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EXCEL ACADEMY IN TEXAS

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EXCEL ACADEMY

Conroe, tx

(An Aspen Education Group Program--Reportedly Closed as of October 8th, 2008)

SURVIVOR TESTIMONIAL: EXCEL ACADEMY

Survivor Account #1

Hi my name is Heather McGee. Everything in my statement is true.  I give HEAL permission to use my statement.  I attended a therapeutic boarding school called Excel Academy in Conroe Texas at the age of 15 in 2000.  It is very painful to write this, but I feel maybe my experience could benefit others that may be in danger or even in similar situations.  I was a problem child growing up I also had other issues such as alcohol abuse and drug abuse. I was not sent to excel just for my substance abuse I was sent mainly for my behavioral problems. I was diagnosed with bipolar at age 14 from there on I pretty much just escalated, acting out yelling at my parents and becoming violent.  As parents they did what they "thought" was right and put their trust into the hands of excel academy.  My mother had told me I was needing to change schools and in the position I was in at that moment I was excited, I was willing to take any opportunity I could to get some help. Mom and Dad drove me to Texas.  They told me I was going to attend a private Christian school. I was excited absolutely thrilled; I had no idea that I was just about to experience something that would affect me for the rest of my life.  Mom and I got out of the car and went into the office. A heavyset lady talked to mom a minute and then Hell walked in, her name was Jamie, Jamie was the head of the staff. She walked in, I took one look at her and just knew something did not seem right. Other girls also walked in behind her. Jamie didnít say much to me except (heather come with me). I was put into a jumpsuit and had to take all jewelry out including anything from the "outside" I was put into an orange jumpsuit with (runaway call 911) on the back of it. I didnít think much of it. And honestly as I'm trying to write all this I must have blocked out most of the things that occurred there for my first 3 months so forgive me if none of this makes sense.  As my time there progressed I noticed the things that happened there were not in any way appropriate. The physical and verbal abuse there was very high, and when I say physical and verbal I mean from the staff not children attending the school.  I'm thinking back to as many situations I can remember, on a daily basis there I was abused physically and verbally. I was not like most of the children there I argued and talked back with the staff which if I had only known I was going to get hit or verbally attacked I would of never argued.  Eventually I just became quiet and gave up on everything, we will get to that later on though.  About 6 months into this program and when I say 6 months thatís when I start remembering just "some" of the things that went on.  I had came into excel a little heavy from my drug and alcohol abuse and or many other things. After being there 6 months I was actually considered obese and was reminded of my weight problem daily from Jamie and the other staff members. I was called fat, fat ass, fat shit, slut, whore, loser yes LOSER and FAT was one of Jamieís favorite things to say to me. Most of the children that came there caught on to the scene pretty quickly and just remained silent afraid they might risk the abuse too. I know you are probably wondering why we did not just tell our parents the truth about excel well hereís why we were monitored daily and nightly by girls called "shadows" these girls had been there for a while and had figured out if they act like they like the program and put on a smile they would be out of there soon!!!! So my shadows which I had about 5 followed me everywhere including shower time and when I had to use the restroom. They would write down everything u did wrong and tell Jamie. Most of my shadows tried to not write too much down afraid Jamie might ' GO PSYCHO" but they also knew if they didnít write anything down they would get it just as bad. So during LIFESKILLS, a class we attended after regular school hours the shadows of the girls would read out the BAD things the girls had done. I remember soo soooo well walking towards the cafeteria where lifeskills was held and having the sickest feeling in my stomach along with pretty much every student there. I would shake and want to cry I remember if Jamie did not show up that day which she did often due to issues that were unexplained and or kept from us the student would have this sense of relief come over them almost like a feeling like thank you god thank you so much god I can at least BREATH. During lifeskills Jamie would call the students names such as gay fuck and bitch and so on it gets worse. She would stand the children up and humiliate them with anything she could think of and if you talked back to her she would spit in your face and start pounding on your chest with her hands leaving all kinds of bruises. And eventually she started cutting the girls hair it was called a" learning experience" in her words. And not cut our hair nicely, she would just take scissors and start cutting away sometimes leaving half of the girls hair not cut and the other half butched. I remember