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Military Structure Helps Challenged Teen Boys Succeed – Part One

Brass buttons were bursting with pride at last month’s 33rd annual Robert Land Academy graduation ceremony.

Another class of mature, respectful, goal-oriented and successful young men completed their high school education at Canada’s only military-style boarding school for adolescent boys, some as young as 11 years of age.

School Stresses Academic Excellence

Nestled in southern Ontario’s Niagara Peninsula, these boys flourish in a school environment unlike any they’ve previously attended.

It stresses academic excellence, athletics, leadership and teamwork. Extracurricular activities “make it worthwhile,” said class valedictorian Paul Burrill, 17, from Burnaby, B.C., describing games and sports of every kind, plus rock climbing, boxing, wrestling, “even jumping out of a plane.”

Students Struggle With ADHD, ADD, ODD and Other Issues

RLA’s safe, structured environment often dramatically transforms its students, like Burrill, psychologically and physically.

Their family relationships heal. They develop confidence while achieving top academic marks that open doors to any university, college and career they choose.

Hailing from all over North America, Europe, Hong Kong and the Middle East, they arrive with a rash of challenges and diagnoses.

ADHD, ADD, Oppositional Defiant Disorder and different learning disabilities. Some have critical physical problems demanding lifestyle regulation. Morbid obesity. Diabetes. Others have abused alcohol and drugs or flirted with the law.

Boys Typify A Particular Temperament

“As our education system in Canada and elsewhere became less and less structured, boys of this temperament were at greater risk for success: Boys who actually require a structured environment where clarity of expectations and rules and consistency of reward and consequence prevail in the daily rhythm of school life, said RLA Founder and Head Master G. Scott Bowman (Maj. ret.) in a recent interview.

“These boys tend to be dominant and stubborn, intuitively very bright, but highly selective in their learning habits, adventurous in spirit and often at odds with conventional authority about the way things should be done.

“They do not like change unless they are the sole author of such change. As adolescents, they are typically manipulative and can be charming and gregarious or stormy and dark. Intellectual curiosity is a constant in their make-up and is manifest through many behaviours that can cause parents, teachers and others grief.

“These boys will take a lawn mower apart to figure out how it works, but will never put it back together.”

Students Evolve Dramatically

Burrill completed three life-changing years at RLA.

“High school was a struggle,” he said. “My grades were going downhill and I had some other serious issues.

“Before I came to Robert Land, I didn’t think I would ever graduate. My relationship with my parents was really, really rough. I didn’t want to be at home and I didn’t want to be at school. “But support comes from everywhere at this school. I boosted my averages from 55% to over 80%. The teachers here are incredible. I achieved the position of head boy. My parents started to be proud of me.”

Boys Groomed For Leadership

Burrill reflects on all the lessons he learned at RLA beyond the academic during regimented days beginning at 6 a.m. and ending at 9:30 p.m. There were military drills as well as requisite classes, study halls and formal social events ensuring that each boy learned always to look presentable, he said.

“We iron our clothes. We learn the importance of respecting our superiors and leaders,” Burrill said. “Robert Land develops ‘the whole boy’ and helped me become a leader. I feel confident that I can succeed in any situation in the future.”

Photo: Chris Payne

To Be Continued…

Military Structure Helps Challenged Teen Boys Succeed – Part One

Sandy Naiman

Sandy Naiman is a Toronto freelance journalist.

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APA Reference
Naiman, S. (2012). Military Structure Helps Challenged Teen Boys Succeed – Part One. Psych Central. Retrieved on June 1, 2020, from


Last updated: 19 Sep 2012
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