|Seven Days I Will Never Forget
By: Taylor Kirkpatrick
I would like to share my story about the seven days I spent at
Carolina Springs Academy (CSA), a World Wide Association of
Specialty Programs and Schools (WWASPS) program.
I was a normal teen who had some issues at home, but I never dreamed
the issues were big enough that my mom would have me taken to a
place far from home. I understand she was frustrated and the people
she talked to made her think they had all the answers for our
I woke up in the middle of the night and two strangers were in my
bedroom. They made me get dressed in front of them and even made me
go to the bathroom in front of them. They said the usually handcuff
kids but that if I cooperated they would not use them on me. I was
so scared I decided to cooperate with them so they held onto my
wrists instead of using handcuffs. I asked to see and talk to my
parents but they would not let me. Finally, once we were in the car
they allowed my parents to come outside and I was able to say a
quick goodbye from the car window.
One of the girls from Imagine group at CSA said when the escort
service was taking her through the airport they put their hand in
her pants and held onto her panties so they could pull hard and hurt
her if she tried to run. They tried that on another girl at CSA, but
she would not let them put their hands in her pants. So instead,
they attached a dog leash to her belt loop and dragged her through
the airport on a leash. She was embarrassed, hid her face in her
hands, and put on her sunglasses.
Mr. Billy is the person who transports children. He transports girls
alone which doesn’t seem right to me. When my mom came to pick me
and another girl up from CSA, she saw Mr. Billy get into a van alone
with a girl.
One of the girls at CSA was transported to Tranquility Bay in
Jamaica while I was there. The contract my mom signed says they can
send kids there without even getting the parents’ permission. They
say they will try to reach the parents but if they can’t get a hold
of them then the kids can be transported there and they can get a
passport for the kids. And if that happens, the parents are
responsible to pay for everything.
My first few days:
I spent the first three days at CSA with my host buddy. During that
time I was only allowed to talk with her, and only if an upper-level
girl was around. For those first three days all she did was teach me
about 200 rules. One thing she told me that I thought seemed strange
was that I would get fat there and that I would feel great when I
left the program. The people who had been there for a while seemed
strange to me. Most of what they said did not make any sense.
When girls had been in the program for about six months, they made
fun of new girls. They acted like we were crazy for not wanting to
be there. Upper-level girls worked in shifts and were responsible to
take care of the lower-level girls. Staff did not take care of the
girls. Instead of talking with us, usually upper-level girls used
hand signals. For example, if they were trying to tell us we could
brush our hair they would tap the top of their heads. It seemed
really strange to me. I had to have permission to do everything
including using the bathroom, and then someone was always with me. I
could never talk to anyone or go anywhere within the facility
without permission. The girls had to wear skirts but they would not
let us cross our legs. Some of the rules were very petty and seemed
We had to be silent most of the time. We talked less than an hour a
day on most days and when we did an upper-level girl was always
there to listen to your conversation. You could never talk to
another lower-level girl without staff or an upper-level there to
listen. I felt we were treated very unfairly. For example, if one
girl talked the rest of us had to be in bed at 7:30 p.m.
None of us were allowed to shave our legs or armpits until we
reached upper-level status. Everyone was dirty because they did not
have enough time to take care of personal hygiene or to use the
bathroom to have a bowel movement. My mom was shocked to see how
dirty I was when she came to pick me up. During the week I was there
I was not able to have a bowel movement. The girl that came home
with us said she did not remember having a bowel movement the entire
month she was there. I never had privacy or enough time.
Boys were mostly skinny while girls were mostly fat. The girls were
given large plates of greasy, poor-quality food and were forced to
eat at least ½ of what was on their plates. I threw up my first day
there. The food is greasy and horrible. The kitchen is filthy.
I was not allowed to go anywhere alone. When girls looked at the
field as if they were thinking of running they were told that an old
man lives out there and that he shoots anything that’s yellow. We
all wear bright yellow sweat suits to make us less of a runaway
In the week I was there we were allowed to go outside only twice for
less than an hour each time for PE. There was no real PE and no PE
teacher. There were only upper-level girls telling us what to do.
Everything we did at CSA was repetitive. During my stay I was not
allowed to go outside every day, I was never allowed off the
property, I was not allowed to have fun, and I did not have a
regular teacher helping with my school work. There was nothing to do
but school work for a few hours and listening to inspirational tapes
for hours on end.
