Our Stories

J Bar J Youth Services Website-Our Stories

Academy at Sisters

-One of our students was awarded a scholarship by the MUSE foundation, in which she was to bring about positive social change in her community. She spoke at a MUSE event in February 2014 on raising awareness about human sex trafficking and violence against women.

-The Academy is pleased to present a new group under the Wellness curriculum called, “The Indivisible Self.” This is an evidence based model of wellness, which focuses on five main components-coping, social, essential, physical, and creative. This curriculum will aim to integrate the concepts presented in our psycho-educational and therapeutic groups along with the school and community activities into an overall concept of mind, body, and spiritual well-being.

-With the support of funding from the Crevier Foundation, the Academy is expanding the Garden Project. The Garden Project started in the Fall of 2013 with the addition of eight garden beds and a small greenhouse. The Agri-Science class at the Academy taught the principles of botany and entomology; integrated pest management and pesticide safety; soils, fertilizers and composting; ornamental, herbaceous plants and woody plants; sustainable landscaping; and plant pathology. During the first harvest, students were engaged in meal planning, harvesting, and prepping the produce. The next phase of the Garden Project is to incorporate nutritional education and food preservation into the learning experience. Students at the Academy will gain knowledge about living healthy lifestyles. They will:

  1. Increase knowledge, skills, attitudes, and changed behaviors around nutritionally sound diets;stock-photo-15884569-aerobics-group-photo
  2. Improve body image, address eating disorders, prevent obesity and chronic disease;
  3. Gain knowledge about growing vegetables; embrace Eat Local principles;
  4. Gain knowledge about harvesting and preparing food;
  5. Improve health and eating habits by growing food; and,
  6. Gain new skills in food production, preparation, storage, safety and sanitation. Integrate sustainable operational practices.

-The Academy has instituted a Women of Inspiration series to bring local female community leaders to the campus as inspiring role models for the girls. Our first speaker was Trish Connelly, Bend’s first female fire chief.

-J.H. is a graduate of the Academy at Sisters. This almost didn’t happen as J.H.’s mother could no longer afford the tuition when she had only three months left. Due to the generous gift of our donors, we have a scholarship fund that allowed J.H. to finish the program. J.H. went on to graduate, was on the honor roll, is working part time and maintaining healthy family relationships. She is drug and alcohol free. Her teacher remarked what a gift she was to have in class. We are pleased to see J.H. successful and happy at this point in her life.

-In History class at the Academy, the girls have learned how to knit in Crew, and are knitting scarves for vets. This is a great program run through The National World War II Museum in New Orleans, where we send our handmade scarves, and the museum staff donate them to vets who are in need. The museum provides great knitting patterns for the scarves, but we are not quite at that knitting skill level…yet!

Last December, we had a living history day. Six of our local war veterans who are members of a local organization called Band of Brothers, came and visited with the girls. Four of them were WWII vets. We will also had a vet who owns a company called Battle Buddies, an organization that trains dogs to help vets with PTSD.

One of the vets in attendance was Bob Maxwell, a former auto mechanics teacher at Bend High. Mr. Maxwell won the prestigious Medal of Honor. The girls spent this week researching Battle Buddies, Mr. Maxwell, The Medal of Honor, the various branches of the military, and much more WWII information. They have prepared five questions each for our vets, and three questions each for Battle Buddies. The girls created a welcome poster, prepared the schoolhouse for their visit, baked cookies, and provided beverages. They interviewed the guests and videotaped and photographed the event.

-The girls at the Academy are always active with community service. Over the past year, they have volunteered with the following organizations:

  • Locavore
  • BUGS – Ukulele Festival
  • Bear Creek Elementary
  • After School Buddies
  • Mt. Bachelor Dog Agility
  • Happy Girls Marathon
  • Drake Park Duck Race
  • Chimps Inc.
  • Bend Parks & Recreation Day of Play

-The Equine Therapy program at the Academy expanded this year with the donation of



-Male volunteers needed! Last month, we were challenged to find a match for Michael, a 13 year old boy. Michael lives with his father and his 12 year old sister. When Michael’s family became homeless in December 2013, they were referred to Big Brothers Big Sisters from Cascade Youth & Family Center. They were living in a motel and life was pretty difficult. Their father was looking for a home to move his children into and the children were doing their best to deal with their unfortunate situation. We were able to find a Big Sister for Michael’s sister within two weeks of hearing from them. Within the month, we did find a Big Brother for Michael. This was very fortunate as we have fewer males interested in volunteering. The family has moved into their own home. Michael and his sister continue to meet regularly with their Bigs.

