Tennessee—began ministering to delinquent teen boys ages 12 to 18, offering them and their families healing and restoration through a more healthful lifestyle and a growing relationship with Jesus Christ. The various methods used became part of the home’s Maturation Therapy Program. In 1995 the home transitioned to serving at-risk boys who had been diagnosed with ADHD. Boys with ADHD have emotional problems and frequently “act out” by expressing negative attitudes and behaviors. They don’t adjust well to traditional classroom or home settings. Their hyperactivity and impulsiveness—often misunderstood—frequently result in their dismissal from public or church schools.
DORMITORY: Advent Home and its dormitory are equipped to accommodate 32 boys.
Like Jimmy, many ADHD students have out-of-control anger problems. Although academically bright, they generally are one to four years behind in grade levels. They develop such behaviors as stealing, lying, cheating, manipulating, avoiding close family relations, shoplifting, experimenting with smoking cigarettes and marijuana, and running away from home.
These boys are at risk of failing not only in school but also in life, and need serious interventions to reverse their downward spiral. Their inadequate academic skills, poor interpersonal skills, broken family relations, poor work skills, and determination to drop out of school before graduating reveal their lack of readiness for the future.
Most of the students at Advent Home are Seventh-day Adventists, but about 20 percent are not. There is a wide range of ethnicity among the students, who come from many regions of the United States and other countries as well.
Advent Home is equipped to house 32 boys. When they arrive, they encounter a minimum-distraction environment in a rural setting with no TV or other electronic equipment, a vegetarian diet, and a highly regulated schedule. They spend time working and playing outside, and receive both formal and informal counseling in one-on-one and group sessions. They are encouraged to talk freely during these sessions, openly expressing their feelings. As their bodies, minds, and hearts begin to heal, some discover Jesus, and their lives are transformed.
Family Training and Reconciliation
Learning respect for parents and other loved ones is a priority at Advent Home as well as an important aspect of the healing and growth process. Family forums take place each quarter on campus. During these special weekends, students and their families come together for worship, spiritual renewal, testimonies, and family training seminars in which they discuss family issues, ask forgiveness when needed, and are emotionally reunited.
Spiritual activities and the importance of a growing relationship with God are also emphasized at Advent Home, and baptisms often result.
A Lasting Difference
In the past five years Advent Home has ministered to more than 318 at-risk students. Since 2009 the teachers and counselors have assisted approximately 25 students to enroll in Adventist boarding schools. Some students have gone on to become college and graduate students, as well as career professionals. Others entered other vocations. The Lord has richly blessed Advent Home with successful intervention in the lives of many families.
To learn more about Advent Home, call 423-336-5052 or visit www.adventhome.org.
* a pseudonym
Blondel E. Senior, Ph.D., is founder/director of Advent Home Learning Center. Barbara Graham, with Advent Home’s Development Office, also contributed to this article. This article was published February 28, 2013.