Gateway Academy (2002-present) Draper/Salt Lake City, UT
Residential Treatment Center
History and Background Information
Gateway Academy is a behavior-modification program that opened in 2002. It is marketed as a Residential Treatment Center for teenage boys between the ages of 14 and 17. Their website states that they enroll boys with a history of the following: depression, anxiety, executive functioning problems, impulsivity and attention problems, social and relationship difficulties, unresolved trauma, diminished self-esteem, difficulties at home, lack of motivation, oppositional attitudes, experimentation with alcohol and drugs, excessive computer/electronic use, identity and developmental issues, and academic deficits. The program has a maximum enrollment of 44, and the average length of stay is reported to be between 10 and 12 months, but can be substantially longer if the teenager is deemed resistant.
The program is located at 11706 South 700 East, Draper, Utah 84020. It is reported that the program also operates a second campus, located less that 16 miles away at 2487 South 700 East, Salt Lake City, UT 84106. However, it is unclear whether or not Gateway Academy still operates in this campus.
Gateway Academy has been a NATSAP member since 2002. It is also reported that Gateway Academy was “accredited” by the Northwest Accreditation Commission (NWAC) but it is important to note that neither the United States Department of Education nor the Council for Higher Education Accreditation recognizes NWAC as an accrediting agency for institutions of higher education. NWAC is an organization that has “accredited” many notoriously abusive behavior-modification programs, including many WWASP programs.
Founders and Notable Staff
Karen Flynn is the CEO and Co-Owner of Gateway Academy.
Rebecca Garfield is the Executive Director of Gateway Academy.
Julie Barbero is the Clinical Director and Co-Owner of Gateway Academy.
- Michelle Gourley is the Director of Clinical Development and Co-Owner of Gateway Academy. She previously worked as the Clinical Director of Kaizen Academy, which is also known by the names Heritage Youth Services and Birdseye RTC.
Kelly Means is the Program Director of Gateway Academy.
Melissa Hickman is the Marketing Director and Co-Owner of Gateway Academy.
When a boy arrives at Gateway Academy, they are assigned rooms with 3-5 others, though they reportedly rarely see them. The days are reported to be very strictly regulated, with all of the ‘group’ being made to do everything set out as one. Alone time is reported to be very limited, and anything as innocuous as trying to read or otherwise keep to oneself during set free time is allegedly decried as ‘isolating’. Parents are reported to be warned not to believe their children’s complaints, and dismiss them as merely “manipulation” attempts.
Like other behavior-modification programs, Gateway Academy uses a level/phase system consisting of six levels. The levels are reported to be:
- Orientation: When a resident is on Orientation, they are prohibited from speaking to anybody who isn’t an “upper-level” without a staff member listening. This typically lasted the first week or two after arriving. On this level, boys are not allowed to read books, have social call with parents, talk to students under ‘Mapping’ without a staff listening, play any type of games, and they can’t be alone, ever.
- Mapping: On this level, residents can play games, but still can’t talk to students Under ‘Mapping’ without a a staff listening. They are allowed no books besides self-help books, and are given one 10 minute social call with parents per week (which is monitored by staff). They are also allowed to have on-campus visits with their parents.
- Mapping with Trust: This level usually takes between 1-6 months to achieve. Residents are given one 15 min social call per week (which is monitored by staff). They can also read books, talk to any student, and are granted a 6-hour off-campus visit with their parents.
- Cairns: This level usually takes between 2 and 7 months to achieve. Residents can now “roam” with staff permission (walk around house alone). They are also allowed to walk outside of the house. They are given one 20 minute phone call with their parents, which is no longer monitored by staff. They are also allwoed to use an iPod and have overnight visits with their parents. They are also given the ability to go on facebook with their therapist present.
- Path: Resident no longer need to fill out a shift sheet. They are also given longer phone calls with their parents. They are also allowed to talk with people outside of the program.
- Gateway: This is the final phase of the program.
It has been reported by survivors that past the initial levels, where the teenager is broken as typical of programs, advancement becomes seemingly arbitrary. The teenagers’ “performance” aside, the staff are reported to more or less randomly raise or lower their level. The reason given is alleged to usually be an exaggeration of some normally unnoticeable trait, often an accusations of ‘isolating’ or ‘not being real enough’.
Gateway Academy also is reported to use a number of “groups” as part of its program. These groups include:
- Young Adult Learning Group: “Combined academic and treatment experience focuses on learning adult roles and life skills, gender development, relationship and employment skills.”
- Expectations Group: “A group held each morning focuses on reviewing, setting and understanding goals and expectations of the day.”
