Alumni Questionnaire ← Back to Index

Kerri (Griffin) Santarlasci:

What is your name?

Kerri (Griffin) Santarlasci

To which institutions were you sent?

I attended all 3 (EC, Marion, Canada)

How old were you?

I was 13 when I entered and 15 when I left. (I wasn't released from the program I ran away and hitch-hiked from Marion, Indiana back to my home in Philadelphia.)

When were you enrolled in The Program?

January 1984-September 1986

What was the highest level you attained?

5th level in EC and S.I.T. in Canada

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

I was running away from home and hanging around with a bad crowd. I was also drinking and being disrespectful toward my mother.

In which house(s) did you live?

I was in T.K.B. in E.C. and I don't remember the names of the houses in Canada or Marion.

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

I received swats on many occasions. I was manhandled by the director and other staff members. I tried to kill myself by drinking bleach, but I wasn't allowed to talk about it or tell my parents by letter or phone. I was punished for my suicide attempt by being put back on 0 level and given swats for having an authority problem and being insubordinate. I tried to run away and was brought back 3 days later. My hair was cut off and I was given 12 swats which left blood bruises not only on my backside but on my legs as well. I was forced to do hundreds of push-ups, squat thrusts, sit ups and casistas while being screamed at for hours in Jeff Valerio's office. I was then put in the Q.R. for a couple weeks and did countless hours of restitution. I specifically recall scrubbing the concrete patios during school so that all of the other kids could see me. Because of my run away attempt I lost my parent visit. My parents were only allowed to see me on campus in a supervised setting for a limited amount of time. I went to Canada a year later as a high ranker and was sent to Marion on 0 level because I'd had a physical relationship with another high ranker. When I arrived in Marion and was summoned to the office I believed I was to be confronted for this. When I got there I was called a whore, told I was disgusting and that I'd burn in hell. I was then asked how long I'd been "fucking my brother". I started to sob and I was very distraught and confused. When I told them I didn't know what they were talking about they called me a liar. Apparently the letters I'd sent to my brother who was in the D.R. while I was in Canada were considered sexual because I put kisses and I love you's on the envelope. Several male staff members surrounded my brother in a circle and pushed, kicked, slapped and punched him until he would admit that he'd had an incestuous relationship with me. Not only was this untrue, it was demented and sick, and I believe had a lasting impact on my brother's emotional health. He died of a heroin overdose at the age of 25. He was my best friend and he NEVER hurt me or touched me in any inappropriate way. I will never forgive them for that. It was less than a week following that confrontation that I had a chance to run away from a church function off campus. I hitch-hiked from Marion back to my home in the suburbs of Philadelphia. When I told my parents what had happened they didn't send me back.

Describe abuse of other students you witnessed, if any:

I witnessed students being body slammed and forced to do exercises to the point of exhaustion and illness. I heard the screams and cries of students in the director's office receiving swats and saw them come out with tear-stained faces unable to console them or support them at all. I saw a pregnant girl forced to stand in front of Starr house with text books on her hands while her arms were raised for hours. They did this to her many times. I saw students forced to do heavy manual labor that was to much for a child their size and then punished or berated when they couldn't complete the task that was meant for a grown man. I can't even recollect all of the things that I saw. Until now I blocked out that part of my life but basically I feel the environment in general was very abusive and demeaning and there wasn't a child there that wasn't abused in one way or another. I saw a girl that wasn't allowed to speak to anyone without counting to 30 first because they said she had a lying problem. I saw too many things to list here.

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

I have wonderful memories of my house parents Jim and Elaine Coppenhagen. They made my life there almost endurable. Also my group leader Paulette was amazingly kind and good. I have wonderful memories of friendship and house trips, horseback riding and going to the beach. Those were the moments I think of and actually smile. I saw some of the most beautiful places in the world when I was there. I loved it when we'd go tubing or go to Bamboo falls. I also loved the school's Dominican cook, Luz.

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

I think the program kept me safe physically because I was unable to run away for any length of time. It was nice that my parents didn't have to worry or wonder where I was. I think the program hurt me more than it helped me and I wouldn't recommend sending any child there for any reason. I don't think they know the first thing about how to deal with a troubled child and they do far more harm than good. That time in my life is a very dark and sad one and not a time I remember with any fondness or gratitude.

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

We basically taught ourselves from textbooks. I was a smart kid and I liked working on my own, so I did okay, I guess.

How old are you today?

I'm 34.

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


What is your profession?

My husband and I own our own construction business.

Do you consider yourself a Christian today?


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

My grandmother gave me my faith... the program made me extremely wary of organized religion and over zealous Christians. The program made me resentful toward God for a very long time. I still have ALOT to discuss with Him.

Please feel free to add comments here:

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