Program Overview

High Frontier Treatment Center and School
Program Description


The Frontier High Frontier is a residential treatment center and boarding school that serves a co-educational student population between the ages of 12 and 17. Licensed by the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services, the school and residence sits in the historic Davis Mountains of West Texas, between Fort Davis and Alpine. The property includes approximately 360 acres of Spanish Oak and high-desert vegetation, mountain habitat and short-grass prairie that provides a beautiful setting and is ideal for horseback riding, hiking and other outdoor activities. The facilities include 10 cottages, dining hall, administration and clinical buildings, recreational buildings, swimming pool, gymnasium, stables and arena, school classrooms, and other facilities. Family cottages are on site for therapeutic family visits.

Founded in 1976, High Frontier provides academic and treatment services to students who are typically experiencing significant problems in the following areas: establishing and maintaining positive long-term relationships, learning challenges or disorders, significant setbacks in academic progress, and may present a range of mood, anxiety or behavioral diagnoses. Many of the young people that are enrolled at the High Frontier have encountered significant trauma and have been involved in traditional psychological treatment for a number of years. Common diagnoses include mood disorders (e.g., dysthymia, depression and bipolar disorders), behavioral or externalizing disorders such as attention deficit and/or hyperactivity disorders, oppositional defiant and conduct disorders, substance/alcohol related disorders, attachment disorder, anxiety disorders, personality disorders and eating disorders. The High Frontier has, since 1982, addressed these problems by integrating the Positive Peer Culture model through all aspects of the campus including group, individual and family therapy, academic work, recreational activities, and student responsibilities in helping to maintain and improve the campus.

By fully integrating a therapeutic and experiential milieu conducted within the framework of Positive Peer Culture (PPC), students receive a values-based and process-oriented model utilizing a system of cognitive strategies and interventions. PPC strives for long-term change by teaching core values of pro-social and positive behavior such as altruism, responsibility, acceptance, self-worth, and autonomy. The internalization of these qualities requires the student to be an active part of the helping process. These qualities are developed as the treatment process exposes and provides insight into the student’s previously unsuccessful efforts to discover identity, status, and a self-concept based upon negative behaviors. "The central position of this model is that young people can develop self worth, significance, dignity and responsibility only as they become committed to the positive values of helping and caring for others." (Harry Vorrath, author of Positive Peer Culture)

High Frontier provides Positive Peer Culture group treatment throughout the day. Our holistic treatment approach entails PPC group based treatment and milieu throughout the day, Individual, Group, and Family therapy, onsite psychological services, and onsite psychiatric services including medication assessment and monitoring. The High Frontier clinical team operate with sincere appreciation and adherence to the PPC treatment model and include a consulting psychiatrist (onsite and 24 hour consulting services), a consulting psychologist (on site and 24 hour consulting services), a licensed clinical social worker, a licensed professional counselor supervisor, several licensed professional counselors, and frequent counseling interns. Additional treatment services are administered by para professional counselors in adherence to the treatment model and under the supervision of licensed clinical professionals. High Frontier also employees staff with otherwise important licenses and or certifications including two licensed childcare administrators, a licensed vocational nurse, a trainer certified in Managing Aggressive Behavior, and staff certified in Residential Child Care Programing. High Frontier utilizes a team work primacy entailing a treatment team comprised of a team therapist, group leader, and milieu instructors for each team. The clinical director and the principal are adjunct members of all treatment teams. High Frontier operates a specialized schedule in which assistant administrators, team therapist or group leaders work late night and weekend schedules to support treatment services in the evenings and on weekends. A licensed mental health professional is present or available 24 hours a day for regular services, consultations, and emergencies.

High Frontier utilizes the following Positive Peer Culture Model Interventions, both in and out of group meetings:

  • Reversal of responsibility back to the student when he/she projects, blames, avoids, minimizes or denies responsibility for problem behaviors.
  • Relabeling – any and all articulation or glorification of negative, inconsiderate, exploitive, or self-defeating attitudes through verbalization.
  • Checking – provide verbal cues to the student to put behavior in check before it becomes a serious problem.
  • Confronting – Challenging negative behavior in and out of group session by demonstrating how it hurts others or themselves. Challenging inconsistencies between goals and behaviors. Challenging illogical or irrational thoughts and perceptions about self and others.
  • Praising – Promoting positive behavior by acknowledging the student’s demonstration of caring, responsible, mature, and productive behavior.
  • Directing – Instructing students to cease or carry out specific behaviors.
  • Grouping - Calling the student to group session to address a problem behavior.

