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The Waitsburg Times:

The Champs From The Boys Ranch

PRESCOTT – This is the story of a group of troubled young men and their often unrecognized contribution to the success of Waitsburg-Prescott sports.

To be fair, it's taken years for WP coaches and play- ers, together with staff at the private school where these youths live, to learn how to work with the boys of Jubilee Youth Ranch.

But in the fall of 2010, the light bulb came on.

"This was a huge year for Jubilee guys to have a positive impact on our team," said WP football head coach Jeff Bartlow.

This was also the year the Cardinals went all the way to the playoffs on a perfect season record.

And players like linebackers Grant and Shane along with wide receiver Anthony were part of that winning team.

"They made us better," Bartlow said. "Their contribution was part of the reason we were 12-1."

Grant, Shane and Anthony were all students at Jubilee.

Since 2006, Jubilee Youth Ranch has co-opted with Waitsburg (and now the Waitsburg-Prescott combine) for sports.

Jubilee is a private Christian school formed more than 15 years ago for "troubled young men" ages 13-18 and located 20 miles outside of Prescott near Vista Hermosa and Broetje Orchards.

At Jubilee, these young men - enrollment in early February was 30 students - learn discipline, conformity, vocational skills, responsibility, academics and leadership skills, according to Executive Director Rick Griffin.

The school began with young men and women but switched to serving solely men three years later. Jubilee also began with its own football and basketball teams in the Blue Mountain League. "But when our enrollment numbers started to decline a little, we decided co-opting with WP would be a good opportunity," Griffin said.

It's come with its own challenges, on both ends, however. For Jubilee staff, it means paying some- one to drive the boys into Waitsburg and chaperone them during all practices and games.

Jubilee students undergo rigid behavior modification programs, which limit their outside contact and keep them away from social influences like music, television, even clothing. Students wear uniforms at all times.

Students wear colored rubber bracelets to indicate their "level" in the hierarchy of privileges at Jubilee. Higher-level students might be allowed to wear regular clothes, watch TV or play a video game on Friday, or have a later bedtime, Griffin said.

"These are young men from all over the country who are struggling with drugs, alcohol, gang problems, neglect, abuse and the whole gamut of mental health issues," he said. "Their parents aren't really sure what to do with them. They might even be in the juvenile justice system."

But despite the challenges of busing and monitoring the young men participating in sports, "what they learn and the opportunity to be part of a sports team outweighs that," Griffin said.

"It can be a little depressing," said Steven, a senior from Yakima who will graduate from Jubilee this summer. "The other players on the team get to see their friends all the time and go home afterward."

But it's worth it, the football and basketball player said. This former (self-proclaimed) troublemaker hopes to participate in track and field this spring before graduating. "When I first came (to Jubilee), I asked a kid how long he'd been here and he said, 'a year.' I said I didn't know how he could do it, but now I've been here a year. It goes pretty fast."

For coaches like Bartlow, the sports co-op with Jubilee presents other sorts of challenges. The young men who show up - nine this past fall for football - often have little to no formal sports training.

And the turnover rate since Bartlow became coach three years ago has been 100 percent, he said.

Students enrolled in Jubilee are asked to commit to one year at the school, but they often stay for just one semester, Griffin said.

"So they start out disadvantaged," Bartlow said. "It's difficult to justify putting one of their guys in as quarterback or lead for the next year. You're not going to put in a bunch of time training them when you're pretty sure they're not going to come back."

The other disadvantage for Jubilee football players is that they miss football camp in June. Other WP players begin training for fall in the spring, getting in pre-season practice and learning how to play ball together, Bartlow said. "They've had the time to become a team."

Jubilee players miss out on that, and it can take weeks for Bartlow to spot talent among them.

Grant, Shane and Anthony were three Jubilee men who could have played both offense and defense with the varsity squad if Bartlow had seen their talent early on, he said. But although all three made it onto defense before the end of the season, it was only for the last handful of games.

In the end, however, Grant made all-league.

"He had numerous tackles, was tough and voted most improved by the team," Bartlow said. "And he'd never played football before."

And Anthony was a "very smooth athlete," Bartlow said. "I really wanted him back."

Anthony started for WP during the team's last eight games, including the playoff match in Spokane.

"And he had a really good game against Asotin, with four catches for 98 yards and a 54-yard touchdown," Bartlow said. "That's a good day in the office there. We're going to miss them."

Typically, players from Jubilee make the junior varsity squad easily, Bartlow said. But this spring he hopes to get Jubilee guys out for those spring practices and see if he can snag a few for varsity again-earlier in the season.

"I've heard they have a couple good players who will play with us next year," he said. "I haven't met them yet, but I've talked to some staff out there, and they've told me these guys are pretty tough."

Jubilee was founded by a group of individuals responding to the need to serve God through serving struggling teens. The mission group wanted to reach out to hurting families through the development of a comprehensive ministry in the state of Washington.

Previously, families would have had to send their teen to similar schools in Chicago or New York, Griffin said.

"So we thought, why not here?" he said. With heavy financial contributions and support from Ralph and Cheryl Broetje, Jubilee was born in June 1995.

An experienced staff along with six graduates of a residential program came and started a new home for troubled teens.

Around this nucleus, other staff and young people were slowly invited to join, bringing the staff up to over 30 people now, while new facilities were being prepared to house both a boarding school and ranch. Jubilee had eight graduates its first year, and over half went on to college.

By June of 1997, separate dormitories for young men and women (each for as many as 50 students), the cafeteria, the administration building (which houses the school and church) and new staff homes were completed. By August, Jubilee had 26 residents.

Jubilee added to its staff a new pastor and executive director, counseling director, and principal. Additional staff was also added, allowing Jubilee to add a cattle operation, horses, and many other small animals. In February, the school partnered with the Blue Mountain Humane Society to provide dog care and maintenance on campus for young men interested in that field.

The education and character training doesn't come cheap. Standard tuition is $3,500 per month, but scholarships are available to all families, Griffin said.

To learn more about Jubilee, visit their website at www.jyranch.org. Online visitors can learn all about the school's equine, 4-H and ag programs as well as student vocational training.

Woodshop - more of a "wood art" class - according to instructor Ray Fosnot, is one of the most popular programs on campus. "Here they learn patience and perseverance. I make them finish what they've started. And I haven't found a kid yet who didn't like it once they started."

Those skills have obviously translated well into sportsmanship. Bartlow said he's never had a complaint about his Jubilee players.

"They're polite, they have good attitudes, and I've never had a problem with them," he said.

Being part of WP sports teams is a good compliment to skills taught on the ranch, said Jubilee senior Peter, who has played football and basketball for WP.

"Here we learn discipline - and in sports that means showing up every day and conditioning," he said. "Being part of the team has helped me build up a lot of social skills I didn't have."

Contact Jubilee Leadership Academy

For more information about Jubilee Leadership Academy, please call 509-749-2103, or email us.