- RAP Group: “A daily peer support group focuses on problem solving, conflict resolution, and team building.” Note: “RAP” groups were also used as a central part of the program at CEDU, and are well-known to consist of Attack Therapy. Click here for more information on the specifics of the RAP groups used at CEDU.
Gateway Academy’s program was reportedly centered around 3 beliefs:
- 1. Jesus Christ is Lord of our lives and first place in everything we think, say, and do.
- 2. Students are surrounded by Christ’s love and the support from mentors and peers that builds confidence, relationships, and a bright future.
- 3. Discipline and hard work forge good character while education opens the pathway to new opportunities.
The program stated that is believed heavily in traditional biblical principals. This likely means that being LGBTQ+ is not accepted and, possibly, methods of conversion therapy may be used against residents.
In recent years, Gateway Academy has made attempts to distance itself from its religious ties. It now claims that its program in “integrated” using 5 “core touchstones”. These are:
- 1. Therapy that is individualized
- 2. Education that is personal (in a classroom setting)
- 3. Adventure that is therapeutic
- 4. Community that is empowering
- 5. Fitness that sparks the brain.
No additional information regarding Gateway Academy’s program structure is currently known. If you attended Gateway Academy and would like to contribute information, please contact u/shroomskillet.
According to one survivor, a typical day at Gateway Academy is as follows:
“In the mornings we would wake up and do “morning rec”. This consisted of either dancing to “Sweating to the Oldies” or following a workout plan created by one of the obese Grave staff babysitters. This would be a anything ranging from step-ups to pseudo-yoga. You would have to follow every activity with a smile on your face or you would receive a lower grade on your shift sheet. Ranging from 1-4. (Shifts sheets help determine which level you could apply for). After the morning rec you “line up in silence” and then go upstairs to shower. Someone who wanted a “4” on their shifts sheet would volunteer to time showers. A shower would be 3 minutes with the water on. As I said before everything is based on a schedule and routine. You would make your bed, get dressed, and then line up to go downstairs for breakfast. Most of the time that I was at Gateway there would be someone who would throw a tantrum and wouldn’t leave their room so everyone would have to wait till another staff would arrive so we could all go downstairs. School is three classes a day at 1.5 hours a day Monday-Friday. Many of the teachers seemed qualified and it’s extremely difficult to not do your homework when you have so much support. I am happy for that one aspect of Gateway as I left with better grades that look good on a college transcript. There’s a mid-day “Mat Class” which is run by which-ever student wants a good score on their shift sheet. More yoga nonsense. After school there is a 10-20 minute recess and then a 2 hour group. The group includes a check-in and then focuses on whichever inmates are the most fucked up that day/week. Includes “negative confrontations” aka some kid has beef with another kid, and “negative contracts” some kids talk shit or talk about not gateway appropriate topics. The entire program shapes the community into policing each other by “holding boundaries” aka tattle tailing anytime someone breaks any of the hundreds of rules. So groups over, now its a recess and a study hall. Dinner. Then a study hall/freetime and after that a Evening group (I forgot what they call it.) People check-in, give feedback (tattle tale), and then write down a some shit about their day. Then off to bed. The schedule at gateway is like that Monday through Thursday. Fridays have more groups and activities. Saturdays and Sundays we would go skiing, rock climbing, or to the recreation center.”
If a resident at Gateway Academy breaks a rule, they can be given a variety of punishments. These include:
- Blocks: This is a piece of paper with a punishment on it (ex: you swear = you write a paper). The punishment up to staff discretion. If a teen receives 4 blocks, they get put on “off phase”.
- Off Phase: When a resident receives 4 blocks, they are put on off-phase. With this, they can only talk to the upper phases, and they lose some privileges.
- Off Track: This punishment is used when a resident breaks a major rule. With this, the resident can’t talk to anyone, even staff. They are sometimes kept in a room all day with a staff member. They are forced to complete assignments to “get back on track”. Residents can be put “off track” for infractions such as going on the internet, fighting a staff, relapsing, or constant negativity. This punishment is reported to be basically solitary confinement/isolation.
Gateway Academy is reported by many survivors to be an abusive program. Allegations of abuse and neglect include widespread emotional and verbal abuse, unsanitary living conditions, staff abusing their power, and soitary confinement used as punishment. It is reported by several survivors that many former residents of Gateway Academy have since passed away from causes such as suicide and drug overdoses. Note that these allegations have been reported by survivors of the program and cannot be independently verified.