so well every time Jamie verbally attacked someone or physically abused them she would smile happily and it wasnít a normal smile it was a sick sick smile almost like Jamie enjoyed seeing these children being tortured. A lot of children there were also put into the corner to stand sometimes all night long and sometimes all day long, in the corner we would eat tuna fish, not sandwiches, just plain tuna fish in a bowl. On my sixteenth birthday I was in the corner and had been for about 6 months, my whole entire stay at excel I pretty much was standing in the corner of course attending school and going to bed (sometimes) but other than that I was always in the corner back to my sixteenth birthday my mother had sent a cake for me and some presents, I stood in the corner with tuna in a bowl and watched the other children eat the birthday cake my mother had sent only about 15 kids got to eat cake the rest were on discipline too. I never received my motherís presents I was told to write a thank you letter to my mother for the presents she sent that I never received.  I have a learning disability also, I was not quick to learn and I was told I was a distraction to the other students in my class so I was put into a closet with a computer my mom sent and was put on a Christian home school program called alpha omega. I recall Jamie taking me out of class one day and telling me to fucking go inside my closet and I would do school from there she closed the door and left. My alpha omega program was e mailing my teachers homework and what not at one point I thought I was slick and tried to ask one of the teachers for help and to contact the police. Somehow my e-mail never made it through but Jamie knew about it quickly and I was punished again.  Girls in our dorm which was pretty much a huge trailer filled with bunk beds, stayed up all night taking shifts to watch the other girls sleep just in case of a runaway happening. If u sneezed wrong or even snored they had to write it down and at lifeskills the next day u were yelled at and abused.  There were a lot of girls and some boys there with eating disorders, some were also vegetarians, these certain girls and boys were forced to eat beyond there limit including thirds seconds sometimes fourths. I remember some girls would throw up because they were to full and Jamie forced them to eat another plate. The ones that were vegetarians were forced to eat all their meat no matter what including the fatty tissue of the meat.  I had 2 escapes at excel that was my food and my sleep. I tried to gorge myself with food when I could which didnít last long because I was eating tuna fish the last year there.  My other escape was sleep; I would get so excited when it was bedtime. I could dream I could go into another world, I dreaded waking up sometimes I wanted to just fall asleep and never wake up again. Of course no child there got more than 5 hours of sleep. a lot of the time Jamie would come in the dorms both girls and boys and wake everyone up at whatever time she felt like it and make us all go do BOOTCAMP with the officers from Montgomery county jail. Officer Witworth was one I remember. I could see in his eyes he wanted all of us to do well and learn our lessons but he had no idea what was the actual case he was hard on us it was his job and if he only knew that to all of us bootcamp was better than getting abused.  I was woke up one night with a crock pot full of ice water Jamie poured it on my head and said get up fat ass, I and a few other girls and boys was taken out in the snow to do boot camp no matter how could rainy or hot it was she didnít care. I have asthma and when I would get short of breath I would ask for me inhaler which she refused to give me unless I starting almost fainting. S couple time children would fall to the ground in exhaustion, Jamie would come up behind them and kick them and tell them to get the fuck up or the will get it worse. some would get up some would lay there unable to move. she would drag them into the building and we never really got to find out what went on. Boot camp had become a routine for me sometimes all day long sometimes just 1 or 2 times a day so I adapted. I remember when Jamie wasnít watching, Officer Witworth would let us kinda half ass our workouts then if she came out or showed up he would go straight back to the workout. Officer Witworth had to come out often for just me I remember one time he came out told me to follow him to a picnic table and let me sit down across from him he sat there and talked to me asked me what I was feeling and why I acted the way I did, I was shocked and I was so desperate to talk to anyone at this point and I had maybe got a few words in until Jamie interrupted us and said HEATHER what the fuck do u think you are doing get out there and fucking start doing bear crawls. Officer Witworth just looked at her and came and helped her with my workout.  My whole stay there I was unable to talk to anyone I was on a BAND or restriction where if I opened my mouth to anyone I was going to be punished. Of coarse we were not allowed to speak of outside issues relating to drugs music friends etc. so most of the time if we were allowed to speak it was about excel only or our program.  