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" <Ref>"Fixing Generation XXL", by Kate Fillion, Macleans, 2006-07-19 </Ref>
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 <Ref>California facility on Google maps </Ref>.
- 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 <Ref>The area around the North Carolina campus</Ref>.
- A third facility will open someplace in the state of New York (Since mid 2008 there has been no new information about a date for the opening).
- A forth facility will open in UK in three years <Ref>Boarding school for obese children, The Standard, July 28 2008</Ref>
The academies are operated by Healthy Living Academies, a division of Aspen Education Group. It is closely affiliated with Wellspring Camps.
The old name 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.
All academies closed early 2014. The cause was stated to be the economy <ref>Wellspring Academy to close, Yahoo News
Wellspring Academy to close, ABC 30 news</ref>. The wellspring camps continue to be held.
The program operates with a level system: Newcomers start as novice. The names for the following levels are boulder, ascender and vallayer. If a youth break the rules which could mean expulsion, they are often offered a deal which result in being dropped to the lowest level. One of the rules are forbiding normal socializing with peers <Ref>WEIGHT-LOSS CAMP, Transformed teen has a new challenge — high school, By SARAH VIREN, Houston Chronicle</Ref>.
The diet has been criticized <Ref>Extreme Low-Fat Farm Abusing Obese Kids, Jimmi Moore </Ref>, but such a very-low-fat diet is supported by rather old investigations by the World Health Organization <Ref>Alice H. Lichtenstein, DSc; Linda Van Horn, PhD, RD; ; for the Nutrition Committee,Very Low Fat Diets, American Heart Association, Inc. 1998 </Ref> and the American Diabetes Association <Ref>Dietary fat and diabetes, Diabetes Care 2002 </Ref>. A number of articles in Washington post disclosed that the diet, which only contains one quater of the fat recommended by Weight Watchers could risk causing an increased risk of gallbladder problems <Ref>One Day at a Time, Scenes From a Recent Visit to Wellspring Academy of the Carolinas, By Sandra G. Boodman, The Washington Post, May 20 2008</Ref>.
A number of experts - among them Anjali Jain, a pediatrician at Children's National Medical Center question the expense and necessity of boarding school. They point out that there is no longterm study of the results gained after graduation <Ref>'Fat School' - In the Hills of North Carolina, a Controversial Experiment in Weight Loss, By Sandra G. Boodman, Washington Post Staff Writer May 20 2008</Ref>.
One of the not so positive case is the one of Jahcobie Cosom, who ended up weighing 562 pounds <Ref>When 'Fat School' Failed Him, , By Sandra G. Boodman, Washington Post Staff Writer May 20 2008</Ref>.
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 <Ref>Sacramento Bee Special Report, See chapther 3 </Ref>.
If a teenager experiences homesickness, the parents are given some trick to manipulate the child to stay in the program. <Ref>What happens if, after a month or two, my child decides she doesn’t want to continue, and wants to come home?, program homepage </Ref>
In the news[redigér]
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 <Ref>What if my child isn’t interested in attending AOS?, Program homepage FAQ </Ref>. 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 <Ref>The Dr. Phil House: Teen Intervention, Part 3 </Ref>.
- Survivor group: CWS and AOS Alumni, Myspace
- Survivor group: Academy of the Sierras Alumni, Myspace
- Survivor group: Academy of the Sierras, Myspace
- Survivor group: Wellspring Academies (AOS) is a scam!, facebook
- Survivor group: Academy of the Sierras (AOS), facebook (closed group, must apply for membership)
- Survivor group: Wellspring Academies and Academy of the Sierras Alumnus, facebook
- Survivor group: Academy of the sierra alumni, facebook
- Forum: Aspen forum on fornits
- Forum: Aspen Education Group Programs - subforum on the message board of Fight Institutional Child Abuse Network (FICAN)
- Forum: Aspen - subforum on the message board of Community Alliance For the Ethical Treatment of Youth (CAFETY)