Safe Harbor Academy
Safe Harbor Academy is a lower-cost Christian academy for troubled boys in Jacksonville, Florida, using the waterfront and maritime activities as the backdrop for helping teenage boys who are struggling.
Safe Harbor provides a safe, stable, structured, alternative home, school and behavior therapy. Boys learn responsibility and experience behavior modification through seamanship, mentoring, counseling and a spiritual focus, while also studying for a high school diploma. Safe Harbor has been featured in People Magazine, and on CBS This Morning, NBC News Today, CNN, and CBN.
The story of the unique boarding school for at-risk boys is featured in the Safe Harbor movie, starring Treat Williams, on Hallmark Channel. As a water-based program, the boys live aboard boats, learning seamanship skills. The Safe Harbor program is structured and centers on teaching a work ethic and helping the boys understand their behavior is leading them into less and less freedom.
We develop positive character traits by exposing the boys to many vocational education opportunities including carpentry, welding, boat maintenance & repair, gas and diesel engine repair, and some basic electrical concepts. Character traits such as dependability, follow through, focus, and attention to detail are taught in these courses. Counseling is offered individually and through groups by both licensed mental health professionals, and pastoral counseling.
Professional staff conducts individual sessions with families and their sons including conversations over the phone, and staff sends frequent email to keep family updated. Additionally, short weekly phone calls along with encouraged letter writing helps restore family relationships.
Safe Harbor admits boys age 15-17 who are experiencing behavior problems in home and at school and need an alternative home setting. Referrals are accepted from the professional mental health community, judiciary, pastors, relatives and friends. The purpose of Safe Harbor is to assist the boys in becoming responsible, mature and independent young men through spiritual, educational and vocational training. As a maritime program the boys live aboard boats, learning seamanship skills. All boys must be able to pass a swimming exam as a condition of admission.
The boys receive Vocational training in a variety of disciplines is also offered on-campus. Lifestyle competence such as driver education, job seeking skills (interviewing, resumes, appropriate dress), banking – including establishing and maintaining a checking and savings’ account, the correct use of credit, and every boy graduates from Dr. Robbie’s FHA club (Future Husbands of America) learning basic nutrition, cooking and grocery shopping skills, laundry and housekeeping skills. The boys must maintain academic success in order to be eligible for extracurricular activities that may include SCUBA certification, windsurfing, boating activities, fishing and a myriad of off-campus activities.
Responsibility for one’s actions are taught and reinforced on a daily basis. Privileges come only with an increased demonstration of responsibility for one’s self and toward others. The goals of our educational and vocational programs are to prepare the boys for entrance into and success in the workplace. The foundation principles used include a focus on INTEGRITY and GOOD CHARACTER, team work, listening and speaking ability, problem solving, ability to instruct and lead others, ability to allocate one’s time and money, reasoning and personal integrity, honesty, self-management and social ability.
The philosophy of Safe Harbor is to provide a caring, loving, disciplined atmosphere, to instill self-esteem, responsibility and reliability in the boys. To teach them to live and work in harmony with others, to be accepting and tolerant of their fellow man without compromising the truth, in a word to become mature. To this end we believe this is maturity:
- To know God and enjoy a personal relationship with Him.
- To be able to stick with a job until it is finished.
- To be able to bear an injustice without wanting to get even.
- To be able to carry money without spending it.
- To do one’s duty without being supervised.
FROM THE FOUNDERS… “In 1982, when we took in our first boys for a short–term stay, we had no idea that this would become our life’s work. But what we were doing with the boys was working. God seemed to have a plan, so we decided to commit ourselves to the boys for one year. In 1984, when we officially incorporated Safe Harbor we had also committed our own financial resources to support the program. We trusted God that even after our own resources were gone that he would help provide the funding if He wanted us to continue. Because we felt that government was not and never would be very good at raising children we decided to accept NO government funding. God has been faithful. Through the time, talent and treasure of countless individuals, organizations and businesses, He has blessed Safe Harbor and all of the boys and families we have served.”
Since its inception the Safe Harbor program has provided each boy with the mental, physical and spiritual strength to succeed in life. The water and boating have always played an integral part in our lives. Life on the water provides serenity and peace, but also unequaled opportunities for life lessons. For these reasons they utilize the waterfront and vessels as the foundation of the residential, academic and vocational education program. Sixty-plus donated boats of all sizes fill the docks and the landscape. The vessels serve as housing for the boys and staff; training vessels for marine industry based skills and play an important role in the vocational education and character development programs. They have kept the unique residential, integrated academic/vocational program, guided by the Christian foundation the same throughout the past 25 years, the vehicles through which the goals are achieved are constantly changing, never stagnant. Safe Harbor will incorporate any medium to excite, inspire, teach and bring hope to boys we serve.
Cost Effective: Safe Harbor is funded exclusively by the private sector (we receive no government funding). We understand that families may have to sacrifice in order to see their son admitted to the program and moving toward a successful outcome.
Academics: The Safe Harbor academic philosophy is built on the belief that education is a lifelong process and occurs in every area of life. At Safe Harbor the foundation to a balanced education is the understanding that varied and unique learning styles exist, and identifying the particular style of a student ensures he will achieve maximum success. Integrating a student’s unique learning style with traditional and active learning, hands-on and critical thinking skills, developed in an atmosphere seeking and requiring excellence, empowers students to achieve maximum success. Thus, learning becomes fun, stimulating, and its own reward. Academics are a core component of the overall Safe Harbor Academy program.
Due to behavioral challenges, many new students come to Safe Harbor academically delayed. The academic and overall program helps students recover from these delays and regain lost ground. The curriculum combined with the unique and creative learning approach supports students who previously have not experienced success in the academic setting.
The overall program, including vocational and maritime elective credit classes, reinforce “real life” learning. Key academic and life lessons are melded into the overall program helping students discover their true interests and abilities, while strengthening and helping students develop positive character qualities in their lives. Many fun and exciting activities exist at Safe Harbor such as; scuba certification, engine shop, fishing, sailing, surfing, Spike Reef Project and many more.