I thought it was just me at first I knew I was the "bad apple" there and I should be punished but as I stayed there longer I noticed everyone else there was being abused and punished in an inappropriate manner. That way most of the children there remained silent. And if I had to do it all over again I probably would of too.  As I began to fall apart emotionally loosing my sanity day by day I started cutting myself not for attention mostly because I thought maybe if I kept doing it they would kick me out and send me to a different program. Of coarse they did not, and wouldnít in their mind they would be loosing money!! I started cutting deeper and deeper every time and at one point I had actually found a vein which maybe I could break and bleed to death, hopefully get sent to the hospital, but the vein did not break and that day Jamie found out and came and grabbed me out of my closet and dragged me to the cafeteria she then poured lemon juice and salt into my open wound I had made. Her and some other staff held me down as I screamed.  Two girls had actually succeeded in running away the first 6 months I was there, they had tried several times but they finally made it. When I found out about this I wasnít sad I was not sad at all in fact along with other girls I was amazed and jealous and at the same time so happy for them. They never came back and I would just smile thinking of them and how brave they were.  One day when I was in my closet something seemed strange everyone was being so nice to me, the staff even came in my closet and asked me to write a paper on how I feel excel has helped me. Of coarse I dare not write anything bad because I took this as an opportunity to maybe get treated different, plus when u go a day with the staff smiling at you and not hitting or cursing at you seem happy. That paper was one of the hardest things I've had to ever do, I lied in that paper and just tried to write down what I wished could have been possible. My shadows took the paper and walked me into the cafeteria there I found my mother and the whole student body standing in there. My heart sank I was in complete shock I didnít know what to do. Then I look over I see sally Jamieís " girlfriend/ lover"/staff member) most 99% of the staff there was Jamieís relatives. Anyway I look over and see sally with this face of death she looked as if she was going to explode not in a good way in a very very BAD way.  These events that occurred at excel academy were wrong, I am not the same at all this is the first time I have ever tried to even think back about the "excel days" I have mentioned it to my mom o few times and she wants to take them to court I do not excel has yes abusive and hurtful people working there and yes they brainwash every single parent that walks into that do claiming there child will die if they donít stay here, but in no way in NO WAY did I receive any help, any therapy, any love that excel promised my mother, I apologize if all my writing my  seem confusing it is very very painful to think back to those days and I ask myself this question every day did excel help me or did excel hurt me? I do not blame my mother for sending me there I did indeed need professional help, and from what she knew I was going to receive help, I was an out of control child and my mother did her best to make sure I stay safe and alive. Why was I abused at excel why was my self esteem completely gone while I was there. I did not receive the help I needed I was punished and abused and its a day to day process of getting my head back up, I still to this day 5 years later have nightmares about excel academy, and those nightmares affect my mental ability my emotional ability, and also affect they way I react to peers family or my daughter.  I am a mother now I have a daughter thatís 2, I have my own house and I have a great relationship with my family and significant other. I wanted to make sure parents out there know what goes on at excel academy I want to try and make sure no child has to ever experience that kind of experience, no human being deserves abuse, I will do whatever it takes to make sure excel does not continue this inappropriate behavior and that they do not get away with what they have done, I will never be the same after attending excel, and I am aware I cannot save everyone but at least I can make a difference to someone at least I can maybe save one life, please PLEASE help me put a stop to abusive schools thank you and god bless.

                                                                                

Sincerely,

                                                                                                    

Heather McGee

 

Staff Report #1 (From an e-mail dated March 16th, 2009)

Hi my name is Tammy Malone.  I worked at Excel Academy while Heather McGee was a student.  I only worked their for 4 months and left due to on-the-job-injury.  But I did call the local Child Protective Services, but I was basically told that the kids were old enough to fend for themselves and there was really no physical abuse. 

EVERYTHING that Heather McGee wrote was true.  I am glad that they are closed down.  I hope that Jamie never works with kids again.  I also hope that someone takes custody of her adopted kids.

 ~Tammy M. Malone
 

If you would like to submit a report on Excel Academy, click here.

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