-In Central Oregon, 47% of school age children are on the free and reduced lunch program. This equates to over 7,000 children in the Bend LaPine School District. 33% of children come from single parent/guardian homes in the Bend LaPine School District. These are recognized risk factors for children. Big Brothers Big Sisters of Central Oregon provides trained volunteer mentors to be a caring role model and participate in children’s lives. As a result, children matched with a volunteer mentor show greater confidence, they avoid risky behaviors, and they demonstrate academic achievements. You can make a difference in a child’s life today by volunteering with Big Brothers Big Sisters of Central Oregon.

-We have partnered with three local elementary schools to bring mentors onto the campus to meet with children. Volunteer mentors will be provided through RSVP-Retired Senior Volunteer Program. This is an effective collaboration to meet the needs of more children facing adversity.



-First American Title is spotlighting the LOFT-Living Options for Teens, the homeless teen shelter operated by Cascade Youth & Family Center, for the month of March 2014. They have issued an invitation to their network to collect items for the youth at the LOFT. It’s like Christmas in March!

-Lacy, her boyfriend Sam and their beautiful dog “Charlie” have been accessing services through the Street Outreach Program for the past year. Lacy spent some time in the LOFT program a couple of years ago, but did not finish the program. Lacy and Sam are tired of trying to find a warm, dry spot to sleep at night. They would like to rent a home and buy a car. Lacy plans to find a job, finish her GED, and pursue her dream to become a Child Psychologist. She is waiting for the paperwork to finish being processed to receive her birth certificate, ID, then social security card in order for her to begin looking for a job and registering for a school program.

This month Sam began online college courses towards a degree in Environmental Science. Lacy and Sam are waiting to receive Sam’s loan money and plan on finding a place to rent. Some barriers they face when finding a place include: credit issues, lack of rental references, lack of employment, possible lack of sustainable income, no furnishings or household items. Both Lacy and Sam are interested and determined to become “normal” college students who work and live in their own home.

-A 19 year-old emergency shelter resident entered into the Transitional Living Program in early October of 2013. Upon entry into the shelter this youth was fresh into sobriety, her drug of choice methamphetamine. CYFC Staff helped the youth create pathways to actively engage in recovery by identifying a “home” group and a sponsor. With these supports in place she was ready to commit herself to forging a life free of substance dependence. In four months of engagement in the Transitional Living Program this youth has maintained sobriety and rebuilt her support system with prosocial youth that are focused on sobriety. She is working to repair trust in the relationship with her biological mother and on occasion the two venture to dinner with one another, slowly rebuilding what was lost in her years of addiction. This youth has transitioned from part-time to full-time employment and holds a goal of obtaining independent housing within the next three months. With the support of CYFC this young woman is now in a position to reach her fullest potential. Her progress is truly remarkable.

-The Rotary Club of Bend selected the LOFT as a recipient of their 2013 Duck Race proceeds. With this grant, the LOFT is slated to receive a total kitchen remodel with new cupboards and appliances. Members of Rotary are volunteering to do the kitchen remodel.


Learning Center

Amanda Stuermer, founder of Word Muse, has agreed to be commencement speaker this year for the Academy’s high school graduation in June. The Academy girls have attended Muse events and summer camp. World Muse is a 5 year old nonprofit organization formed on the belief that women and girls can be catalysts for positive social change. World Muse has funded projects and has reached thousands of women and girls worldwide.

Two students at the Academy placed first and second in the Central Oregon Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR) essay contest. A representative from the DAR presented certificates to the studet6ns. The first place winner’s essay will be entered at the state level. If she wins, she will go to regionals and potentially to nationals in Washington D.C. The first place winner will attend the Central Oregon DAR dinner in May and will read her essay for the event. The essay project was in conjunction with the Speech and US History classes.

Happy Friends Doing Homework-A Chess Club was established at the Ranch this year. Approximately 50 youth in the residential treatment program for adjudicated youth ages 13-18 will be the beneficiaries of a pilot program to integrate chess as a tool to address cognitive and emotional intelligence. The goal is to assist students in identifying their emotions and incorporate this in their reasoning, problem-solving, and decision making. This in turn will support these students in managing and taking responsibility for their emotions and turn negative emotions into positive learning and growing opportunities. The Chess Builds Character program works with at-risk youth during a critical period in their lives, providing a positive and challenging activity geared at strengthening their emotional intelligence and building character.