Treatment teams actively develop individual and group strategies and interventions that challenge a student’s distorted thinking patterns based on negative behaviors and values. These strategies and interventions are designed to teach students the benefits of accepting mature, proactive, and pro-social responsibilities. Every opportunity is taken to intensively address behavioral, social, substance abuse and other emotional development issues, enabling the student to build self-esteem and a system of positive values based on caring for self and others. A student with an IEP will receive individual treatment and/or group therapy as provided in accordance with each student’s IEP (Individualized Education Program) and as necessary.

Formal group treatment is conducted at least three times per week by the group leader or team therapist. Spontaneous groups meetings may also be called at any time by students or staff to address an immediate or primary problem. The instructor or therapist leads the spontaneous meeting using the PPC methods of problem-solving (identifying the problem, examining behaviors, thoughts, feelings, values and attitudes that influence the problem, and examining how the problem is contrary to goals. The group then offers solutions to the problem). Meetings are led in Socratic methodology to teach and develop critical thinking and problem solving skills.

The PPC Model is fully integrated into the education program. The education staff are trained in the PPC Model. Each group rotates through their class schedule as a cohesive unit. This organization addresses negative behaviors more successfully because the student is with a small group of peers who are familiar with his/her background, problems, and treatment objectives and are therefore able to help as problems arise. These adverse behaviors are broken into twelve problem labels, including; Low Self-Image, Inconsiderate of Others, Inconsiderate of Self, Authority Problem, Misleads Others, Easily Misled, Aggravates Others, Easily Angered, Stealing, Alcohol or Drug problems, Lying, and Fronting. Each problem label is operationally defined by a general description and five specific descriptors, and utilized to identify problem behaviors and structure discussion for group, individual, and family treatment meetings.

High Frontier also maintains a low student to teacher ratio (no more than 10 students per classroom) with one teacher and a support staff), meaning that each student can receive individualized attention and more active learning time in each class; and the teacher is also able to provide better supervision. Additionally, students within a group are expected to provide assistance to their fellow students in academic problem areas. This method of cooperative learning is well supported by research and is consistent with the PPC model's emphasis on responsibility and helping others. We expect each student to serve a valuable role in helping their fellow peers and recognize that each student will have strengths to offer to his/her group members.

High Frontier’s education program is accredited through AdvanceED (through Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Council on Accreditation and School Improvement) offers the following curriculum: Math, Science, English/Literature, History, Spanish, Art, and Physical Education. Courses are competency-based and credits are issued when competencies are met. Many students are able to make up credits by participating in credit recovery. Additionally, students make take college credits as appropriate. Student courses are determined in accordance with state and district graduation requirements. (See the “Academic Curriculum” section for a complete listing of available coursework)

We simply cannot emphasize enough the extent to which education and treatment goals and methodologies co-mingle in our PPC approach to both treatment and education. This cooperative rather than competitive approach to superordinate goals reflects a true team work primacy and affords a synergistic approach to ubiquitous problems of our youth with executive functioning and underachievement. Indeed, the PPC group process affords consistent opportunities for the experiential learning and practice of organizational skills, short term memory skills, information processing skills, emotional processing skills, compensatory learning skills, critical thinking, and problem solving skills. Students at High Frontier are not given an education to reject or accept, but are rather challenged to become learners, helpers, teachers, and problem solvers.