I met with my buddy who was on level 2. She explained it “takes
forever” to move up a level. I was allowed to talk to my buddy, who
was on level 2, for 30 minutes a day. We had to have an upper-level
girl there who listened to our conversations, someone who had
already attended at least one seminar and who had reached
upper-level status. If we were caught talking alone we lost
Parents must attend brainwashing seminars so their kids can advance
in the program. The parents of an 18-year old girl were convinced by
the program that their daughter was not ready to graduate and that
she should go to another facility, Pillars of Hope, in Costa Rica to
finish her program. Her parents wrote her a letter telling her she
was going to have to stay to graduate from the program. She cried,
no senior prom, no pictures, she was sad she would spend her 18th
birthday there. She was pressured to stay after she was 18 by
upper-level girls and staff who told her she could not make it in
the world, that she would make the same mistakes again, and that she
could not make the right decisions. Staff and her parents finally
convinced her to go to Pillars of Hope to finish out her program.
They promised to give her some spending money and that she could go
on the beach so she agreed.
I saw girls who were very sick while I was there. Five girls were
throwing up blood and one looked like she broke her hand. There were
about 92 girls in the building that is fairly small so when they
were vomiting it was all in the same area. They had nothing like
Lysol to clean things up. The staff did not help the girls when they
were sick or hurt. Because they did not have any cleaning products
or Lysol they sprayed air freshener instead. Staff kept the
temperature of the dorms very cold to try to kill the germs.
A.J. had horrible sinus problems and was very sick. She vomited
every day after she ate and got in trouble for not eating all of her
food. Staff and upper-level girls would not allow her to even lay
her head down or let her rest.
I remember when the girls were throwing up Miss K.K. said she wanted
to leave to buy some Vitamin C because, like she said, she wanted to
get the devil out of her. She said she did not want to take the
The only time I saw staff helping kids was when they gave out
medications. They lost my medication and did not give it to me for
two days. Then, when staff finally found it, they tried to make me
take more than I should have. When I tried to let them know they
were giving me too much they got angry and took away some of my
points. I remember one day when they could not find the keys to the
medication cabinet. Girls were sick and wanted their medications but
could not have them until the next day. Over-the-counter medications
were kept in a cabinet with a lock on it. Prescription medications
are kept in the office away from the kids in another building.
One girl complained all day that she could not breathe. She was very
sick and hit the floor when she passed out. They would not do
anything to help her. It was students who took her to bed and
changed her clothes. Staff and upper-level girls said she would be
accountable and get lost points if she talked. She was supposed to
leave the program in 20 days.
Another girl got mad and punched a wall. She had gotten frustrated
and was sent to OP. During lunch a staff member told her to move her
fingers because they knew she was in a lot of pain. She tried, but
her middle and ring fingers cracked and she screamed and cried. They
wrapped it and put ice on it and would not take her to the doctor
though she begged them to. They kept putting ice on it for 2-3 days.
She hit her hand accidentally on the trash, she screamed, vomited in
the trash can because it hurt so much, then she hit the floor and
rolled around holding her hand. Miss Nancy said they’d get some ice.
The bathrooms were filthy. The showers had mold growing on the
tiles, the floors were filthy with used menstrual pads left lying
around. The bathroom smelled terrible.
The PE area and other areas smelled terrible. We went to “buddy”
meetings. We took our blankets because it was so cold, but it was
disgusting when I saw other girls’ pubic hair on my blanket. The
pubic hair is all over the floor.
The cafeteria was disgusting too. We were not allowed to keep our
binders on the table. I did not want to put mine on the floor
because it was so filthy.
My mattress had big wires poking through and I could feel them when
I tried to sleep. We were not allowed to move once we were in our
beds and could not even turn our heads without getting in trouble.
We had to sit Indian style on the hard floor of our dorm to listen
to education videos four hours each day, and then on and off
throughout the day. We were not allowed to lean against our beds so
we had no support for our backs.
During school hours we were forced to sit on a chair and not move or
talk. The chairs were close together and it was very uncomfortable.
Sunday was supposed to be “clean day”. We were not allowed to go
outside and have fun, not even on Sunday. We cleaned for most of the
day and were allowed to watch videos if everyone did what they were
supposed to do.
There was no toilet paper in the bathroom for two days. One time I
had to use my bath towel. There are no doors inside the building and
when you go through a doorway you have to count. There are cameras
in the dorms watching as you sleep. They leave a light on at night.
