Sunday, October 26, 2014
Jordan Harrell at Anchor Academy
Hello, my name is Jordan Harrell. After reading a lot of the posts on this forum (both about the Anchor Academy and other homes) i decided i would try and share my experiences and what did/has happened and what is happening to me today because of it. I wanna start off to say that i was never a perfect teen. As nobody ever is. I never did drugs, never drank, never experimented with weird things or got into obsessive amounts of trouble. With that being said, here is what i learned.
I was at the Anchor Academy from January of 2003 to June of 2005 when i graduated high school. I will touch on that first and for most. While you do get to accelerate at school if you so choose, there has been one hamper on my life from their school. They use the ACE packets, and as such, they ARE NOT accredited. Some people may not realize what this means, but to me, it means a great deal. I found out after graduation that when i try to apply to A LOT of schools, they require that i have a state accredited diploma. So, because i do not have one of those, i had to get a GED. Not a massive deal, but not one of the more pleasant experiences. A lot of years of high school that didn't really amount to much in the end. I am not saying im some kind of genius, not saying anything like that...just stating the facts from my point of view anyways.
Upon arriving at the Anchor, i had every personal belonging i had ever owned stripped from me. They took my wallet, my pictures, my friends phone numbers, everything. Literally. Not a big deal, but then as a 15 year old kid it seemed a big deal at the time. I was given a hair cut (which i must say was needed) and set up with a guide. Let me get right down to the good stuff. The Anchor had multiple levels of "leadership" and "communication" levels. I will start with leadership.
1. Leadership: The basics of leadership at the anchor were pretty straight forward, its a tier based system, the higher your "rank" the more privileges/responsibilities/"power" you were given. When you first arrive there, you are placed under someone called a "guide" and you are his "student". As a student, here are the basics of your rules to follow as far as the "guide" is concerned. You MUST stay withing 5 feet of your guide at all times, this is a 24/7 policy. If you go outside of the 5 foot radius, you can be given "complaints" (a point system for keeping track of the bad things you do, the more complaints you get, the more trouble you are in.) If he doesn't like what you are saying, your guide is allowed to put you on silence whenever he sees fit. While on silence you are not allowed to talk without raising your hand. If you do, you get more complaints. You MUST follow whatever instructions your guide tells you to. For example. One of my first guides i ever had once told me to go stand over by my bunk. Just so happens, my bunk was more than 5 feet away from him. Upon arriving at my bunk, my guide told me that i was more than 5 feet from him, so i got complaints for it. When i asked why i was getting complaints for doing what i was told, he gave me more complaints for talking without raising my hand (i had been put on silence). After that, he told me to bend over and put my nose on the bunk. In this position, you must keep your legs straight, and bend over to put your nose on something. Try it with a table for instance. After standing in that position for long enough, it will bring tears to even the strongest of people. After getting off orientation (students, which could take anywhere from 3+ months, 3 months was usually the minimum) you were promoted to what was called a "single". As a single, you were put into a crew (will explain a few) and given free roam of the area within certain limitations (which there were plenty of). If you did well as a single, you were promoted to a guide. I wont go further into that since i have already explained. If you continued to do well ( and were an admitted christian might i add...i will go into more of that later too) you were promoted "maybe" to a crew leader. A crew leader had the same basic function as a guide, except he was in charge of 5-8 singles, guides, and students. He had the same authority over every member of his crew, and also every persons in the anchor who were a lower rank than him. He could put a guides nose on something if he so choose, give out complaints as he saw fit (didn't need to be justified, nobody every justified most the complaints). So you can think of him as a "guide" for 5-8 students. I am skipping a lot of the deeper detail, i can go into that later if anyone requests it. There were usually 5-8 crew leaders or more at any give time. Alot of people to watch out for...just on that tier alone. Next you had a dorm leader. Dorm leaders were in charge of the entire dorm, usually 50+ students. They had all the power that crew leaders have, only they had it over crew leaders as well. Pretty self explanatory. After that came the staff, doesn't need much explanation on that one.
2. Communication Levels: There were a total of 6 communication levels. I will start from the bottom. If you did something really bad, you were placed on "super separation". While on super separation, you were not allowed to talk to ANYONE but your crew leader, the dorm leader, and staff. If you did, you got complaints. If you LOOKED (yes i mean looked, like with your eyes) at anyone other than those people, you were given complaints. Alot of complaints too might i add. Do you have any idea how hard it is to not LOOK at someone? I mean you cant even acknowledge their existence. If they talked, you cant respond, if they told a joke, you cant laugh, nothing, without getting complaints. Next in line was "separation". Same basic principles as super separation, only you could talk to all crew leaders, instead of your own. After separation came orientation student. Same basic principle as separation, except you could talk to any "number 1's" that you wanted to, and your guide, regardless of his communication level. Anyone else that you looked at or talked to, you got complaints. Oh and by the way, if you talked to someone you weren't allowed to, you got swats. With a paddle. They had two wooden paddles. One was smaller named smiley, the other was significantly larger named Proverbs. By the way, this goes without saying i would think, but when kids were getting swats with those, you could hear them all the way on the other side of the dorm. After orientation student came a single. Pretty much the same communication levels as a student, just didnt have to follow someone around all the time. After that was a "number 2". They were allowed to talk to everyone who was a level 2 and above. So if you were a level 2, you could talk to all level 2's and all level 1's. If you talked to or looked at anyone not of those ranks, you had the same punishment as the lower ranks. And last was a "number 1". They were allowed to talk to everyone, with the exception of separation/super separation, unless they were a crew leader.