In August 2007, High Frontier opened our new school administrative complex which houses a comprehensive library, a computer learning center, a large auditorium, and principal office. This new building is approximately 7,000 square feet and is in addition to the following:

  • 8 classrooms with computer/internet access
  • Science classroom
  • Art studio and display area
  • Full-size indoor basketball court / gymnasium
  • Weight room and aerobics machines/area
  • Horticulture area and greenhouse

The school year consists of two semesters each ending with graduations. Summer school (ESY) is also provided as the majority of our students benefit from a somewhat extended school year. Students who really need to catch up are also allowed to continue monitored independent study over summer. Summer class schedule is modified to partial days for 5 weeks as this affords a degree of extended school services without interfering with increased therapeutic summer activities. Additionally, dual-enrollment college courses (subjects vary by term) are offered each regular semester for qualified students in cooperation with Sul Ross State University. High Frontier uses a variety of vehicles for student learning with a high emphasis on learner responsibility. The curriculum is strongly assignment driven and although lecture and testing are utilized tools their emphasized less while assignment completion with master being the primary route to learning and course completion. We find this to be the most effective methodology with our student population as it allows for the best combination of meaningful learning, credit recovery, developing the academic work ethic, learning gap recovery, developing academic confidence, and reversing the academic low-self image of our students. The effectiveness of this approach is evident in the high number of our students whom had previously given up on school, and whom achieve a High School diploma and go onto colleges and universities.

High Frontier School uses the following grading system:
90-100 = A; 80-89 = B; 70-79 = C; 60-69 = D; 0-59 = F

High Frontier School calculates grade point average on a 4.0 scale. Non-graded courses and credit amounts less than .5 will not be used in calculating grade point averages.

English 9: This required course is designed to develop students reading and writing skills through the systematic study of grammar and composition, both in their own writings and those of others. To increase understanding of the basics of English composition (including plot, character, theme, etc.), students are introduced to a wide range of literary genres, and are asked to analyze and differentiate between concepts, facts and opinion in a variety of contexts. Writing assignments and projects focus on all forms of composition - expository, descriptive, creative, analytical and persuasive. Prerequisite: None.

English 10: The focus of this second-level course is the examination of America’s values, conflicts and cultural heritage through the study and appreciation of American literature. Students are expected to engage in analytical and interpretative thought and are given several writing assignments throughout the term to assist in the continued development of composition skills. Authors may include: Hawthorne, Melville, Thoreau, Sinclair, Crane, Fitzgerald, Emerson, Hughes, Twain, Hemmingway, Salinger, Faulkner, Steinbeck, James and Eliot. Prerequisite: None.

English 11: In this course students are exposed to the rich literary heritage of European and non-western cultures, including novels, plays, and poetry. Writing assignments reflect a stronger emphasis on critical thinking and expression of ideas, as well as more sophisticated thematic analysis and interpretive techniques. Authors may include: Dante, Cervantes, Goethe, Shakespeare, Euripides, Chaucer, Dickens, Ibsen, Joyce, Milton, Orwell, Bronte, Wells, Austen and Dostoevsky. Prerequisite: None.

English 12: Intended to act as a capstone of the English curriculum, this final required course will focus on advanced techniques of composition, with the intention of assisting students in expressing themselves and their ideas clearly and effectively. Students will be expected to demonstrate a thorough understanding of style, rhetoric, syntax and structure, and should be proficient in more advanced sentence and paragraph constructions. Techniques of argument and persuasion will be emphasized, as will research techniques and MLA drafting standards. Prerequisite: A required research project is an important part of the curriculum. English 9-11 or concurrent enrollment.

Fundamentals of Drawing: This course will focus on the development of observational skills and drawing techniques, utilizing a wide range of drawing media including charcoal, graphite, pastel, oil pastel, ink and mixed media. Students in this course will develop both technical abilities and creative responses to their material and subject matter. Additionally, students will learn how to critique drawings and receive criticism and advice from their peers and instructor. Prerequisite: None.

Fundamentals of Painting: This course will focus on the basic techniques and materials of painting, focusing on the development of observational skills using acrylic paints. Topics include color theory, materials, development and representational and abstract approaches to subject matter. Students will learn how to critique paintings and receive criticism and advice from fellow peers and instructor to articulate artistic concepts and processes. Using art vocabulary is a fundamental part of art education. Prerequisite: None.

