SunHawk Academy (1996-2011) St. George, UT

Residential Treatment Center

History and Background Information

SunHawk Academy (also called SunHawk Adolescent Recovery Center) was an Aspen Education Group behavior-modification program that opened in 1996. It was marketed as a Residential Treatment Center for teenagers (13-17) who struggled with a variety of challenges such as defiance, substance abuse issues, running away, academic difficulties, low self-esteem, lack of motivation, poor interpersonal communication, running away from home, being physically aggressive, stealing, sexual promiscuity, poor performance, anger management issues, and depression. The program had a maximum enrollment of between 72 and 98 teens, and the average length of stay was reported to be between 6 and 12 months, with a 5-month minimum. In 2002, the program’s tuition cost was $4,950 per month, plus an additional $7,950 for the required four-week initial assessment/wilderness program affiliated with the program. SunHawk Academy was a NATSAP member from 1999 until its closure in 2011.

SunHawk Academy was located at 948 N 1300 W, St. George, UT 84770. In 2011, the program’s campus was reportedly purchased by Abundant Life Academy, but it is unclear whether ALA ever moved into SunHawk’s former campus.

Founders and Notable Staff

Benjamin Harris was the Founder of SunHawk Academy.

Program Structure

Like other behavior-modification programs, SunHawk Academy used a level system. Reports regarding the specifics of the level system vary, but it is believed that the program used between 4 and 7 levels. No additional information regarding the specifics of the level system is currently available.

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Abuse Allegations and Lawsuits

Survivor/Parent Testimonials

5/26/2020: (SURVIVOR) “I’m in my 30s and i still have dreams about being stuck in the facility i lived in. I wouldn’t exactly call them nightmares anymore (i guess i am past that point), but i still have very stressful dreams about not being able to get out as well as about the 24 hour lock-down group therapy sessions (i don’t know the right words for them, the staff called them “seminar”). I used to be part of a survivor group on fb for people who had lived in the same facility that i had, but it ended up being overrun with “program graduates” who would just get on there to praise the place and all of the employees who had traumatized the rest of us… most of these graduates seemed to now be extremely religious and would go on about how “working the program” had saved their lives, and we all would have had it better if we had just tried harder in there. Needless to say, i left. I seriously can’t believe that these types of places still exist. I’m so sorry for all of you that have to carry these experiences with you whether you just got out and they are still fresh, or they are old memories that you can’t quite shake… I’m so sorry.” – u/TheSphinxter (Reddit)

Related Media

SunHawk Academy Website Homepage (archived, 2003)

HEAL Program Information

SunHawk Academy – Secret Prisons for Teens (archived, 2020)