Now, for the punishment section of this page. Please understand, that while i did not have most of these things done to me, i was around it more times than i would have ever have liked, and i was sometimes put in charge of seeing these punishments executed. The one everyone remembers most is probably peanut butter sandwiches and water. If you did something wrong, as far as school or whatever a staff felt was appropriate, they put you on peanut butter. That was nothing but a peanut butter sandwich (TERRIBLE might i add, you had to choke it down, it was not jiffy peanut butter) and water. You could be put on that for as long as the staff so desired. Which could be months. I can name people, names i will remember forever, who were on peanut butter sandwiches for months. I remember one boy was on it for 6 months straight. He started gagging whenever he tried to eat, so whatever he didn't eat ( he was required to eat 2 each meal) they put them in a plastic bag which he carried around until he ate them all. I can remember him having 15+ sandwiches in that bag. It was disgusting to see. Red shirt was another one that everyone feared. For good reason too. I remember one boy who was on redshirt for over 2 months. You only get 1 red shirt, and 1 pair of pants, which you have to wear all day and all night, every night. They get washed once a week, if i remember right. You did pt (physical training) around the clock. You slept for about 3 hours a night. This is where a part of me goes out to every boy who was ever on this. You usually got put on this for running away, although i remember one boy got put on it for cheating in school and just being a little bit more rebellious than they liked. They tied your feat together with rope, and made you carry a broom over your head everywhere you went. You had to hop around. You stood at the end of your bed with your nose up against your bed while everyone else slept, you ran laps a lot, we are talking like 10 miles a day of laps. They made you dig holes with a spoon, while standing up. You had to bend over and dig the hole while keeping a straight leg. I remember that while one boy on redshirt was doing this, the staff members fed his peanut butter sandwiches to the dog in front of his face, so he didn't get to eat that meal. They would make you dig those holes with spoons, fill them back up with your spoon, and then dig a new a hole, over and over. I remember one boy ran away once ( granted he stole a car to get away...makes you wonder why he wanted to get away so bad) and when they caught him, they tied a rope around his waist, and dragged him around like a dog for...what...2 months? There are alot of things i could say about punishments, but i would keep you reading for hours. If you want to know more, please by all means, let me know. I wonder if anyone who reads this from the anchor remembers the foxy five, or "brother willy's" weekend duty. Or his morning PT. I would love to see that.
The work ethic was valuable. I will say that. They taught you how to work. Granted, in today's world it would be considered slave labor, considering you never got payed for it, even though they often did. Have you picked rocks out of a field for 12+ hours in the blistering heat with people riding you about getting it done faster. There were very few breaks, and very little compassion, and zero money. In the 2.5 years i was there, i never saw a dime. Even though generally you worked for at least 4 hours a day, except, wednesday and Sunday (cause of church). I had to dig trenches, tear down buildings, lay piping, build cabinets, mow lawns, sand blast, and every sort of general cleaning you can think of. I am not saying the work experience wasn't valuable, but you never saw a reward for your effort outside of calloused hands and a sense of accomplishment.
The food, so long as you were not on peanut butter, was very good. They certainly did a good job with food. They kept your bellies full, with a wide variety of courses. The lady staff members did a wonderful job cooking.
There were no fences, there were no guards, you were free to run. Only you were 35 miles from the closest town. And if they caught you, which they ALWAYS did, you got put on redshirt. If you didnt die to the elements in the process.
To touch on now a days, the anchor certainly holds a spot in my memory, it always will. Still to this day i have nightmares about going back there, about the things i went through, and the things i saw others go through. I was rarely in alot of trouble there, i tried to steer clear of it, but i was often around others getting into it. I saw things that would make parents cry. Still to this day i feel terribly guilty about not trying to do more. I have this feeling like i should be trying to help those kids, be trying to get them out of there, but i dont know what to do. I could talk for hours about the struggles young men go through while there. Even while writing this there is a pain in my heart that goes out to all those kids who are sent there. Im not saying some of those young men don't need someone to take them by the hand and lead them in the right direction, but i dont think that this boys home goes about it in the right way. Interesting enough, some people will read this and try to say that i am lying, try to say that i dont know what i am talking about. I dare someone to say that to my nightmares, tell it to the hundreds of boys who have gone through there and now have some sort of anxiety problems. "tough love" is only effective when the person its being done to, knows it is out of love, not when they are so terrified to do anything different they conform out of fear.
And on a last note, religious beliefs set aside, the Anchor Academy for Boys DOES force their religion and their beliefs on you. If you do not believe like them, then you will never gain rank, you will never be treated with respect. The staff there only want you to believe as they do. There is no such thing as a Mormon or Catholic there. If you get caught thinking like that, or trying to follow another religion, or trying to speak about what you believe, the punishments are severe. As bad as what i have listed above. Please, for your children, do not force religion down their throat. From personal experience, it will only make things much worse.
Well, i will end it there, i could keep writing for days, very literally, and fill up pages and pages of information, but most people dont want to read it. This is my attempt to tell the world about what happened to me and what i saw. Take it as you will, there it is. Thank you for reading. Sorry for any typo's, i got kinda emotional writing some of this. The pain is still very real, even 5 years after the fact.
The home later moved to Montana and on to Missiouri where it exists today.