Art History: This course presents the major themes, styles and subject matter of art and architecture from pre-history to the present, mainly focusing on Western civilization. Students will comprehend how art in western culture has developed from prehistoric times, including key cultural, individual, and technological contributions that occurred. Students will also learn to identify the historical periods/movements surveyed in this course. Prerequisite: None.

Independent Study in Art/Advanced Art: This course is designed for the advanced art student wishing to further enhance their artistic skill. Students will choose their subject matter and media to create independent projects. The students will employ their knowledge of composition and the role played by the elements and principles of art in creation of a successful works of art. Students are to develop an artistic work ethic, fostering confidence, responsibility, experimentation and originality.

Art Program: High Frontier believes that all individuals have a creative spirit, and this has proven especially true of our population, and that creativity can foster learning on many levels. Our program is in part focused on the creative process experienced as a group collaborative. Through group projects, executed in a variety of media, students not only learn how to express themselves as individuals, but learn how that expression relates to others and to the world in which they live.

Working with a group on a specific project affords the opportunity to learn a particular artistic process. Mirroring the masters, professional artists that lead the program emphasize technical excellence and careful craftsmanship. The technical skills learned while working with the group can then be used to create more individual work; art that explores more personal subjects, or perhaps work given to formal investigation of a particular medium or technique. Our focus on the collaborative artistic process leaves time for students to communicate on an individual level and to explore their own creative, imaginative ideas.

By participating in the Art Program, students learn to cooperate with others, think and problem solve in multiple ways, find meaning in their own as well as other’s work, and learn about the role of art in our society and other cultures. Finally, by challenging students to participate in the creative give and take of collaborative art projects, we are integrating the creative process into the PPC model. The spirit of cooperation necessary to reach a common goal serves to strengthen the group, enhance the emergence of a positive peer culture and model behavior with connections to good citizenship, life and work.

The Art program is integrated into our accredited school curriculum.

World History: The development of Western civilization from the ancient world through the Middle Ages to early modern times. Through the study of the cultural, political, social, and intellectual heritage of Western societies, students will be familiarized with the most important facts, trends, concepts, and interpretations of Western history as well as the rise and development of the ideas and attitudes which uniquely shaped the character of the West. Particular emphasis will be placed on impact of feudalism, the growth of monarchial power, the Renaissance and Reformation, the age of Enlightenment, the age of revolution, and the world wars of the 20th century. Prerequisite: None.

United States History: This course is a required survey of the history of the United States of America. The first term of the course will trace American history from the arrival of European settlers on the continent to the U.S. Civil War, while the second term of the course will focus on history of the United States from the Reconstruction era to modern times. Major themes of this course include the following: the development of the United States from a rural agrarian nation to an urban, industrialized country; the contributions of diverse peoples and cultures to the American experience; and the understanding and analysis of the shared American values of democracy, civil liberties, and freedom of expression. Prerequisite: None.

United States Government: This course serves as an introduction to both the institutions (Congress, the Presidency, and the Judiciary) and the processes (elections, media, public opinion, etc.) of American government. Particular attention will be given to the origins of democratic thought, the development and evolution of the Bill of Rights, the struggle for civil rights and equality under the law, the influence of political parties and interest groups, and the expansion of the modern presidency. Outside readings will include the texts of several landmark court cases, and students are encouraged to pay close attention to current political events. Prerequisite: U.S. History or concurrent enrollment.

World Geography: This course serves as a study of people, places, and environments at local, regional, national, and international levels from the spatial and ecological perspectives of geography. World Geography encompasses similarities and differences among people, including their beliefs, knowledge, changes, values, and tradition. Students will explore these elements of society to develop an appreciation of and respect for variety of human cultures.

Economics: This course will give students a greater understanding of economics ranging from the viewpoint of the individual consumer or small business owner to the global economy. This course will include the law of supply and demand, forms of business, labor unions, government finances and influence on the economy, money and prices, inflation and deflation cycles. This course sill enable student to develop an economic way of thinking with an understanding of different economic systems used throughout the world and understanding supply and demand, competitive markets and regulations.

Psychology: This course is designed to introduce students to the systematic and scientific study of the behavior and mental processes of human beings. Students are exposed to the psychological facts, principles, and phenomena associated with each of the major subfields within psychology. Students will learn about the ethics and methods psychologists use in their science and practice.