2019: (SURVIVOR) “These people are the worst people and the worst therapists that I have ever met. If you send your children here you are a selfish person and didn’t deserve them in the first place. Give them to relatives if that’s the level of parent and person that you are.” – Soren (Google Reviews)
2019: (SURVIVOR) “Go visit my classmates graves if you wanna see what a great school this is. Every single one of us was abused and treated like we weren’t human beings. They used everything against us. They even would use restricting food as a weapon. Don;t send your kids here and pay to have them abused. Don’t send your kids to an early grave please. If you don’t believe me ask the Draper Police Department for the police logs. 3 calls surrounding sexual abuse for one “campus” thats only been open since 2006. #numberdontlie” – Greg (Google Reviews)
2018: (SURVIVOR) “notice how all the five star reviews are from parents who didn’t experience what it’s like to be at gateway and every single bad review is from actual students. I am in a group chat with almost every kid that was on alpine with me during the duration of my stay and every single one of them feels worse off than before they went to gateway and many are struggling with addiction, depression, and anxiety. Gateway buys the cheapest food they can get and purposely under feeds the students to give the illusion that they are healthy to the parents. Staff are not trained properly to work with kids with specific needs and some staff members are just straight up passive aggressive. This is a program designed to prepair kids for future treatment. This is NOT a program that will give your child the skills he needs to be successful in the real world.” – Frag (Google Reviews)
2018: (SURVIVOR) “Every time I look for information on the kids I knew here, I discover that more and more of them have DIED. The elevated rate of suicide and serious drug abuse among former patients should be enough to keep any parent far away from this place. The therapeutic environment is disingenuous and cynical. The staff are uninvested, bored, and abuse their authority to torment & humiliate kids they dislike. The kids are forced to manipulate and lie their way out of this prison and learn only to hate their parents. This model of therapy is an outdated and dangerous failure. But if you want to be rid of the burden of raising your difficult child, go ahead and ditch them here.” – Joggi (Google Reviews)
2018: (SURVIVOR) “I graduated Gateway several years ago, and I still have pervasive PTSD symptoms in my life because of my experience there. Gateway is truly a cruel place. Me and my peers were treated unjustly, and lived a low quality of life. I was robbed of the chance of a genuine childhood, even and fully normal adult life, because of the way I was treated. Heed my warning before sending your child away. While harder, its much more worth while to you and your child’s long term relationship to work through your troubles at HOME. Wether that be smoking marijuana or getting into altercations at school, working through issues with your child, being patient, helping them improve from their mistakes and flaws instead of shunning them and sending them away, will have a powerful and lasting respect in their later years. Gateway is a short term stress relief for parents. I understand the temptation for this quick fix, but it is ultimately very selfish for the child. Do the hard work now, and you will be so grateful you did later.” – Ben (Google Reviews)
2017: (SURVIVOR) “Are you a prospective parent looking for a place to ruin your child’s life? Look no further! Gateway is a member of the Undesirable Child Industrial Complex™, priding itself in the emotional abuse of vulnerable people for profit. There is no more effective means of turning your poor child into a distrusting, fearful, and depressive shell of themself than to rob them of their human autonomy and subject them to institutional abuse. Half the kids I personally knew when I was held hostage here were disowned by their parents after turning 18, left homeless in the middle of Mormon suburbia with literally nothing but the clothes on their back. I personally spent $250 of my own money to buy a train ticket for one of them back to their home after being left homeless in this godforsaken state. Gateway was one of at least a dozen of these “Bad Kid Camps” that I had been forced to go to, and it was one of at least a dozen experiences that makes me want to take my life each day.” – Pasty White Nerd (Google Reviews)
2016: (SURVIVOR) “I would honestly rather die of internal bleeding than spend another day there. If someone talks at the wrong time, well no food for you. I had my personal religious property stripped of me as a “safety hazard”. If they were bored they take away your freedom of speech. You have to earn the right to wear a hat. It’s a “therapy” program and your not allowed to give someone a hug, even a high five landed you in your room for a couple of hours. Did I mention that the place is so dirty that there were grease stains running down the wall. I found a dead rat in the pantry.” – Denality (Google Reviews)
6/16/2013: (SURVIVOR) “I am a survivor of Gateway Academy’s emotional abuse. It was my second “program” after being in Aspen’s Youth Care. It is a horrible program and my so-called “therapist”, MaryBeth DESTROYED my self-esteem. I am now struggling and all of my friends who knew me before explain me as that “the life was sucked out of him.” I would love to share my story as a way of helping other victims as well as helping me heal.” – u/Ryanbay12 (Reddit)
