Timber Ridge School - Serving the community for 40 years
This year marks the 40th anniversary of the opening of Timber Ridge School.
Located in the nearby Virginia countryside and surrounded by orchards and farmlands, visitors might easily mistake the campus for a small college rather than a school for troubled boys.
“One of our best features is our uniqueness,” Debbie Vance, Coordinator of Marketing and Press Relations said.
In accordance with the rustic setting, most of the buildings at the school are constructed of logs and cedar planks. The landscape is dotted with tall shade trees and large open grassy spaces between buildings.
Although Timber Ridge is located in Frederick County, Virginia, 16 of the 72 students and 26 of the 142 staff members are from Morgan County.
The school is licensed by Virginia’s Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Services.
“The West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources (DHHR) monitors and reviews the school every year,” Cindy Largent-Hill, Director of Admissions said. Boys from Morgan, Berkeley and Jefferson counties are placed here, she said.
Billed in the school’s literature as “a treatment center that transforms the lives of emotionally disturbed and behaviorally disordered adolescent boys,” those words do not adequately describe the services provided at Timber Ridge for both students and parents.
“This is very much a family focused treatment center,” Largent-Hill said.
Timber Ridge not only counsels and educates boys ages 10 – 21 through its middle school, high school, General Educational Development (GED) and job readiness programs, but also conducts support groups for parents and provides family activities.
“Because of the large number of boys from Morgan County, one of our licensed clinical counselors, Mr. Kevin Kennedy, conducts a monthly parent support group,” Troy Newbraugh, Director of Development said. The sessions are held at the First United Methodist Church in Berkeley Springs.
“We hold family days here quarterly on weekends. We teach parents and students how to have fun together as a family,” John Lamanna, Executive Director said. Lamanna has been with the school for 35 years.
As part of the learning experience, students participate in many community service activities.
“Our kids do a whole lot of community service and a whole lot in Morgan County,” Newbraugh said.
Largent-Hill noted students have participated in community service projects this year at Cacapon State Park, the Morgan County Humane Society and at the Morgan County Partnership and United Way sponsored Day of Caring.
Students also work in partnership with the Veterans Administration in Martinsburg playing cards, checkers, or just reading to or talking with veterans.
In addition to scholastic activities and counseling by a trained and licensed staff of clinicians, students have a variety of sports available to them.
Timber Ridge fields freshman and junior varsity level basketball, football, soccer and wrestling teams that compete with area high schools. The teams travel as far as Manassas, Virginia, Lamanna said.
The Charles A. Ricketts Gymnasium, named after the primary benefactor, is only four years old. It houses a championship basketball court, locker rooms and a well equipped weight and workout room.
The football field sits next to the gym and is named after its benefactor, Ron McDole, a former Washington Redskins defensive lineman.
“Sports provide an opportunity for our students to be part of a team, learn to play as a team and experience success. Without success there is no hope and our sports programs provide hope,” Lamanna said.
Another benefactor of the school is noted Civil War artist Mort Kunstler. He allows the school to sell collectable Christmas tree ornaments, small reproductions of his famous Civil War paintings.
The school has received over $600,000 selling the ornaments. “He doesn’t want a cent out of his work. All he ever wants to know is what else he can do for the school,” Newbraugh said.
The school is basically funded by tuitions paid for by public organizations such as West Virginia’s DHHR.
Largent-Hill said admissions must follow a protocol set forth in state code and are court ordered.
A multi-disciplinary team made up of the student, parents, prosecutor, probation officer (if there is one), public defender and representatives from the school system and state health department reviews and monitors a student’s progress.
The student is involved in every aspect of the process. “We have a responsibility to teach students how to advocate for themselves,” Lamanna said.
The school has a department of seven clinicians. Of those, five are PHD level and the remaining clinicians have master’s degrees. All are licensed to practice by the state, Lamanna said.
For those who need help when they enter Timber Ridge, there is a 12 step substance abuse program.
The school employs three full time nurses and a clinic is located in the dining hall.
Classes are kept small with a ratio of eight–10 students per teacher or counselor.
The high school is fully accredited by the state, Lamanna said.
“The goal is to eventually transition the student back into society,” Newbraugh said.
The school offers both long term and short term programs. Some students transition back to their families or foster homes while others stay and obtain a high school diploma or GED.
Students also benefit from job readiness programs that teach framing and drywall, electrical, plumbing and welding. The program includes resume writing and mock job interviews, Lamanna said.
Some students live at Timber Ridge but transition back to attending classes at Berkeley Springs High School. “We appreciate the Morgan County School system allowing us to do this,” Largent-Hill said.
This year Timber Ridge graduated 17 students. Seven of those graduates are moving on to higher education. Five will attend two year colleges and one a four year university. Another graduate will attend a technical school, Lamanna said.
Timber Ridge School offers a wide variety of programs too extensive for all to be covered here. For more information on the school and its programs visit the Timber Ridge School website or contact Debbie Vance toll free at (877) 877-3005.