They say they have to do that to avoid girls from trying to run
If you don’t do your homework in a regular school the teacher
reprimands you, but at CSA the student will reprimand you – you’re
supposed to keep your eyes on your books 100% of the time – if you
twirl you hair or scratch yourself a student will call you out.
Staff only cares about upper-level girls. They don’t even have to do
school work, basically what they do is pick on lower-level kids.
School – it’s not school, you teach yourself. I was told many of the
girls have fallen behind in their school work since they got there.
One girlwas having problems in Geometry and asked to see a teacher.
It took 5 days to see one so she was stuck on the same problem all
that time. During school you are sitting in the lunchroom with other
kids but no one is teaching you. You read a book, do the workbook
and turn in your assignments. Then you turn in your notes and take a
test. You can take two tests between Monday and Thursday, and one on
Friday. You cannot take a test on Saturday. If you do not get at
least a B grade you have to do that lesson all over again.
Communication with the outside world:
We were not allowed to contact anyone outside the facility. The only
communication was with our parents, and those were monitored. I
wrote my mama letters when I could on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday.
Things seemed alright on my first day. I wrote two positive letters
to my mama, she got them both.
After I was there a day I knew something was wrong and wrote my mama
letters to try to warn her and to tell her the Discovery seminar
brainwashes parents into thinking their child must graduate the
program, meaning the child will usually be there at least 2 years,
instead of 6 months to a year like they tell the parents. She never
got those letters. I could not understand why I did not receive any
letters from my mama while I was there. A girlsaid staff discourages
parents from writing to their children. My mama wrote to me every
single day and sent them overnight but I never got her letters.
I did receive a package from my mama. When I saw it, it had already
been opened and was at Ms. Lynn’s desk. There was a note to Ms. Tara
in the box but no letter to me. My mama said she put an envelope
with my name on it saying “I’m coming to get you, there’s something
wrong with this program.” I did not get the letter, it was not in
I was told that if parents get close to Ms. Tara she would convince
them their child must stay in the program and graduate. I was
confused and cried when I saw other girls opening letters from their
parents and I did not receive any. Miss Lynn gave me a “break in
silence,” and made me write an essay. Everything we did there was
Ms. Anne is a strange woman, she makes strange comments, is
scattered-brained, and does not seem to care about the girls.
Miss Teresa is very mean. When my mom came to pick me and T.R. up
from CSA Miss Teresa led us to believe we were being transported to
Tranquility Bay in Jamaica when we were really being taken to be
picked up by my mama.
Miss Tara, the family representative only spent about 30 minutes a
day with the girls, if that. The rest of the time they were
supervised by upper-level girls.
The upper-level girls are the ones who take care of the lower-level
girls and who hand out corrections. Kids take care of themselves for
the most part. The only time I saw staff caring for the girls was to
hand out their prescription medications.
Miss Kathy was mean and rude and was in charge of watching us while
we slept. She stayed up very late socializing with other staff and
upper level girls, keeping us awake. She forced us to sleep with the
light on. Most girls did not get much sleep most nights I was there.
One girl told staff and upper-level girls she had to use the
bathroom, but they would not let her. Because she was on level 2 and
was considered a run risk, she was not allowed to go alone (only
upper-level girls can go to the bathroom alone). She had to hold it.
Finally, she could no longer hold it and stood up. She said she had
to pee and that she was going to go if no one was going to take her.
A male escort came in and told her if she did not follow the rules
they would take her to OP. He tried touching her and she got angry.
She said she was just trying to do her work and go to the bathroom.
She told him she did not want to go to OP. He tried to pick her up
and she got upset, putting her fist up in the air. I was told she
was taken to Tranquility Bay in Jamaica.
If you look at a boy you get what is called a Cat 4, which means you
lose a lot of your points.
OP is Observation Placement. Kids are taken there as punishment. I
was told if you go there you have to sit in a chair and write
sentences, lie on the floor, or stand with your face against the
wall. They make you sit in an uncomfortable position. OP is in a
small metal shed. It gets very hot in the summer and cold in the
winter. I was told they don’t use the heat or air conditioner. I saw
that doors inside and outside are dented where it looks like they
I was told if you tell anything that happened at seminars you lose
all of your points.
I feel very fortunate that my Mama followed her intuition and
started doing research about this program. When she read stories of
others who had bad experiences, and when she realized this program
was about discipline and that they used brainwashing techniques, she
came to pick me up. I will always be grateful to my Mama for doing
this and for not believing everything someone else told her.