Alumni Questionnaire ← Back to Index

Joshua Sierk:

What is your name?

Joshua Sierk

To which institutions were you sent?

all 3 + group home

How old were you?

14-16

When were you enrolled in The Program?

5/90 - 8/92

What was the highest level you attained?

2nd level, 3rd step in Canada

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

Social problems at school, disagreements with parents, love of rock & roll

In which house(s) did you live?

MWA? can't remember the names

Marion? group home & the guys' house for a few days

DR? Thomas, then Huyck for the last 2-3 months

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

Spiritual Abuse?

Daily. I was forced to believe in the Judeo-Christian God, under penalty of discipline, physical repercussions, and humiliation. I was forced to memorize portions of the Christian bible. I was made to sing songs I didn't believe in, and was refused the privilege of listening to most of the music I enjoyed. I was abused under the illusion of 'God's love,' and refused the human dignity to disagree.

Emotional/Mental Abuse?

I was put under extreme pressure daily to conform. My emotions were ignored regularly, and I was given no outlet. I am a musician and was promised piano lessons, but there was no qualified instructor.

I was refused contact regularly with other students. I was systematically humiliated in front of 50-60 people at a time. I was yelled at and belittled by staff on a daily basis. I was also refused contact, generally, with the opposite gender.

Physical?

In the Dominican Republic, I was spanked. I was spanked up to 10 swats at a time with a leather strip. I was forced to bend over a chair and look at the floor, holding the le gs of a chair while I was being struck. Sometimes the swats were given in front of other students for added humiliation.

In Canada, I was taken out to the woods for a slam session, yelled at, pushed around & forced to hold a sledgehammer above my head for about an hour.

There was also the daily hauling of at least 200 lbs., repetitively, when I was 14 & still developing muscular strength. I have a tight neck muscle problem from this, as well as being forced to remain in push up position for up to 30-60 minutes at a time in the Dominican Republic.

Considering my muscular problems which developed 2 yrs post-program (when I was 18, I got tendonitis and possibly other problems), I'd say I was abused every day, being given push ups & hard physical labor regardless of my pain. Today I am unable to perform even the smallest or least intense physical job, such as bagging groceries, without discomfort.

I developed chronic diarrhea & hemorrhoids in the DR and was given a colonoscopy without my parents' consent and without anesthesia. I wasn't properly treated, and still am having related problems.

I have flat feet, and from running up a 50 degree hill as punishment for more than a year, also developed knee problems. I have electrical impulses every time I put pressure on them, and I can no longer run further than 100 feet or be employed in a place that requires continuously standing up.

Describe abuse of other students you witnessed, if any:

The staff encouraged us to belittle other students. For instance, there was a boy in my house in the Dominican Republic who had 'special problems,' and several of the staff would make fun of him with mocking songs, encouraging us to join in.

Two of my friends were put in solitary confinement for weeks, forced to perform hard labor. They had run away and were beaten, yelled at, given copious amounts of physical exercises, and forced to remain in the 'quiet room' for almost a month. Every day we would see them outside the school, digging a pit, and then running up the hill several times. We were forbidden to communicate with them. I watched my fellow students get humiliated, and was refused the chance to console them.

Most of the time I just heard loud noises, crying and yelling. We weren't allowed to witness it. We just saw the student come out of the woods or the other room with red marks, dirt & tear stains covering their shirts and shorts. I heard stories, but was fortunate enough to not be seriously injured myself.

Do you have any good memories of The Program? If so, what are they?

There were times when I was provided a counselor, and I had a bit of contact with the opposite sex. Unfortunately, most of my friends at home weren't allowed to be in contact with me. Also, the Dominican countryside is beautiful to contemplate.

It's difficult for me to remember a lot of things. I was so traumatized and in my own dreamland during my stay in the program that I am still repressing memories.

I painted a lovely picture in my head of the entire experience for years. Only in my dreams did I remember the truth (to be forgotten upon awakening). In the past couple years have I begun to recall the heinous acts that I witnessed during my stay in New Horizons.

I am just now beginning to recover and remember. I will continue to remember and share my memories with others, particularly those who are recovering and those who are considering sending their children away to a horrible place like NHYM.

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

No. I became bitter, and it turned me off to my parents. I became more rebellious. I became more repressive with my memories, and developed serious emotional & physical problems, including PTSD, more severe depression, mood swings and anti-social behavior.

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

The education was OK. The only thing I regret is having to learn everything on my own through independent study, with a teacher only available for questions. I really wish there had been a traditional classroom environment like in the states.

How old are you today?

29

Did you go to college after attending The Program? If so, what degrees do you have?

I went to college but didn't graduate. I majored in psychology, religion and English. I continued to study music in college until I acquired tendinitis, and then with private teachers. I won two Bach competitions in Richmond, VA. I am also an ordained minister. I decided to acquire this title because it affords me certain rights. At one time, I thought I may use those privileges to teach and take care of a group of people. Now, I'm a bit leery of the system.

What is your profession?

I am currently unemployed. Computer Aided Detector Design (CADD) is my trade, in the electrical engineering area of power generation.

Do you consider yourself a Christian today?

No. I refuse to be classified by that term. I believe in the Judeo-Christian God, Y'shua Ha'Mashiach, but I'm not a member of an official church system, and I try to follow to the original intent of the Holy Scriptures.

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

I rebelled against it for years. I continue to be unsatisfied by the mediocrity in the church in this country. I continue to seek & follow the true God, and I was bitter for years. I wouldn't talk to God, I blamed Him for my hurt, I blamed my parents for forcing Him on me and giving me a horrible picture of Him, and I continue to blame the program and my previous college for enforcing an ungodly portrait of fundamental legalism.

New Horizons most certainly did not love me, or give me what I needed to succeed in the real world. They sheltered me from it and gave me none of the tools I needed. They took my physical strength. They took my resolve, for years. They took my faith and stomped on it with their fundamentalist shoes. they hurt me in the most tender of places: my soul. They gave me an abusive picture of the God that I so cherish today.

I will continue to believe in The Way, for the remainder of my life, but I will also continue to preach AGAINST the program and other perverted, distorted programs like it.

Please feel free to add comments here:

DO NOT SEND ANYONE YOU KNOW OR CARE ABOUT TO NHYM, EVER!

They will end up worse off. No matter what you hear, they will be hurt. The staff will try to reassure you that there is nothing to fear, but don't believe them! There are a few students who stand by the program or return to it to work, but they are still brainwashed, as I was for years. These tales we tell are terrible & horrifying, but they are true.

God bless you all, and may you have peace.

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