Maxine Cronin at Escuela Caribe (from:Youthrights.org)
This story was originally written on a webpage created to provide statements for a GAO hearing in 2007. The address is cafety.youthrights.org and it waits for your statement if you believe that your stay at a boarding school included unfair treatment or even abuse. All rights and credits goes to the author Maxine Cronin, who posted the original story on cafety.youthrights.org
Hi my name is Maxine Cronin. On June 17, 2008, when I was 17, I was sent away to a Christian boarding school in the Dominican Republic called Escuela Caribe.
It is a “therapeutic” school supposedly aimed at helping problem teens. But here’s my story. I had good grades and didn’t do drugs. I was a well respected student leader in my school.
However, my mom had some psychological issues and DCYS got involved. My mother, being a doctor, couldnt risk getting her medical license taken away if she was charged with child abuse so she sent me to an overseas boarding school. At 2 AM on June 17th, a man came into the room I was sleeping in, woke me up, handcuffed me, locked me in the back of a car, and put me on a plane. He didnt tell me where I was going and I was not allowed to contact any of my family members. He only told me his name was Mr. Blue.
I spent the next 8 months in the Dominican Republic. Not only was I not allowed any access to a phone, I was not allowed to contact any of my family besides my mom. The 8 months that I was there, I was worked like a slave.
Here was my schedule:
- 6 AM – wake up and clean for 30 minutes.
- 6:30- eat breakfast.
- 7-8 clean some more.
- 8-8:15 get dressed and ready for school.
- 8:15- leave for school.
- From 8:30 to 4 or 5 at night we went to school.
- Then we would machete for a hour, followed by a 10 minute shower (where were expected to undress, shower,dry off, get dressed, fold out clothes, and be out ready for more chores all in under 10 minutes).
- We would eat supper for an hour, clean up, and then finish our night with more chores and a 15 minute devotion.
Not only did I feel sleep deprived the entire time I was there, but I was medically neglected and never had a chance to completely clean myself.
Escuela Caribe worked on a points system. You got points for everything you did. If you didn’t clean something well enough, you would be punished with units (a type of strenuous excersice). When I first got there, I was not allowed to talk to other girls on 0 or 1st level, I could not talk to boys, I could not walk into a room without asking, could not take initiative and could not be caught having any idle time.
While I was there, I witnessed a lot of abuse. A girl was raped while I was there. Afterwards, the staff member was allowed to stay on campus for a month after the incident. Kids would drink bleach to try to kill themselves because there were no options for leaving Escuela Caribe. Kids were locked in cement rooms without bathrooms or furniture for weeks at a time if they “disobeyed.” We had to take cold showers and were forced to machete until out hands bled. If we got in trouble, we had to sprint uphill a half a mile in under 3 minutes (this punishment was called a “Cacida”). Some kids were forced to machete in the sun without water as part of their punishment.
Escuela Caribe has a sister school in Marion, Indiana. Some kids start off their journey there. If they are too rebelious, they are sent to the Dominican Republic to get some serious punishment. There is also a summer program in Canada. The company that runs this is called New Horizons Youth Ministries.
I still keep in contact with a few of the kids from when I went there. They can all verify the manipulation, excessive control, and abuse we suffered there.
Unfortunately, they won. Not only was I falsly imprisoned along with 20 other American kids, but they got away with it. Nothing is being done to shut down places like this. The escort service that kidnapped me in the middle of the night got paid to take me away and even though their actions were clearly illegal, nothing has been done about it.