Upon receiving a $1,000 award from Pacific Power Foundation, we issued a press release that was picked up by the Bend Bulletin. Shortly thereafter, we received a call from a local community member, David Light, who wanted to hear more about the program. Mr. Light mentored students in a chess club before he retired in Bend. Mr. Light was simply interested in hearing about what we were doing as the description in the newspaper resonated with what he had experienced in working with youth and chess playing. When we explained we were just launching the program and could use help, Mr. Light was very cautious about committing his time.

Nine months later, Mr. Light has solicited the support of a few of his friends to join him at the Ranch every Friday to play chess with the boys. His mentorship has added a great value to the program. The Chess Club was established by one of our teachers but Mr. Light introduced the aspect of talking about values connected with the game. Each Friday, the students are presented with a specific value, such as patience, integrity, logic. Mr. Light talks about what this value represents and invites the students to consider how it relates to their chess playing. The next step for this is to have the students reflect on this value in their chess journal writing.

We are currently considering membership to a chess federation. The current class of twenty two youth has evolved into three different levels of skill; some are ready for competitive play.

The Chess Club could use more volunteer Chess Coaches. Please contact Rick Buening at the Learning Center, if you are interested.

-The Learning Center documents an increase in grade levels-Boys at the Ranch increased reading, writing, and math skills by an average of two to three grade levels; Girls at the Academy increased reading, writing, and math skills by an average of two to four grade levels during the 2012/2013 school year.


Ranchportrait of a young handsome man.

-Through a unique partnership with SOS Outreach, 5 residents of the Ranch are learning to snowboard at Mt. Bachelor. SOS Outreach is a non-profit sports-based youth development organization that has programs designed to build resilience to risk factors and will enhance their ability to make healthy decisions for successful lives. The Learn to Ride Program is a five-week introduction to the sport of snowboarding and the SOS Core Values of Courage, Discipline, Integrity, Wisdom, Compassion, and Humility. Each Sunday a new value is introduced and discussed in conjunction with learning to ride.

The Ranch pays a small fee ($80 per kid) to the organization and they cover lift tickets, instruction through Mt. Bachelor Ski School and all the equipment. Two staff have accompanied the boys and all the feedback is positive. The youth are enjoying a wonderful pro-social activity they have not been exposed to outside the Ranch. The residents truly appreciate the opportunity and are already displaying some skills on the slopes.

-The Ranch is pleased to announce two graduations this month. After being in residence for more than a year, both youths have successfully completed the elements of J Bar J’s cognitive behavioral therapy curriculum. One young man (age 15) is transitioning home to northern Oregon where he will rejoin his family and return to public high school. The other youth (age 15) is going to a foster home in western Oregon.

J Bar J Boys Ranch continues to be one of the few programs in the state that is over utilized in residential beds. While many programs are not full to capacity, our program is running slightly above our OYA (Oregon Youth Authority) target of 24. This is due to the high professional standards of the staff which work diligently to serve the diverse needs of adjudicated youth.

-The Evidence Based Correctional Program Checklist (CPC) is a tool developed to assess correctional intervention programs and is used to determine how closely correctional programs meet known principles of effective intervention. Several recent studies conducted by the University of Cincinnati on both adult and juvenile programs were used to develop and validate the indicators on the CPC. These indicators focus on Leadership and Development, Staff, and Quality Assurance.

J Bar J Boys Ranch received a rating of “highly effective”. In a review of 500 programs similar to the Boys Ranch, only 6% received this rating nationwide. In addition to the oversight provided by the Oregon Youth Authority, the Boys Ranch is closely monitored by the Oregon Department of Human Services and works with counties throughout Oregon. In addition to treatment, the youth focus on education and community service, including trail maintenance and preparing backpacks with food for local school children.

-Last year, the Ranch received a visit from a former student; Rick Z. Rick was at the Ranch 29 years ago. Today, Rick works with a Fortune 500 company. He returned to share his experience with the boys. His story was very compelling; the youth at the Ranch understood he was once where they are now. Rick’s message to the boys included these words of wisdom:

Things that will help you be successful later in life:

  • Be present
  • Attend school
  • When you go home, take a hard look at your relationships
  • Wish I had invested more; wish I had taken it more seriously
  • What matters is character. Some of you will be strong leaders. You guys can do this. You can do great things.
  • Regardless of why you are there, you are not that bad. Where you come from or made to believe, you will live to be much older. Feelings won’t kill you. I care what happens to you. It is up to you to start making choices. Life isn’t easy.
  • Graduate, work hard, apply yourself, you can move up.
  • Set goals, you can do anything. Kids make choices, some positive, some negative. Your choices now will be with you forever. It dictates where you will be in life.

