Michigan Case Study 6: Eagle Village, Hersey, Michigan


Eagle Village, Hersey, Michigan
4507 170th Avenue
Hersey, MI 49639
(616) 832-2234

Eagle Village offers an unusual variation on the private special education theme. A private-sector, residential care institution for adjudicated, non-sexually offending, youth, Eagle Village has no educational program of its own. Rather, Eagle Village offers classroom space on its own grounds in which the local school district (Mecosta-Osceola Intermediate) conducts classes. Since they are able to access public education on their own "turf," the kids in Eagle Village’s residential program do not have to leave the context of residential care.

Founded in 1968 by Kermit Hainley, Eagle Village was intended from the beginning to address what Hainley saw as a severe defect in youth adjudication—that it was too institutional and tended to confine convicted delinquents within a system that failed to make them independent and responsible. From early summer-camp and foster-care programs, Eagle Village grew into a residential-care facility that is today licensed to house and serve 48 children in a Learning Experiential Accelerated Program (LEAP). The residential program for boys is a six-month program; for girls it is eight months. Boys and girls between 12 and 17 are eligible for the program as long as there is no record of sexual offense, no pregnancy, and on the condition that the child "shows a willingness for total commitment." Family involvement is also mandatory. Once the child is accepted and begins the program, families participate in on-campus "Family Weekends." These weekends are devoted to "themes" which the administration and staff of Eagle Village have determined to be essential to the successful treatment of its residents:

Engagement - how to use Eagle Village and community resources for the improvement of the family.

Communications - learning behavior styles and using verbal and non-verbal cues to enhance family communication.

Roles - learning to distinguish the roles of each member of the family and how they interact with each other in a healthy family.

Boundaries I - learning to set and enforce meaningful limits for the family.

Boundaries II - establishing and maintaining physical and emotional safety in the family system.

Conflict Resolution - learning how to resolve problems and tensions within the family unit in a positive and effective manner.

Eagle Village stresses the "experiential component" of all its programs. "This is a hands-on treatment approach where the family and child can demonstrate what is happening in the family through the use of metaphors. The use of physical or situational metaphors provides a safe, non-threatening environment for dealing with tough issues."

Each child enrolled in the residential program also takes part in a "wilderness experience" called "Project Survive." This makes use of Eagle Village’s extensive grounds and facilities—trails and campsites, rope towers and other climbing apparatus. Eagle Village is also able to use its Adventure Learning Center in its Delta Zone Program. This corporate team-training program, is highly successful, providing "customized programs for front-line employees, skilled tradespeople, and executive teams." Thus, the facilities at Eagle Village are put to a variety of mutually supporting uses.

Most public school districts do provide their own special education for youth of the type served by Eagle Village. The advantage of Eagle Village is that, in cooperation with Mecosta-Osceola Intermediate, it can bolster the academic side of its clients’ experience by providing a private-sector context offering much more than is normally available in a public-school setting on its own. Eagle Village, being private, can see to the spiritual care of the young people who reside there in a way that the public schools cannot.

Eagle Village demonstrates that the private/public dichotomy is not necessarily absolute. The private sector and public sector can cooperate with each other in unexpected, mutually beneficial ways.