Alumni Questionnaire ← Back to Index

Tara Ketola:

Your name, first and last.

Tara Ketola

To which institutions were you sent?

Escuela Caribe

How old were you?

15

Date you entered The Program/ Date you left.

Mid 1992/Early 1994

What was the highest level you attained?

3rd

Please describe the circumstances that got you sent to The Program:

The onset of a psychological condition involving hallucinations & severe depression

interest in world religion, the occult, and science; association with non-christian peers, music, movies, etc.

Which house were you in?

Starr House

Please describe instances of abuse you experienced while in the program, if any.

I believe that the systematic depersonalization of children is inherently abusive, and psychologically scarring.

I was led to believe that my mother had permanently disowned me, while my mother was led to believe that I needed to be institutionalized for life.

I was forced to machete cane while visibly & severely ill (with typhus) until I finally lost consciousness.

I was under the authority & care of a house father who was later convicted of sex crimes, and whose behavior was far from appropriate. Every night before bed, for example, we were expected to line up to hug him. He had frequent and unsolicited physical contact with the girls in my house.

It was commonplace to be ordered to exercise past the point of pain, usually while being belittled, threatened & intimidated.

I was subjected to corporal punishment for rule violations I had not committed. (Whether or not swats are considered abusive, note that they were given while the child was kneeling with his or her head & entire upper body positioned under the seat of a chair.)

Describe abuse of other students you witnessed, if any.

I saw a student publicly berated & mocked by a house father because he could not complete his punitive push-ups. He was unable to perform them because the house father was standing on his back.

I saw countless examples of public degradation and humiliation associated with body functions, body types, and other private matters. For example, one student failed to finish his punitive exercises in time, as he was very tall and heavy set. As a result, his entire house was ordered to haul him (holding him off the ground by limbs and clothes) up the entire steep hill in even less time.

Bathroom requests were frequently denied although it was a standard rule to drink 2-3 full glasses of water every day, along with 1-2 full glasses of milk with every meal. Repeated requests and accidents were viewed as insubordination.

Low rankers were required to ask a high ranker or staff member to visually verify incidences of fecal abnormality.

Female students were reprimanded for the errant pubic hair that commonly grows slightly past the area covered by a bathing suit, although we were only given shaving opportunities once a week, if that.

All students were forced to deny the existence of any child sentenced to isolation in the Quiet Room. This room was a small concrete cell without lighting or furniture. Students sent there first had their hair chopped off and were stripped to their underwear. They had to sleep on the concrete floor and scrub the cement for hours on end until they earned back the privilege of wearing clothes and sleeping on a cot.

Describe abuse of other students you witnessed, if any.

I have fond memories of a colorful culture on a beautiful island.

I am also inspired by the strength and resilience of the human spirit, having seen children strive to create joy despite their environment.

What is your overall impression of The Program - did it “help you”?

The program completely undermined my ability to trust my own judgment, trust others, distinguish right from wrong, identify my feelings, relate to normal people, and form healthy bonds.

What do you think of the quality of education you received?

Courses were comprised of independently read textbook lessons, syllabus-dictated assignments, & self-administered tests. Access to teachers was limited, as was the subject range of available classes. I cannot imagine that system being effective for any child with scholastic difficulties.

How old are you today?

28

Did you go to college afterward? If so, what degrees do you have?

No, local high schools would not accept Escuela Caribe's “accreditation.” They would have required me to start over from 9th grade.

What is your profession?

Screen printer

Do you consider yourself a Christian today?

No.

What effect did “The Program” have on your faith?

I don't think the program affected my faith as much as it made me extremely wary of individuals claiming to be “doing God's work.” I'm also highly suspicious of religious institutions/organizations of any nature.

Please feel free to add comments here.

As the Dominican Republic is a developing country, outbreaks of dysentery, salmonella, giardia, typhoid, typhus, and hepatitis A are common and impossible to prevent.

My mother & I have long since forgiven each other for the hurtful mistakes we made in the past, but she has not forgiven herself for trusting Escuela Caribe. She spent $40,000.

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