6/12/2012: (SURVIVOR) “I was at gateway from Late 09 to mid 10. I spent six months at the program which is relatively short. Most people I knew would stay from 8-11 months. Fortunately I turned 18 and graduated high school so I had much leverage to leave. I spent 9 weeks at a wilderness program before being taken to Gateway. I got driven directly from wilderness to gateway by my wilderness therapist. Arriving at Gateway I was really happy not to have to sleep outside anymore. From then on I started noticing how messed up the place was. Everything was on a schedule and there was no flexibility and little to no freedom. In the mornings we would wake up and do “morning rec”. This consisted of either dancing to “Sweating to the Oldies” or following a workout plan created by one of the obese Grave staff babysitters. This would be a anything ranging from step-ups to pseudo-yoga. You would have to follow every activity with a smile on your face or you would receive a lower grade on your shift sheet. Ranging from 1-4. (Shifts sheets help determine which level you could apply for). After the morning rec you “line up in silence” and then go upstairs to shower. Someone who wanted a “4” on their shifts sheet would volunteer to time showers. A shower would be 3 minutes with the water on. As I said before everything is based on a schedule and routine. You would make your bed, get dressed, and then line up to go downstairs for breakfast. Most of the time that I was at Gateway there would be someone who would throw a tantrum and wouldn’t leave their room so everyone would have to wait till another staff would arrive so we could all go downstairs. School is three classes a day at 1.5 hours a day Monday-Friday. Many of the teachers seemed qualified and it’s extremely difficult to not do your homework when you have so much support. I am happy for that one aspect of Gateway as I left with better grades that look good on a college transcript. There’s a mid-day “Mat Class” which is run by which-ever student wants a good score on their shift sheet. More yoga nonsense. After school there is a 10-20 minute recess and then a 2 hour group. The group includes a check-in and then focuses on whichever inmates are the most fucked up that day/week. Includes “negative confrontations” aka some kid has beef with another kid, and “negative contracts” some kids talk shit or talk about not gateway appropriate topics. The entire program shapes the community into policing each other by “holding boundaries” aka tattle tailing anytime someone breaks any of the hundreds of rules. So groups over, now its a recess and a study hall. Dinner. Then a study hall/freetime and after that a Evening group (I forgot what they call it.) People check-in, give feedback (tattle tale), and then write down a some shit about their day. Then off to bed. The schedule at gateway is like that Monday through Thursday. Fridays have more groups and activities. Saturdays and Sundays we would go skiing, rock climbing, or to the recreation center. Random shit: A lot of the time we could not go to the recreation center or out of the house due to one of the boys throwing a tantrum. There is a strict 1-4 staff-student ratio. All conversations must be heard by a staff “staff earshot”— some staff were bigger dicks about that rule than others. Finally: So that was probably a shit ton to read. I probably left a bunch out. These type of programs put the parents against their child. You don’t know what to do with your kid so you sent them away, so who do you trust? The therapist or the kid? The therapist will try to keep your child as long as possible and even suggest a Transitional Living Program if your child is not committed to being sober. My aftermath. I was at Gateway for six months. I made the Cairns phase but left the program “off-track” as I had been involved in an incident a week before. I threatened to leave the program when put off track as I was 18. My therapist called the Transitional Living I was supposed to go to and had them tell me I would not be accepted if I left gateway before my release date a week later. My parents would not let me come home. Well two months down the line I had been at the Transitional Living and was told I would have to stay 4 months longer. So I left and went on a drug binge. I was sent to a wilderness again. Now I live at home a smoke marijuana a bunch, and do not work or go to college as of yet. If you’re rich Gateway is good daycare/jail and can lead to more money down the drain. Is your “marijuana addicted teen” worth 150k? I think not….”
Unknown Date: (SURVIVOR) “In the summer of 2006 I was having problems at home. Me and my parents fought all the time, and I was having issues at school the year before. My parents didn’t know what to do with me, so they decided to send me to what they called bording school in Salt Lake City Ut. I arrived at Gateway Academy in September of 2006 not knowing what to expect, and immediatly realized this was far from a normal bording school. I was told I would start on orientation phase and I wasn’t allowed to talk to anyone who wasn’t a staff member or on a high enough phase. The school aspect was hardly school at all, we had two 1 hour classes a day, and spent the rest of our day focusing on our “treatment”. I didnt make it very far in my treatment there. After 3 weeks of resfusing to conform to their program I was escorted and told I would be taken to a wilderness program.” – Max
Gateway Academy Website Homepage
HEAL Program Information – Gateway Academy
Gateway Academy – Fornits Wiki (archived, 2018)