Discovery Ranch for Girls (2013-present) Cedar City, UT
Residential Treatment Center
History and Background Information
Discovery Ranch for Girls is an Ascent Company behavior-modification program founded in 2013. It is marketed as a Residential Treatment Center for teenage girls aged 13-17 who struggle with “a variety of of emotional and behavioral issues such as anxiety, depression, eating disorders, adoption, self-harm, substance abuse, etc.” DRG reports that they currently accept transgender females, although this was not always the case. The program states that they have a maximum enrollment of 60. The average length of stay is reported to be between 9-12 months, but may be much longer if the girl is deemed resistant. Their motto is “The Strength is in the Struggle”.
The program is located at 4928 N 4500 W, Cedar City, UT 84721. Discovery Ranch for Girls began as a part of Discovery Ranch, which is located in Mapleton, UT. Discovery Ranch was originally co-ed, but kept the boys and girls completely separate and in different parts of its campus. In 2013, the Girls’ program moved to its current location in Cedar City, UT. Today, Discovery Ranch only accepts males.
Discovery Ranch has been a NATSAP member since 2013. Discovery Ranch is “accredited” by the Northwest Accreditation Commision (NWAC), but it is important to note that neither the United States Department of Education nor the Council for Higher Education Accreditation recognizes the NWAC as an accrediting agency for institutions of higher education. The NWAC is an organization that has “accredited” many notoriously abusive behavior-modification programs, including many WWASP programs.
The program is affiliated with several other Ascent Company programs, such as RedCliff Ascent, Discovery Academy, Discovery Connections, and Oxbow Academy.
Founders and Notable Staff
Andrea Burgess is the current Executive Director of DRG. She formerly worked as the Executive Director of Redcliff Ascent beginning in 1996.
Jack Hinman previously worked as the Clinical Director at DRG. He also worked as the Clinical Director of Sunrise RTC. He currently works as the Executive Director of Moonridge Academy and Kolob Canyon RTC.
Tim Lowe worked as a Therapist at DRG. He previously worked for Discovery Ranch and Outback Therapeutic Expeditions.
Clint Firth was the Academic Director at DRG. He also has worked as a Teacher at Logan River Academy.
Discovery Ranch for Girls’ program structure is identical to the program at Discovery Ranch. Like other behavior-modification programs, Discovery Ranch utilizes a level system based around a merit/demerit structure. The level-system consists of five levels, which the boys progress through by earning points for good behavior while avoiding demerits for negative behaviors and rule infractions.
DR also advertises their “calf program” heavily, where each new resident is given a baby calf to care for and raise. It is reported by survivors that these calfs are later slaughtered, apparently in an attempt to teach the residents “how to deal with loss.” This practice is extremely cruel, and is reported to be very traumatic to many survivors.
The teenagers at Discovery Ranch as forced to adhere to a strict set of rules at all time. Any minor infraction is punished severely. Teenagers can be punished for infractions as small as “making an inappropriate facial expression”, meaning they can be punished for crying or raising their eyebrows without permission.
Teenagers at Discovery Ranch have extremely limited contact with the outside world. It is reported that they are only allowed to communicate with their parents through heavily censored and monitored letters, as well as a once-monthly phone call, which is also monitored by staff. This type of environment makes reporting abuse and neglect impossible for teenagers. In addition, survivors have reported that on the off-chance that they are able to inform their parents of abuse, their parents are manipulated by DR into believing that their child is lying and “being manipulative” in an attempt to be pulled from the program.
Discovery Ranch is reported by many survivors to be an extremely abusive program. Allegations of abuse that have been reported by survivors include malnutrition/food deprivation, verbal abuse, sexual abuse, physical abuse, and solitary confinement used as punishment.
One survivor reported in 2020 that a male staff had recently been fired from DRG for having a sexual relationship with one of the underaged residents at the school over the course of several months. No additional information has been found regarding this.