Rick shared a letter from a friend he met while at the Ranch. His friend, Phillip, made different choices and had his own message for the boys. Please see Phillips letter below:

My name is Phillip and I’m 44 which to you guys has just gotta be hella old. It is Lol. I was a resident at JBarJ with Rick way back when there were no cell phones or laptops and pretty much the world sucked haha. Well not really sucked but a long time ago.1985 actually. I was 15 when I got there, stayed 8 months and turned 16 somewhere in there. I got there by UUMV and Elude, running from a shelter that wanted to return me home and that was no place I wanted to be. What I want to tell you is that regardless of why your there or where you come from you’re not bad. That no matter how you were treated in your family, school, town or city, you matter. You deserve to be respected, loved, supported and treated with dignity and kindness and you have as much right to be happy, successful, admired and cared for as anybody else no matter what you have been through, where you come from, look like or have been made to believe up to this point in your life. What I want to tell you is that more than likely you will probably live to be much older than you may think right now and that what you do from here on out will affect your life much further into your future than you can see right now. You will not always look, feel think, talk as you do now. Feelings won’t kill you and are not permanent. What I want to tell you is that know I don’t know you or your story but I care what happens to you. I wasn’t there because my childhood was great and my parents were awesome or because I was a great student with all the right clothes and the most popular friends. I stole a pickup and ran from the cops to leave the hell I was surviving in behind. But I brought all the beliefs and behaviors with me. What I hope you hear is that the people that work there, no matter how cool they may or may not be, are there to show you that what has happened to you in your life is not about who you are as a person nor is it a statement of what you can expect from life. And whether you like it or not it’s up to you to start making choices for how your life is going to play out. And also show you better ways of making those choices so that you can have a better life than you have known or may even believe you can have. No, life isn’t easy and yes, I do know what it’s like to get a shitty hand at life and to be let down by the people who were supposed to care and love me. Protect and guide me. And I also know that when I left JBarJ, it wasn’t what my childhood was like or what happened to me, how I was treated and how much I was hurt by people that were supposed to love me, that affected how things turned out for me, but the choices I made. And when I look back, and even now the choices I have made that have given me the best results are mostly based on the information and guidance I received there. Let me promise you, Homeboys aren’t there to help raise kids and pay bills; they don’t put money on your books, visit, or write. Prison is not cool, fun or GANGSTA, its prison, and it sucks. I never kept anything I stole, never got ahead in life by beating anybody up, and any time I dealt drugs, I always ended up my best customer. And alone, desperate and wishing I had done something different with myself. My true friends don’t use, gangbang, steal or sling dope. I got the Love of the most beautiful woman I had ever seen by having a job, my own car, and insurance. And I got true respect by being kind and helpful. I’m sure you’re not thrilled to be there, I wasn’t. And for sure, I was not the staff’s shining little good boy either. In fact, Rick and I got in so much trouble we had to live in a tent for a week to separate us from the house Lol. So what I’m saying is I’m not asking you not to be whoever you are all I’m asking you to do is take a real good look at how well the choices your making based on what you think are working out for you and if it’s not so great, make the best of your time there and consider what’s being offered to you as a better way of thinking and making choices. There’s nothing worse than turning 44 and wishing you were 16 again and could do it different. Cause you can’t, and it happens way quicker than you can imagine. I can’t go back and take it more seriously, do things different, but you can go forward, try something new, and save yourself a lot of regret.

Thank You,

Phillip K

– Brian Buchanan graduated from the Ranch in 1991. Brian is a firefighter in Culver today. He brought his wife and young son to the Ranch last year. Brian talked about how the lessons he learned 22 years ago impact his life today. Without the experience at the Ranch, he is sure he would be in prison or dead.

-Boys at the Ranch incorporate community service as an important aspect of their experience. Over the last year, the boys volunteered with the following activities:

  • Backpacks in Bend-stuffing backpacks with nutritious food like granola bars, peanut butter, applesauce, pasta meals and trail mix which are then distributed to 20 local elementary, middle, and high schools for the neediest children. Close to 30% of all Oregon kids are food insecure. This is a great way for the boys to gain empathy and to give back.
  • Pole, Pedal, Paddle-the boys volunteered to pull more than 600 canoes and kayaks during the 2013 event
  • High Desert Museum-mending fences
  • Badlands Wilderness Areas-mending fences
  • General volunteer assistance at the dog sled races, local walks, and concerts.
  • One resident noted, “It feels good when you get to help people, especially kids.”