Cameron Larkins: Doctor told me when I was seven and when I was eight, I wouldn’t live past 21. And when I was nine, it just kind of hit me smack in the face, ‘Oh, I’m going to die!’
Jessica: Cameron Larkins had reached 260 pounds by age ten.
Cameron: I would eat oversized portions. I would just eat and eat just because the food’s there. And, I mean, just really, really unhealthy habits.
Jessica: That was two years ago. Now Cameron is the youngest of 15 students from his Independence, Missouri school district who are spending four months in South Carolina living at MindStream Academy, a school that focuses on weight loss.
The day starts with a 2-mile jog followed by a healthy breakfast and nutrition classes where students learn portion control and healthier eating habits.
Teachers check-in remotely to keep students on track with their studies. In counseling sessions, teens share frustrations and feelings about their progress. And horseback riding is used to build confidence.
MindStream Academy comes with a hefty price tag – $28,000 per student per semester.
Students like Cameron didn’t have to pay that because they are part of a test program, a unique partnership between the school district and the academy.
The school district paid $5,000 for each student. The rest of the tuition comes from fundraising and family contributions. But other students have to pay the full tuition. Still the academy’s founder defends the cost.
Ray Travaglioni: Without an immersive program where you actually have an opportunity to begin to change the way a young person thinks, it would just be putting a Band-Aid on it. If they go home and they don’t get the support that they need, they should be smart enough, with what they’ve learned here, and realize how hard it was for them to get to this really good place, that they never want to go back again.
Jessica: Of the 34 teens who have graduated from MindStream, 90% have maintained their weight loss.
Cameron returned home to Independence just before Christmas. He lost 50 pounds and gained a new perspective on eating.
Cameron: I think I probably would have eaten and not changed my habits, and they just would’ve gotten worse and possibly eaten myself to death.
Jessica: His toughest test lies ahead, returning to his old school trying to resist old habits.
Jessica Kumari, Channel One News.