7/21/2020: (SURVIVOR) “This place is horrible for your girls. I used to be a staff there and saw how they were mistreated by not being fed enough, verbal abuse, and just downright disgusting to the girls. Recently a Male staff was fired for having a sexual relationship with a minor there and none of the staff knew about it for months. That proves how unsafe the environment is for your children. DO NOT take your kids there.” – Anonymous (Yelp)
5/30/2010: (SURVIVOR) “i really struggled at DRG i got there on my 15th birthday and i was there for over a year, my therapist was all shits and giggle, i love my mom dearly and iknow she wanted to help me, i forgive her for try to help me, the problem with everything is that i didn’t even make it to the phase of 3 which is a home visit!! maybe send your kid there but after a year if they don’t get there three send hem or pull them, don’t keep them there, Matt Bothell was a super abusive staff he actually punched me in my ribs and left bruises, he isn’t good, Sammy she was my favorite staff of all time she was amazing, Faisal he was amazing Hannah Pena was my favorite of all time as well they helped me but not Matt, not Janea, they didn’t care, if you want to talk more about details just let me know, i went in there with trauma, i came out purging hating my body scared of everyone, terrified i’m gonna get sent to another abusive place!!! don’t believe them, when they set you up for a tour they tell the girls that they can’t say anything bad or maybe it’s a phase drop, or a protocol they weren’t good so don’t believe them, i want pulled and sent to wilderness and then i went home!! it’s not the place” – Destoni (Yelp)
5/27/2020: (SURVIVOR) “PLEASE READ!!!!!! Wow i cannot even begin to explain how completely terrible this program is. They lied to me constantly. DRG is abusive. The way that they treat the girls there is so messed up. My mom was completely oblivious the all the abuse going on at the ranch and they would convince her that it was my fault and that i was in control of everything that was happening to me. I was told by a therapist that she thinks i am a narcissist because my dad is a narcissist. I was so scared and I hated myself and thought that i could never be a good person. This was all complete bullshit and i know it now. I struggled with Anorexia before coming to the ranch. I came out with bulimia. I had been vegan for 3 years, before i came, and they told me that they would accomodate a vegan diet. When i got there, I was told that was completely untrue. I was forced to eat dairy and eggs every day. They started to threaten me and say that unless i ate it, i wouldn’t be able to get my levels to go home. So i started eating it,but i wouldn’t keep it down, i would go throw it up but i kept doing it just so that i could make it through the program. I had never struggled with bulimia, but here, i was forced to go against my morals and it was too much for me to handle. I literally don’t understand how there are places out there like this and how its legal. I was hungry all the time, and denied any food, I would beg for a trail mix or anything to eat which was difficult considering my ED. They would tell me that i was trying to manipulate everyone. I was hungry, i just wanted to eat! The entire experience was so traumatizing. There was a staff named Jeanae who I was really close with, when i left as a level 2 and didn’t graduate the program, she completely stopped liking me and she tried to hurt me in any way that she could without getting herself in trouble. On my last day, i was asking to say goodbye to my friends and she made sure that that wouldn’t be possible. She said i didn’t deserve to say goodbye to them because of what a bad person i was. She told me that i would be completely unsuccessful at home and that there was no way that i would have a happy good life. I have been home for 3 months now and she was so wrong. Im still sober and i’m completely healthy, Im able to be vegan and i eat plenty of food. She obviously didn’t give a shit about me as a person. She judged me based on the level i was on, not on my actual progress. I put in so much effort and i felt like a failure when i left because everyone was telling me that i manipulated my way out of the program and that they wish me the best but know that im 99% going to relapse. Wow, such a great way to put a girl back into the world, make her feel like shit about herself and tell her shes a failure. Luckily i disregarded most of these things once i left and im doing amazing! If you are considering sending your kid here, please dont! I would not wish this experience on my worst enemy. As a parent you will be fed all the lies about how amazing the program is and how it will help your daughter even if she doesnt like it. It is all a lie, its about money, its not about your daughter, and they make that very clear to you when you are a student there. They will have girls tour you and tell you all the amazing things about the ranch, they hand pick the girls who they know will say good things. I was picked a few times and i would lie and say how good the program was because i was scared of what would happen to me if i told the truth. After i left, Jeanae, the staff, took all her anger out on my best friend Sandra. She punished her and she put her on protocols for saying goodbye to me. Her therapist ended up reversing the punishments because it was so ridiculous. The staff are all random college kids who want power and control over something in their life. Another terrible staff was Kelsey, she literally was