Pre-Algebra: This course reinforces and builds upon mathematical skills taught in previous classes with additional advanced computation including an emphasis on algebraic concepts. Students study factions, decimals, percents, positive and negative integers and rational numbers. Students will be more proficient in using ratios, proportions and solving algebraic equations. Students will develop and expand problem- solving skills (creatively and analytically) in order to solve word problems. Successful completion of this course prepares students for success in Algebra 1.

Beginning Algebra: This course is designed to provide a comprehensive introduction to the mathematical field of algebra, and provide students with the skills necessary for further study in mathematics or science. Students will learn how to solve for unknown values and variables, how to manipulate expressions and equations, solve and graph linear equations and inequalities, polynomial operations, factoring and exponents. Students will also be exposed to second-degree equations, their graphs, and the quadratic formula. Probability and statistics are introduced, and students receive basic instruction in the use of graphing calculators. Prerequisite: Pre-Algebra credit/knowledge.

Geometry: This course will introduce topics from geometry, trigonometry, probability and statistics. Students will be exposed to Euclidean Geometry (including polygons, quadrilaterals, circles, right triangles, and special right triangles) and trigonometry (including sine, cosine, tangent, use of calculator and table for calculations, and applications of the three basic trig functions). Probability and Statistics topics include combinations, permutations, mean, median, mode, range and midrange. Students will also learn how to program graphing calculators, in preparation for Algebra II. After completing this course students will be prepared for the Geometry questions on the SAT. Prerequisite: Algebra I.

Advanced Algebra: This course extends the skills learned in Algebra 1 and Geometry, extending the use of linear equations, inequalities, and functions to include linear systems with two variables and introduces systems with three variables. The course also expands the content of quadratic equations and functions to include quadratic inequalities and systems, as well as the complex number system. Additional topics to be covered include logarithmic and exponential functions, the binomial theorem, probability and statistics, and an introduction to trigonometric functions. Students will use graphing calculators to enhance learning. Prerequisites: Beginning Algebra and Geometry.

Pre-Calculus: This is a preparatory course for Calculus for those wishing to develop higher-level skills in mathematics. Topics that will be covered include trigonometric functions, polynomial functions, functions and their graphs, vectors, complex numbers, polar coordinates, infinite series, and conic sections. Some specific sub-topics to be covered include transformations of functions, inverse functions, exponential and logarithmic functions, trigonometric identities, and solving trigonometric equations. Students will use graphing calculators along with algebraic manipulations. Prerequisite: Advanced Algebra.
Consumer Math (Personal Finance): Math skills needed to survive as an intelligent consumer in today's society will be developed in Consumer Math. Topics will include the mathematics of personal income, purchasing and discounts and mark-ups, banking, budgeting, investments, taxes, travel and fitness. All juniors and seniors would benefit by taking this course.

Earth Science: The purpose of this course is to introduce students to the general principles, concepts and terminology of ecology, geology and meteorology. Topics will include geologic evolution, the earth's internal structure and magnetic field, rocks and minerals, sedimentary processes, geological phenomena such as earthquakes and volcanoes, atmospheric structure, weather and climate, and the physical, chemical and biological aspects of the world’s oceans. Students will also be exposed to the concept of life and energy from the individual organism to the whole biosphere, plant photosynthesis, the impact of extinction on ecosystems, and the effects of the human population on earth resources (e.g. global warming, ozone destruction, pollution, deforestation and energy choices). Prerequisite: None.

Biology: This course introduces students to the basic principles of biology and the study of living organisms. Through lectures and laboratory work, students are given an understanding of cell structure and function, ecological principles, and the morphology, physiology and taxonomy of plants and animals. We explore the molecular interactions that make life possible, the flow of energy through living things, the unity and diversity of life on Earth, basic genetic principles, and the processes of evolution that inform all modern biological thought. Prerequisite: None.

