Wellspring Academies

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Wellspring Academies formerly known as Academy of the Sierras (or AOS for short) is a therapeutic year-round boarding school, and the world's first behavior modification facility exclusively for overweight and obese teenagers. It was founded by Ryan Craig, who also served as its first Executive Director.

The program calls itself for "the best short-term results ever reported for a weight loss program" [1]

As of February 2007, AOS has two facilities.

  • The California campus is locate on 42675 Road 44, Reedley, California, about 30 minutes southeast of Fresno, and has 90 students ages 13-18 [2].
  • A second campus, located on Lambs Creek Road, Brevard, North Carolina and known as Academy of the Sierras North Carolina (or AOSNC), has roughly 20 students ages 11-16 [3].
  • A third facility will open someplace in the state of New York in June 2008.

AOS is operated by Healthy Living Academies, a division of Aspen Education Group. It is closely affiliated with Wellspring Camps.

The reference to "the Sierras" has been criticized, as most Westerners refer to the Sierra Nevada mountain range area as "the Sierra", singular. AOS maintains that "Sierras", plural, is appropriate because the Spanish translation of Sierra is "saw", literally translating into Academy of the Saws.

The diet has been criticized [4], but such a very-low-fat diet is supported by rather old investigations by the World Health Organization [5] and the American Diabetes Association [6].


If the teenagers do not work the program or violate simple rules like having a cell phone in the facility, they can be transported to a wilderness environment called Sierra Adventure Program (SAP), which is seen as the facility's equivalent of solitary confinement. At the California facility it is located on an island in the Kings River [7].

If a teenager experiences homesickness, the parents are given some trick to manipulate the child to stay in the program. [8]

In the news

Unlike the programs in the other categories, Treatment centres in the Weight loss Division do not allow client to arrive by the use of a Teen escort company. At least they state so on their homepage [9]. Instead the parents ask for a series of phonecalls from staff, which should persuade the student to attend the programs. However, a participant on a Dr. Phil show was sent there by the use of a Teen escort company [10].


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