so rude to the girls and she would purposefully try to push your buttons so that you would get upset and act out.They love to show dominion over you and make it clear that they are more powerful than you are. If you are not a favorite, it is almost impossible to get through the program. Random college kids are deciding whether or not they think you deserve to move up a level. If they don’t like you, they have the power to not let you get your next level. As a student, you get no say in anything that happens to you, you are thrown around like a rag doll and treated almost like an animal. Then you are told to be vulnerable and ask for help, and everytime you talk about something you are struggling with, you get in trouble! My motto for DRG every day was: Be vulnerable, but don’t struggle. If you are smart, You will be quiet. Go against your morals, its cheaper. I can go on and on and on about the terrors of Discovery Ranch but i will say there are a select few people who were genuinely good and who did care, but the majority of people were absolutely terrible.” – Daniela (Yelp)
12/17/2019: (SURVIVOR) “Yes I started there hurt and with no one trusting me and when I left I was resilient and for the most part happy. But that place was incredibly manipulative, abusive, and broke me to the core. They truly showed this beautiful cover of how they will fix your ‘broken troubled teen’ but it isn’t them who does it, it is your daughter. They push you to the floor until you finally get yourself back up. Don’t even get me started that the food is terrible and lots of times girls wouldn’t eat plainly because it wasn’t good. The level system creates this standard and makes you feel worthless if you get dropped for bumps in the road. It becomes this social contest and if you aren’t an upper level or you don’t get your level you will be whispered about from not just the girls but the staff too. They tell you it’s okay everyone makes mistakes but when you make them they punish you. Please please please consider what your daughter truly struggles with before taking her there. Talk to her. Let her tell you how she feels and communicate so she has a say in where she is going. Don’t just put her on the next plane ride to a random place alone. It’s slowly makes you go insane. Aftercare was awful and Chris only came once and my therapist as well. They give you this idea and don’t follow through with it. Sorry for ranting lol but it is really my truth” – Sydney (Yelp)
1/21/2019: (SURVIVOR) “I went to Discover Ranch from the age of 14/15 to 17. Worst experience, it was traumatizing for many people there and the rate of kids who have since left and committed suicide is ridiculously high. I am almost 22 now and I cannot get over that there are places like this that exist. The person who ran the show at the time was named Jack and he was mean, homophobic and made the place completely dehumanizing. I was there from when the ranch was in Mapleton, and coeducational and it moved to Cedar City and is now all girls, so I experienced both. They tried to get parents to send their kids there by showing them the nice facilities and all these things they have to offer. Guess what? We did none of that. The only part of the Ranch that made my stay semi bearable was the equine director, Lee. She really knew what she was doing with the equine program. PARENTS- DO NOT SEND YOUR KIDS ANYWHERE IN UTAH. I don’t know about other places but I know the state of Utah has different laws regarding what is and what is not okay in regards to punishing children. They put me in a room for TWO WEEKS and only let me out to shower (completely naked in front of them) or to hand me food. My parents regret sending me here and only years later have realized how awful this place is. If you want a healthy relationship with your child and for them to trust you, DO NOT SEND THEM HERE.” – Annie (Yelp)
4/1/2018: (SURVIVOR) “This company is incredibly abusive and they are making billions off of families that are struggling to connect with their children. PLEASE! Seek LOCAL HELP. Be INVOLVED. These programs are run so perfectly to make parents completely oblivious to what is truly happening with their kids. The kid misbehaves and gets a hair cut that doesn’t meet the Mormon standard= Receiving a call from the program saying your kid just tried to kill themselves. This causes fear in the parents, which leads to them throwing more money at this program. You can’t pay someone $10,000 a month to “fix” your child. They will come home SHELL SHOCKED, DEPRESSED, CONFUSED, MORE bad behaviors they learned from peers, LOSS of friends, DISTRUST in you. Do you want this?! Don’t you want to have an honest, healthy relationship with your child? Do you want them to feel SAFE, HAPPY, and HEALTHY? You can do all of this without giving them PTSD from sending them away while you live your normal life back at home. This is INEFFECTIVE because they are “learning” (NOT) how to cope with their pain in an artificial ABUSIVE environment. I will revamp this review when I have time, but please head over to the Discovery Ranch yelp page and read my two reviews. Please contact me for further questions. Some day, we will have the power to shut down these AWFUL programs making money off desperate families. Until then, educate yourself and take the MULTITUDE of negative reviews to heart. These former students are not writing these because they’re just angry because they got sent away. They are in pain and they are feeling at a loss on how to have a voice after being trained that they are prisoners.” – Mollie (Yelp)