Teen Boys Change Through Visionquest

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Young men who are in trouble with the law, or face a difficult home situation, may, at the discretion of the courts, have an alternative to juvenile hall or foster care.

Boys between ages 12 and 18 enter a program called VisionQuest and take care of a wagon train from Elfredia to the Grand Canyon. They sleep in a teepee with other members of their "clan" for three months, and in those three months they change.

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Participants in VisionQuest sleep in teepees with other members of their "clan" for three months.

"When I came here I became a new person," said Mike, a 17-year-old VisionQuest participant. "I'm more happy. I think about what I do. This is a lot better than going to (juvenile detention). I'm going to get my GED out here and then maybe try to become a preschool teacher later."

Mike said he is not into drugs anymore and looks forward to returning to his family.

Brian, age 15, said he was "very angry" and prone to fight.

"At VisionQuest, everything just falls into place," he said.

He enjoys working with the horses, especially one named Black because he's feisty.

The VisionQuest wagon train that passed through Payson last week was 16-year-old Deyoe's fourth and final train before he returns to a group home until he is 18.

"A lot of kids complain about only taking showers once a week, but I don't mind," he said. "I can ride pretty decent now and I'm not afraid to go after a runaway horse."

Deyoe plans to begin studies in psychology at Pima Community College this summer.

The boys in the secular program that is loosely modeled after Native American's VisionQuest for manhood hail from Maryland, Pennsylvania and Arizona.

Each teepee has 10 to 12 boys in it.

"Eighty-five percent of kids who complete our program do not re-commit a crime," said Amber Dennison-Jones, a teepee parent and medical technician.

"It is a lot better than the prison system right now, where 75 percent of the kids who commit a crime go back to prison."

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