School for Troubled Teens Slated for Greenbrier

WINNSBORO (April 22, 2016) – When the director of a new alternative school for troubled teens presented County Council with his plans during Council’s March 28 meeting, one Councilman encouraged the director to make a similar presentation to the community before opening for business.

Cameron Tea, director of Cambio Academy, told Council his Utah-based company was already renovating a building at 1403 Greenbrier Mossydale Road in Winnsboro, and hopes to have the facility open by August.

Cambio is a high-end, private academy, Tea said, that has partnered with S.C. Whitmore, a virtual charter school headquartered in Chapin. Cambio offers wilderness therapy, equine therapy and experiential learning therapy in a group-care environment.

“A lot of these kids come from very affluent families (and they) need to kind of grow up a little bit and realize the world isn’t just handed to you; you have to work for it,” Tea told Council. “They’ve never pulled weeds from a garden, they’ve never had to be responsible to take care of an animal.”

Some of them, Tea said, may even have to learn something as basic as “how to clean their room every single morning.”

The academy recruits clients from across the U.S. as well as internationally, Tea said, and they typically come recommended by private education consultants. He estimated that Cambio would house between 48 and 72 teens who would stay at the academy for a period of eight to 14 months. The academy will have a staff to student ratio of 1:6, he said, with supervision provided around the clock.

Following Tea’s presentation, District 4 Councilman Kamau Marcharia urged Tea to hold a meeting in the Greenbrier community to make sure citizens there felt safe about having at-risk teens housed close by. Marcharia asked Tea if some of the teens in the academy might be potentially be suffering from mental health issues, which could be cause for concern in the community.

“A lot of these kids do have some psychological issues,” Tea replied, adding that some of them may be taking prescribed medications for those issues. “We are clinically intensive and have a therapist on staff. We do not take kids that are super high risk. We’re not a lock-down facility. We do not take kids who are coming off drugs. We take kids who are coming off their short-term rehab centers for a boot camp experience.”

Marcharia also asked Tea if there was a history of any of these troubled teens breaking out of the facility, something that also might be of concern to the surrounding community.

In his 10 years on the job, Tea replied, there have been two cases of teens running away from a facility.

“That’s less than 1 percent,” Tea said. “It’s always a potential factor, but a very limited factor. There are alarms on doors and windows, but sometimes they figure out ways; but for the most part they want to graduate, grow and get back to their home life.”

While Tea agreed to hold a community meeting before opening the doors to Cambio Academy, Interim County Administrator Milton Pope told Council that the property at 1403 Greenbrier Mossydale Road was already properly zoned to accommodate Tea’s venture.

“There was no way we could prevent them from offering their business and that particular location,” Pope said.

Tea had come to administration with his proposal more than a year ago, Pope said, and had coordinated the development of the site with the County’s Planning and Zoning office.

“They have followed through with everything they said they would,” Pope said.


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