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Family environment of Synergy program in Cornish helps troubled boys

October 2nd, 2012 Posted in Arts and Life, Business

By Brandon Fonda

CORNISH – Troubled boys ages 14 – 17 who suffer problems ranging from oppositional behavior and aggression to substance abuse have an option in Cache Valley.  Synergy Youth Treatment is a residential treatment program designed to help.

Synergy opened in August of 2011, and is privately owned and operated by Aaron Cothran, a licensed clinical social worker.  The boys home used to be an old church house located on 4473 W. 13400 North that was converted in order to house 16 boys.

“We currently have eight boys with us,” Shayne Larsen, chief officer of operations, said.

The program is designed to be eight to 12 months long depending on a boy’s progression. They get personal support with live-in couples, daily therapy sessions with a licensed therapist, have learning activities and continue or finish their high school education.

Currently every boy is home-schooled through Brigham Young University independent study, but public school may be offered based on a boy’s progression and approval of his parents.  Larsen, who is also the boys’ teacher, is at Synergy from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. on school days running the independent home study sessions.

Although the job is tough, Larsen says it is rewarding.

“The boys come to us at different ages and different deficits in their education,” Larsen said. “I’ve got a kid who needs chemistry, one who needs English and one who is working on his business law class. Every kid needs a different course to fulfill his GED and I have to oversee it.”

It’s all worth it, Larsen says. “To see the boys succeed, their lives change and abilities improve brings a reward that is hard to match.”

The boys’ education is extremely important, but one of the program’s main goals is to create a good example of a home and family, said  David and Kelli Pyle, one of the live-in couples and managers at Synergy. The Pyles were hired a couple of months before Synergy opened. David, 25, and Kelli, 23, are currently attending Utah State University. Both are working on bachelors degrees in social work but live at the boys home.

The live-in staff are married couples who help create a healthy environment and provide a home-like example for the boys. They are certified in CPR and first aid, have food handling licenses, and receive training in adolescent development and interactions.

“Kelli found the job on the USU online off-campus job board,” David said. “We weren’t really looking for jobs but Kelli hadn’t discovered Pinterest yet so she was just looking around.”

“It sounded like something that would give us job experience so we decided to apply,” Kelli said.

Their work hours don’t start until 3 p.m. so they can go to school during the day. After class they drive out to Cornish and start their days going to meetings and attending trainings until about 5 p.m. when they start dinner.

“I’m in charge of the food,” Kelli said. “I go shopping weekly and make most of the dinners.”

After dinner the boys are assigned house chores. “They mop, do dishes, sweep and clean the house,” David said.

By 7 p.m. the boys take part in activities which change daily and can include things like sports, service, games and career research.

At 8:30 p.m. the live-in couples have a group session and talk about the how the boys did that day and by 10 p.m. the boys go to bed and a night staff comes in to stay up and watch the boys until morning.

The job is demanding, but the Pyles have learned a lot about each other in the process.

“I didn’t realize how good David would be with people,” Kelli said. “He is really good with his words and can calm kids down really fast.”

“It’s helped us a lot with our marriage because we have to talk a lot and always be with each other,” David said. “You learn a lot and grow when you are serving other people. The first year of marriage we fought a lot, but since Synergy we have grown closer.”


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