Chemistry: This course is an introduction to the fundamental principles of chemistry and their application to the substances that we use in our daily lives and that affect us and our environment. Topics such as atomic structure, chemical bonding and reactions, the nature of solids, liquids and gases, chemical equilibrium, thermodynamics, oxidation and reduction, acids and bases, electrochemistry and aspects of nuclear chemistry will be discussed. The laboratory will introduce students to basic experimental methods and techniques. Prerequisite: Beginning Algebra.

Physics: This course is a non-calculus based introduction to classical physics, with relevant applications to the life sciences. Topics will include Newtonian mechanics, conservation laws, harmonic motion, wave behavior, optics, light and sound phenomena, electricity, magnetism, Einstein's relativity theories, and an introduction to atomic and nuclear physics. Prerequisite: Beginning Algebra. Recommended: Geometry and Advanced Algebra

Spanish I: This first course is designed to introduce the basic elements of the Spanish language. Oral and written skills are developed through the study of Spanish vocabulary, grammar, and idioms. Pronunciation, comprehension, and writing are emphasized. The goal of the course is to enable students to speak and write simple Spanish in a range of everyday situations, and prepare students for more advanced study of the Spanish language. The course also introduces students to a cultural context for the language, with focus on the Hispanic presence in Central America, South America and Europe. Prerequisite: None.

Spanish II: This is the second course for students of Spanish. The purpose of this course is to help students continue developing proficiency in the four language skills (listening, speaking, reading and writing) essential to effective communicative language learning. By the end of this course, students are expected to understand basic conversations, speak in Spanish on a variety of everyday topics, describe and express ideas in writing with coherence, engage in selected reading of Spanish texts, and demonstrate knowledge of the Hispanic world and sensitivity to its culture. Prerequisite: Spanish III: This is the third course for students of Spanish. The aim of this class is to develop and consolidate student knowledge and use of the Spanish language within an appropriate cultural context. Students will continue to develop communication skills and cultural concepts as they relate to the Spanish language and culture. By the end of this course, students are expected to possess the ability to understand spoken Spanish (aural comprehension), the ability to give and defend a short presentation in Spanish (oral expression), and the ability to understand average Spanish texts (reading comprehension). Prerequisite: Spanish II or equivalent.

Physical Education: This course is designed to build strength, stamina, flexibility and endurance through individual and group activities such as, aerobics, weight training, calisthenics, soccer, touch football, basketball, tennis, softball and volleyball. Cooperation, sportsmanship and teamwork are emphasized. Students will also receive information regarding the role of nutrition and healthy life styles in promoting, maintaining and improving well being.

SAT/ACT Preparation: This course provides intensive SAT/ACT preparation incorporating materials (including texts, workbooks, sample tests and CD-ROMs) from Kaplan Test Prep, the College Board and Princeton Review. Focus will be on general SAT/ACT content review, standardized testing strategies and remedying specific math or verbal deficiencies as determined by our analysis of an initial diagnostic SAT/ACT exam given to all students at the beginning of the process. Students will also take several full-length SAT practice exams under test conditions so as to be able to track their progress and identify continued strengths and weaknesses. Prerequisite: high school junior; must be eligible to take the SAT/ACT on next testing cycle.

Students will have recreation and learning opportunities in a variety of enrichment activities including but not limited to:

  Weight Lifting
  Bike Riding

  Community Service
  Work Projects

Life Skills
  Laundry skills
  Letter writing
  Dining etiquette
  College research, application
  College essays
  Daily dorm and group chores
  Capture the Flag
  Prom dances
  Flag Football
  Friday night movies
  Board games


High Frontier operates in adherence to a comprehensive wellness plan that believes that nutrition and fitness are critical aspects of wellness and development for adolescents and are therefore an important part of our therapeutic milieu. Students are served three complete meals per day and an additional evening snack. Meal menus are developed by a certified nutritionist and prepared by a certified and/or appropriately trained and supervised food service professional. Additionally, all students are provided with necessary materials and opportunities for good health and hygiene practices. Students may attend athletic competitions and theatre programs through the community and Sul Ross State University.

Contact Us

Anthony Geraci
Director, Business Development


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High Frontier gave our daughter the structure and skills she needed to turn her life around.  We are proud to report that she just graduated from college and is now ready to face the world with her experience at High Frontier as a strong anchor for her future challenges. - L.M.